Exploring New York with Painter Alice Neel

The sights you’ll see! The people you’ll meet!  There’s nothing like seeing 20th-century New York through the eyes of one of most astute observers of the human condition. It’s why people have been flocking to The Met to see Alice Neel: People Come First, on view through August 1.

Considered one of America’s greatest figurative painters, Alice herself considered her relentless artistic pursuit more in line with history painting.  And what a history you’ll experience, walking through room after room of insightful portraits and cityscapes.

1958 Two Girls, Spanish Harlem with Alice’s neighbors Antonia and Carmen Encarnación. Courtesy: Boston Museum of Fine Arts
1972 portrait depicting Irene Peslikis, a leading Seventies feminist activist. Private collecdtion.

Alice’s colorful, insightful works introduce you first-hand to bohemian life post-WWI, the Great Depression, the socialist fight for workers’ and artists’ rights, the push for civil rights, the art underground, and the rise of feminism.

Through it all, Alice kept raising her family and painting in her home studio, sparing nothing in her portrayals of kids experiencing the world, families just trying to make ends meet in Harlem, marriages, births, and annual trips to the country.

Her earliest artistic influence was her early 20th-century academy training, in which the bravura brushwork of Robert Henri was admired – merging virtuoso painting with unfiltered views of everyday people and sights. Alice drew and painted like a virtuoso herself, sure of her ability of laying down an expressive line. 

Neel’s 1955 A Spanish Boy with Henri’s 1907 Dutch Girl in White.

Throughout her life, her frequent trips to the Metropolitan Museum bolstered her work with the continued influence Cassatt, Soutine, and other grand masters of the brush and the masters of social commentary, like Jacob Lawrence or Daumier.

The result is a decade-by-decade window into the life, times, struggles, and perseverance of a working mother-artist who took the same master, unflinching approach to documenting her pregnant daughter-in-law, civil rights leaders, Andy Warhol, and her own aging body.

Take a look at our favorites in our Flickr album.

Detail of 1978-79 portrait of her son when he worked for Pan Am, Richard in the Era of the Corporation.

Alice and the curators keep the surprises coming through the exhibition, but why not hear from her yourself?  Here is Alice’s own description of her life, times, and what inspired her:

Experience Alice Neel’s New York in the Met’s multimedia primer here, and see all of the works assembled for her incredible exhibition.

1984 photo of Neel as a guest on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Courtesy: Neel estate

Hockney’s Personal Drawings at The Morgan

The drawings at the Morgan, David Hockney: Drawing from Life, on view through May 30, are a tribute to the friendships maintained and the artistic experimentations sustained over the artist’s 83-year lifetime.

Hockney self-portraits through the years.

The show was created by the National Portrait Gallery in London and centers on 100 portraits of five people who sat for Hockney across the decades – his mother and several close friends.

The exhibition is organized by person, so you can compare how each person looked from the beginning of Hockney’s studies, across the years, and most recently when they came to visit him in Normandy, where he lives now.

Most of the works are from the Hockney Foundation or from the artist’s own personal collection, which makes the show extra-special.

The exhibition begins with a series of self-portraits that Hockney did as a teen, and features his etching series about his first trip to America in the early 60s. Then it jumps to the many portraits he did of his mother in England.

Colored pencil portrait, Celia, Carennac, August 1971
Digital wall of Hockney 2010 iPad drawings
Charcoal drawing Maurice Payne, October 9, 2000

Each series shows off his masterful accomplishments in precise colored pencil, mixed-media collage, watercolor, crayon, arranged Polaroid mosaics, etchings, ink washes, tight pencil sketches, and the biggest leap of all – digital drawings from his iPad.

Walking past the portraits, self-portraits, sketchbooks, and digital drawings, it’s quite a tribute to an artist who never stopped looking, wanting to sit with his favorite people, and slowed down to adopt techniques by other masters that he admired.

Take a look at works by a pop-culture virtuoso. Here’s a brief introduction to the exhibition by the Morgan’s director:

Take a walk through the exhibition on the Morgan’s website here, and join a YouTube tour with the curator here.

And see our favorites in our Flickr album here.

When Advertising was Revolutionary

Abstraction was being invented, monarchies were falling, wars were raging, and modern 20th century artists decided to turn advertising on its head, too. Artists left studios in droves and began making posters, brochures, billboards, traveling agit-prop theater wagons, and new-fangled telecommunications towers.

1-11 Engineers Agitators Reconstructors at MoMA
Modernist Russian billboards and works from Rodchenko and Mayakovsky’s 1923-1925 Advertising-Constructor agency

That’s just the first gallery of Engineer, Agitator, Constructor: The Artist Reinvented, on view at MoMA through April 10 – a show that investigates how artists change their focus to meet the moment of social, technical, commercial, and political change.

The focus is the period between WWI and WWII, when the avant-garde began mixing it up to bring about a whole new world for consumers, city planners, publishers, and the proletariat. Take a look at our favorite works in our Flickr album.

The first gallery provides a broad view of how other avant-garde abstractionists first inspired by Malevich’s Suprematism experimented now used pure, kinetic shapes to dance across children’s books, pavilions, costumes, and posters in the earliest days after the Russian Revolution.

El Lissitzky’s 1922 book About Two Squares: A Suprematist Tale of Two Squares in Six Constructions

The 300 works in the show are principally works on paper, collected by and donated to MoMA by Merrill Berman – a treasure trove that includes particularly rare and unique items that the curators use to tell quite a story.

A 1922 costume design by Popova, inspired by workers’ uniforms

One entire wall is dedicated to Ms. Popova, where you can stroll by paintings, covers for sheet music, and prints – all the ways she applied her genius. Another long wall displays dynamic work by Rodchenko and Mayakovsky, whose Advertising-Constructor agency mixed poetry and innovative, angled constructivist style to sell chocolate and other consumer products.

Mixed-media plays a major role in the exhibition, with several galleries showing how European artists embraced collage and photomontage both in their personal studio work and in graphic designs that shook up the look of mass market publications, industrial marketing, postcards, and political posters.

Dynamic photo montage 1928 postcards by Gustav Klutsis to promote the All-Union Spartaklada Sporting Event

Another section of the show provides an introduction to innovative Polish, Hungarian, and Dutch indie zines shared, collected, and treasured by cutting-edge writers and designers excited by possibilities of the early 20th century.

Creative European magazines published in the late Twenties

Angled, geometric, and loaded with innovative typography, these rare magazines share the space with paintings by Mondrian, sculpture by Moholy-Nagy, and other geometric shape-shifters.

1924 photo of Henryk Berlewi and his exhibition at a Warsaw Austro-Daimler showroom with works from his Mechano Facture series, inspired by industrial technology

Women are prominently showcased in every gallery of the exhibition, including the massive wall of Soviet posters by female designers whose images celebrate the contributions of women to the industrial workforce.

1931 poster by Natalia Pinus acknowledging female farmers and other collective workers

Visionary drawings, watercolors, and poster posters are around every corner – and most are never-before-seen surprises. Before WWII brought it all to an end, the curators show the modern innovations that these creatives had in mind – new architecture, advertising constructions, and modern furniture fairs.

Walter Dexel’s 1928 design combines an airshaft, ad kiosk, and telephone booth. Herbert Bayer’s design for an electrified ad tower for an electricity company, done when he was just a student at the Bauhaus. Willi Baumeister’s 1927 poster that directly declares interior designs of the past are over.

Elena Semenova’s 1926 design sketch for a Russian worker’s lounge looks like a precursor to WeWork.

1927 poster by Willi Baumeister promoting a modern furniture exhibition in Stuttgart
Vision for model communal space: Elena Semenova’s 1926 design watercolor for a Russian worker’s club lounge

Enjoy this special program with Ellen Lupton and curator Jodi Hauptman in a fascinating discussion about work by several revolutionary designers and how so many intermingled careers in graphic and fine arts during tumultuous times:

Virtual Museum Events – Julie Mehretu, Craft in Art, Viennese Lettering, and Niki de Saint Phalle

Kick off April by choosing from many virtual museum events about the latest art shows, women’s history events, and what’s happening here! Here are just a few highlights:

On Tuesday (April 6) at 6pm, meet Julie Mehretu at the Whitney Museum’s annual Annenberg Lecture. Julie will have a conversation with the Whitney’s director about how history, architecture, cities, protest, maps, and geography have influenced her work. Her magnificent mid-career retrospective is a must-see.

Julie Mehretu’s 2003 Transcending: The New International at The Whitney

Also at 6pm, the Skyscraper Museum presents Wright and New York: The Making of America’s Architect – an illustrated talk by Anthony Alofsin on how an early visionary design for a cathedral and skyscraper set the stage for the Wright’s later success.

At 6:30pm, bring your own pint to celebrate National Beer Day in this month’s Tavern Tastings series with Fraunces Tavern Museum and Connecticut’s Keeler Tavern Museum. The gals will tell you everything you ever wanted to learn about beer in 18th century taverns.

Simone Leigh’s 2008 Cupboard VIII in Making Knowing Craft in Art at The Whitney

On Thursday (April 8) at noon, join one of the Whitney’s teaching fellows in Art History from Home: Making Knowing to discuss how four artists use the materials and methods of craft to turn the idea of “fine art” on its head. Examples that you’ll discuss are selected from artworks featured in the Whitney’s expansive, fun exhibition, Making Knowing Craft in Art, 1950 – 2019. You’ll enjoy all of the twists and turns.

At 6:30pm, join Paul Shaw at Poster House for a tour of Viennese Lettering by some of the greats of the Vienna Secession movement. Paul will show examples of innovative lettering on posters, ads, and books and explain how all of this had an impact on artists of the Sixties and Seventies. The lecture is part of a series in honor of Julius Klinger: Posters for a Modern Age, currently on view at Poster House.

Letters on Vienna’s Secessionist Building – hear more at Poster House on Thursday

At 7pm, MoMA PS1 hosts Niki de Saint Phalle and the Art of Tarot to explore tarot’s influence on modern art and why the artist was inspired to create her monumental installation in Tuscany, Tarot Garden.

Niki de Saint Phalle’s life project in Tuscany, Tarot Garden.

There’s a lot more happening this week, so check the complete schedule. Most of the events are free, but it’s always nice to add a thank-you donation.

Museum Update

This week we checked out the new modern ceramics show at the Met, Shapes from Out of Nowhere: Ceramics from the Robert A. Ellison Jr. Collection, which showcases 75 works that are promised gifts to the Met. Among the highlights ­– several works by celebrated ceramicist George Ohr, whose late 19th century works predate midcentury shape, form, and abstraction. Lots of fans present when we visited. 

Rare George Ohr ceramics 1890–1900 in Out of Nowhere at The Met

Virtual Museum Events – New Show Tours at MoMA, The Whitney, Poster House, and American Folk Art

For Easter Week, you’ll have an opportunity to join online tours of the new architecture show at MoMA, Julie Mehretu’s retrospective at The Whitney, the Lincoln Center poster show at Poster House, and a look at visionary photography at the Museum of American Folk Art.  See the full list of activities this week on our virtual events page.

Today (March 29) at 6:30pm, join MoMA to hear a panel of high-powered Black architects and designers to discuss Cities and Spatial Justice – one of the themes presented in MoMA’s new exhibition Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America. How are Black urban spaces created and protected? How do communities reckon with the past to create a future? Join in to participate in this timely discussion.

At 9pm, join the New Museum for a talk with Rachel Rossin, an artist whose work is part of World on a Wire, an online visual exhibition that is the first exhibition in a new partnership between Hyundai Motor Company and Rhizome, the museum’s digital art affiliate. The later (US) time was set to allow art lovers in Seoul and Beijing to join in at a reasonable time, too.

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Rachel Rossin work at Hyundai Motorstudio Beijing and World on a Wire digital project.

On Tuesday (March 30) at 7pm, join a tour for the new Julie Mehretu mid-career retrospective at the Whitney Museum. See the giant, genius, multilayered canvases with the curator and find out how maps, revolutions, social justice, and architecture have inspired her to create such monumental works. (And for the tour of Julie’s show in Spanish, join the tour online at noon on Friday, April 2.)

3_Whitney_Mehretu_Invisible Line

Pondering Julie Mehretu’s Invisible Line at the Whitney

At 8pm, take a trip to Tokyo’s An’yo-in Temple to hear one of the earliest forms of meditative, chanting vocal music reimagined in a new work by the young composer. Japan Society, the University of Chicago, and Carnegie Hall present Shomyo: Buddhist Ritual Chant – Moonlight Mantra, followed by a live Q&A with the composer.

4_Japan Society_Chant_Shomyo

Traditional Buddhist chanting in Tokly’s An’yo-in Temple on Tuesday, courtesy of Japan Society and Carnegie Hall

The temple is created in a traditional method of joining wood without nails or glue, and ties into the society’s current exhibition, When Practice Becomes Form: Carpentry Tools from Japan.

On Wednesday (March 31), join Poster House for its program, For the Many: the Public Art of Lincoln Center, which is being held in association with the museum’s current exhibition, Vera List & The Posters of Lincoln Center. The program includes an introduction to Lincoln Center’s poster project – the landmark series pioneered by Vera List –and goes on to showcase the full range of public art commissioned for this New York cultural landmark.

Dorothy Gillespie’s 1989 Lincoln Center information center poster.

On Thursday (April 1) at 11am, take another trip to Japan to visit the Tokachi Millennium Forest ecological project on Hokkaido with experts from the New York Botanical Garden. Hear them talk about the master plan for this project, how they merged the “new Japanese horticulture” with wild nature, and how they created not only a beautiful garden but a gorgeous new book.

7_NYBG_Tokachi

Travel to the Tokachi Millennium Forest in Japan with NYBG and Dan Pearson and Midori Shintani

At 6pm, join the Museum of American Folk Art for a panel discussion (Re)Turning the Gaze, on the relationship of “the gaze” to gender, race, and sexuality. The panelists will feature photographs from the provocative current exhibition, PHOTO | BRUT: Collection Bruno Decharme & Compagnie.

Adam Pendleton at New Museum. Photo: Dario Lasagni

At 7pm, join the conversation at the New Museum with Adam Pendleton, who’s transformed the museum lobby into an exciting environment for the acclaimed Grief and Grievance: Art and Mourning in America exhibition. He often talks about “Black dada” – art that incorporates blackness, abstraction, and the avant-garde. If you can’t get to New York, take an online tour of the exhibition at 11am on Saturday, April 3.

There’s a lot more happening this week, so check the complete schedule. Most of the events are free, but it’s always nice to add a thank-you donation.

Museum Update

The crowds were at the Whitney to get their first look at the Julie Mehretu retrospective and to take a last look at the Kamoinge Workshop photographs from the Sixties and Seventies in the last weekend of Working Together. We saw lots of conversations and contemplations happening inside the Kamoinge gallery.  Although the show closed yesterday, the Whitney is offering one final virtual tour at noon on Thursday (April 1).

This past week, we went to the Met’s virtual opening of the Alice Neel retrospective, which is now posted online. Take a look.

We also joined MoMA’s online event with the Calder Foundation to take a closer look at the new exhibition, Alexander Calder – Modern from the Start.

The program is now posted on MoMA’s YouTube channel. Nearly 4,700 people have listened to Calder’s grandson Sandy Rower (and head of the Calder Foundation) shatter some Calder myths and show decades-old color 16mm film of Tanguy, Duchamp, and his grandmother hanging out with Calder in MoMA’s garden on 54th Street. (Don’t break that sculpture with the cat, Marcel!)

And while you’re on that YouTube channel, check out MoMA Virtual Cinema’s discussions with the directors, crews, and actors associated with some of their top picks for the film-awards season – Nomadland, Borat, Mank, Sound of Metal, and Minari.

Calder’s 1934 sculpture A Universe at MoMA

Kamoinge Workshop Photographers Show NYC in a Different Light

Anthony Barboza’s 1972 Kamoinge Workshop Portraits and multifold Kamoinge Artist’s Book.

When fourteen photographers decided to get together in 1963 to for regular critiques, history was happening in Harlem, Mississippi, and on the Capitol Mall and life was bursting at the seams in down-and-out neighborhoods all around them.

The collaboration, influence, mutual support, and artistic output of their first 20 years is the story told in Working Together: Photographers of the Kamoinge Workshop, an exhibition on view at the Whitney Museum of American through March 28.

Two by Beuford Smith, a 1978 self-portrait and 1972 Wall, Lower East Side.

The show, originally produced by the Virginia Museum of Fine Art in Richmond, shines a light on the work of the workshop’s founders. It’s a master class in black-and-white photography, experimentation, and community spirit. Everyone has their own style and path, all the works you’ll see here provide a window into community and life in New York during the Sixties and Seventies with a different slant than you’ve seen before.

The Kamoinge Workshop artists were keenly aware that they had access to people and events either ignored by mainstream media or at least invisible to it. Plus, they all had keen awareness and appreciation for artistic heroes, like Cartier-Bresson, Dorothea Lange, and other legendary photographers, and used the workshop to push one another forward – to make art that went beyond basic photojournalism, and use formal composition and other imaginative techniques.

Abstractions in the city –1973 Untitled (Harlem) by Ming Smith and 1966 Shadows by Adger Cowans.

When they began meeting in the Sixties, Herb Randall showed photos of Southern life taken the summer he accompanied the Freedom Riders to Mississippi; Adger Cowans showed his abstracted, from-a-rooftop image of the crowd listening to Malcom X; Herb Randall showed images of Harlem kids cutting up for his camera; James Mannes Jr. showed formally composed portraits evoking African royalty.

Share the excitement that they felt at the time:

The quality of the work and the unlikely prospects of being selected for shows in elite museums or high-end commercial galleries inspired them to get it out there a different way – by issuing portfolios that they donated to museums, libraries, and universities.

C. Daniel Dawson’s 1978 Olaifa and Egypt, taken at The Met

Anthony Barboza’s group portrait of the founding members is the welcome image for the Whitney show. Inside the space, the work is loosely grouped into areas featuring emerging political movements in Harlem, abstraction, experimentation, journeys to Africa and the Caribbean, and cityscapes during a time when New York was going downhill.

Every time we visited, viewers were studying each work closely, somewhat transfixed by each window into the past. Each image has a special twist to it – shadows creating abstractions across bodies or buildings, the unexpected jolt of the pattern of a man’s jacket, or the panorama of life in a fleeting moment on a street in Senegal.

Look at some of our favorites in our Flickr album, and meet each of the artists on the museum’s exhibition page. Click on each artist’s portrait to see some of their work in the exhibition, and listen to them speak about their work on the audio guide.

Meet the artists and listen to what this group meant to them in the Seventies and today:

Next stops on the exhibition tour – the Getty in Los Angeles (June 29 – September 26, 2021) and the Cincinnati Art Museum (February 25 – May 15, 2022).

On Wednesday, March 24, meet Ming Smith in a live online event, discussing the publication of her recent Aperture monograph and the influence of music upon her work.

Weekly Virtual Museum Events – Berlin Neon, Japanese Rap, Master Photographers, and Alice Neel

Commercial neon in Berlin under discussion at Poster House Monday

This week, NYC museums are offering more than 40 on-line events (mostly free) that will take you to Berlin in the Twenties, the music scene in Tokyo, studios of acclaimed photographers, and an opening at the Met.  See the full list on our virtual events page.

Tonight (Monday, March 22) at 6:30pm, join Poster House and photographer Thomas Rinaldi for Interwar Neon: Commercial Illumination in Weimar-Era Germany to look back on the electric art that flourished alongside the freewheeling nightlife scene for a brief time between the wars.

Dawoud Bey’s Birmingham series at the New Museum.

On Tuesday (March 23) at 4pm, join the New Museum to meet Dawoud Bey, a photography legend (and MacArthur genius) whose moving 2012 tribute, The Birmingham Project, is featured in the acclaimed exhibition, Grief and Grievance: Art and Mourning in America

At 7pm, join Japan Society for 333 Contemporaries – Looking for the Next Global Rap Star in Japan, the kickoff to its new on-line series which talks about how US rap music adopted and adapted by the next generation of Japanese artists.

Parlor of the Merchant’s House Museum, New York’s only intact 19th c. home

On Wednesday (March 24) at 6pm, if Monday’s session got you curious, Join the Merchant’s House for 19th Century Domestic Lighting: 100 Years of Change. It will be an in-depth look at the technology behind the historic home’s lighting fixtures from 1835 forward, a time when candles and oil lamps gave way to electric lighting.

Anthony Barboza’s 1972 Kamoinge Workshop portrait of Ming Smith

At 7pm, meet Kamoinge Workshop photographer Ming Smith in a live online event, discussing the publication of her recent Aperture monograph and the influence of music upon her work. Ming’s work features prominently in the current exhibition at The Whitney, Working Together: The Photographers of the Kamoinge Workshop. She is the first African-American female photographer to have her work enter MoMA’s collection.

On Thursday (March 25) at 6pm, get your fashion fix at the Museum at FIT with a special program, From Louis Armstrong to Dizzy Gillespie: Jazz and Black Glamour. The pre-recorded program will feature vintage performer Dandy Wellington, a deep-dive into the influence of jazz on 1920s menswear, and a live Q&A with FIT during the YouTube stream.

Alice Neel’s 1978 portrait Geoffrey Hendricks and Brian

At 7pm, join the Met for the online opening of its new exhibition, Alice Neel: People Come First, which features over 100 works by this beloved New York artist, considered one of America’s greatest 20th century portrait painters. You’ll find out all about how an artist who labored for decades in relative obscurity was drawn to document political movements, people, styles, and community in paint.

At 8pm, join MoMA for Virtual Views: Alexander Calder, a Live Q&A in honor if its new exhibition about Calder, MoMA’s founding, and modernism. The event will feature conversation with the artist’s grandson, who leads the Calder Foundation.

There’s a lot more happening, so check the complete schedule. Most of the events are free, but it’s always nice to add a thank-you donation.

Museum Update

1539 box for crossbow bolts made for the Bavarian duke. Value = 6 cows

We’re glad to report that the Met has extended its exhibition on the value of Renaissance art through the end of the 2021!  See it on the way to the Lehman Wing and the Dutch masters exhibition, and read about it (and the cows) in our February post The Met Asks What the Renaissance Thought It Was Worth.

 

Weekly Virtual Museum Events – Broadway Memories, Irish History, French Culinary Getaway, and Black Rock

Joe Allen’s West 46th Street Broadway institution on Restaurant Row.

This week, NYC museums are offering 45 on-line events (mostly free) on Broadway, St. Patrick’s Day-inspired programs, music, and artist talks…even magic!  See the full list on our virtual events page.

Have you ever wanted to spend time at a Broadway hang-out with all the show people?  Today (March 15) at 5:30pm, drop in on a 2016 interview with the late Joe Allen, whose Restaurant Row spot provided a home since for decades of Broadway stars, fans, actors, dancers, and producers. Hits, flops, feuds, gossip, deals, and more each night at the bar. The New York Public Library of Performing Arts at Lincoln Center is showing this video for the first time to commemorate a true Broadway original.

Meet MoFAD Tuesday to explore the diverse flavors of Marseilles.

On Tuesday (March 16) at 6pm, travel to abroad with the Museum of Food and Drink in A Taste of Marseille: A Virtual Tour and Tasting with Culinary Backstreets. Enjoy a guided tour of Marseille’s diverse neighborhoods and foods. It’s too late to order the ingredients from MoFAD, but you can still be a fly on the wall for the food prep, and enjoy early evening apéro and Provençal snacks.

Irish servants’ quarters at Merchant’s House.

At 7pm, learn about the women of rock in a special performance and panel at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the Women’s Jazz Festival 2021. Enjoy Black Women in Rock & Roll and meet author Maureen Mahon, DJ Lynnée Denise, and Amythyst Kiah for performances and conversation.

On St. Patrick’s Day (Wednesday) at 6pm, see what working life was like for the first generation of young Irish women to make New York City their home. The Merchant’s House Museum takes you on a virtual historic home tour, In the Footsteps of Bridget Murphy, emphasizing what it took for servants to keep an 18th century townhouse humming and the lady of the house happy.

Installation view of 2015 painting by Kerry James Marshall at New Museum

At 8pm, enjoy a mix of Irish history with a little magic in a special program at the New-York Historical Society – Celtic Magic: Exploring Irish History through Grand Illusion. Illusionists Daniel GreenWolf and Bella GreenWolf will take you on an entertaining, surprising journey from the ancient Celts to Irish immigrants

On Thursday at 4pm, the New Museum continues its series of conversations with artists featured in its exhibition, Grief and Grievance. This week, do not miss acclaimed artist Kerry James Marshall in conversation with New Museum artistic director Massimiliano Gioni.

There’s a lot more happening, so check the complete schedule. Most of the events are free, but it’s always nice to add a thank-you donation.

Museum Updates

Calder’s 1934 sculpture A Universe at MoMA

This week, we were able to do a quick spin around MoMA’s new exhibition, Alexander Calder: Modern from the Start. The new show had a steady flow of visitors, with everyone loving it!  People were taking selfies with the larger sculptures and standing mesmerized by the Snow Flurries mobile dancing with its shadow.

We’re also looking forward this week to the Whitney’s preview of the Julie Mehretu retrospective, opening March 25, and the Met’s opening of the Alice Neel retrospective, opening March 22.

Weekly Virtual Museum Events – Jim Dine, Niki de Saint Phalle, and Frida Khalo and New Artists

Jim Dine talking drawings online at The Morgan on Wednesday

This week, NYC museums are offering 35 on-line events (mostly free) on design, art, history, architecture, fashion, and performance.  See the full list on our virtual events page.

But we want to alert you to several events in connection with some of the brand-new exhibitions in town:

On Wednesday (March 10) at Noon, the Morgan Library is sitting down with Jim Dine to talk about classical and contemporary drawing. The program is being held in association with the Morgan’s new exhibition, Conversations in Drawing: Seven Centuries of Art from the Gray Collection. Register here for the on-line session (free, but limited seats). Jim will be talking about his own work that’s in the show and how his commitment to drawing relates to work by other artists included, such as Rubens, Ingres, Picasso, and Matisse.

Niki de Saint Phalle arrives at MoMA PS1. Interior view of Empress, Tarot Garden, Italy

On Thursday (March 11) at 1pm, join MoMA PS1 for the launch of the catalogue for its newest exhibition, Niki de Saint Phalle: Structures for Life. Although Niki’s work was everywhere in the latter part of the 20th century, this exhibition marks her first New York retrospective. Curators, admirers, and artists come together at this panel to discuss the exhibition and her daring, provocative installations, ideas, and work.

At 2pm, the Cooper-Hewitt will host another conversation in honor of Willi Smith’s passion for making art outside of the dressmaking atelier – Art, Fashion, Performance: Seeing Through Creative Collaboration.

1939 portrait of Frida by Nickolas Muray. © Nickolas Muray Archives

At 6pm, the Museum at FIT is debuting a pre-recorded video with the curator of the acclaimed exhibitions in Brooklyn in 2019 on Frida Khalo’s style and art. Fashion curators from FIT will be running a live Q&A during the YouTube premiere of Curating Frida Kahlo: Fashion & Prosthetics.

On Friday (March 12) at 6pm, join the curators at El Museo del Barrio for an on-line tour of their important, new show on emerging artists – Estamos bien – La Trienal 20/21. The pandemic delayed the in-gallery opening of this important survey of new art, so El Museo put the work on line, and is just now welcoming in-person visits to its Fifth Avenue home. Check it out and see what’s new.

LaToya Ruby Frazier’s story in Grief and Grievance at the New Museum

At 7pm, join the New Museum to meet with another incredible artist participating in Grief and Grievance, the exhibition that has all of New York buzzing. LaToya Ruby Frazier, who has a compelling, wall-sized autobiographical work in the show, will be talking with Margot Norton – a discussion that you shouldn’t miss.

And in the run-up to St. Patrick’s Day, the Tenement Museum will be hosting a special on-line tour of the Moore family’s flat on Saturday (March 13) at 7pm and on Sunday (March 14) at 4pm.  Next week, too!

There’s a lot more happening, so check the complete schedule. Most of the events are free, but it’s always nice to add a thank-you donation.

Museum Updates

KAWS: WHAT PARTY © KAWS. Photo: Michael Biondo

New York has some exciting new shows coming on line right now! Last week, the Brooklyn Museum opened its big art-commerce-culture exhibition, KAWS: What Party, to celebrate 25 years of audacious work by Brooklyn’s own Brian Donnelly.

On March 11, Japan Society finally reopens its exhibition space with When Practice Becomes Form: Carpentry Tools from Japan. In honor of the earthquake’s tenth anniversary, the exhibition is a tribute to the resilient spirit of Japanese architecture and craftsmanship.

On March 14, MoMA opens Alexander Calder: Modern from the Start. We saw the workmen putting on the finishing touches on the third floor when we swung by MoMA this week to check out the other new show in the design galleries – Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America.

Big Sixties Color at The Guggenheim

Detail of 1964 Trans Shift acrylic by Kenneth Noland

If you need a pop of color, head over to the Guggenheim and spend some time inside The Fullness of Color: 1960s Painting, on display through March 15.

The Sixties were a time when painting was going through a big shift, and the exhibition will take you back to a time when up-and-coming painters were going big, seeing what lay beyond expressionist brushwork, and taking a cool, cool approach to color.

Helen Frankenthaler’s 1963 Canal

Although the world knew that Jackson Pollack was splattering oil paint across canvas on the floor of his East Hampton studio, other abstractionists in Manhattan, Washington, D.C., and art hot spots around the world were trying radical approaches to painting, too – exploring the expressive and expansive use of color.

Acrylic paints were new on the scene, and could be applied thick or thinned out like watercolor. Canvas was often laid out without primer, allowing the paint to soak into the canvas or blend in watercolor-like ways.

Helen Frankenthaler was the inspirational innovator in this regard, saturating her canvases with big washes of color. Although she began as a gestural painter, her big experiment was to work directly on the floor and spread paint around to eliminate any gestural marks. The results are spectacular.

1959 Saraband poured acrylic work by Morris Louis

Morris Louis, for example, experimented further by pouring paint on the unprimed canvas and letting gravity do the work of spreading it in different ways.

His 1959 work in the Guggenheim exhibition is a perfect example of his innovation ­– the “new” medium of acrylic washes, monumentally sized work, and a grand veil of color.

Getting close to this giant canvas lets you appreciate that this was not a sloppy or haphazard approach. It was masterful manipulation of chance on a large scale.

Detail freehand work in 1971 Wheelbarrow by Gene Davis

Other big canvases in the show exemplify other process experiments of the time: Jules Olitski used spray-paint techniques to eliminate gesture while giving the canvas bits of texture.  Getting close to his 1970 canvas lets you see the tiny, grainy splatters and the straight-line color bars he places at the edge; step back, and colors blend into a subtle, uninterrupted haze.

The gigantic Gene Davis canvas appears to be uniform pinstripes, but closer inspection allows you to appreciate the fact that he painted each tiny vertical mark freehand. The marks aren’t “gestural” but the full work is a monument to a hand-crafted, exacting process.

The curators also give us a chance to enjoy works by artists that we haven’t seen in a while ­– the saturated, thick geometric marks by Japan’s Toshinobu Onosato and the mesmerizing, oscillating presence of color created by Wojcietch Fangor, a Polish artist that the Guggenheim honored with an exhibition in 1970.

Oscillating 1969 M 37 oil by Wojcietch Fangor

See some of our favorite works in our Flickr album, and listen to the audio tracks about Sixties color painting and Helen Frankenthaler.

The Guggenheim is in the process of changing its primary exhibition on the ramp (farewell, Countryside!), so the museum discounting its admission price for this terrific color show and other shows in its smaller galleries.

Be sure to see Marking Time: Process in Minimal Abstraction, also open through March 15, which includes works by Agnes Martin and other kindred spirits. For fun, here’s a link to our album from Agnes’s 2016-2017 Guggenheim retrospective.

And if you want to read (and see) more color artistry in the collection of The Whitney and how NYC influences were being adapted by the new generation of contemporary Native American artists, read our review of the 2019 show at the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts in Santa Fe here.