Well the Missus and I trundled down to the Big Town the other week and say, it was swell.
Wendell Castle Remastered [is] the first museum exhibition to examine the digitally crafted works of Wendell Castle, acclaimed figure of the American art furniture movement. A master furniture maker, designer, sculptor, and educator, Castle is now in the sixth decade of a prolific career that began in 1958—one that parallels the emergence and growth of the American studio craft movement.
In this solo exhibition, Castle casts a critical eye toward the first decade of his own artistic production by creating a new body of work that revisits his groundbreaking achievements of the 1960s through a contemporary lens.
Representative sample (Table-Chair-Stool, 1968):
A total hoot.
Ditto for Ebony G. Patterson’s Dead Treez (through April 3), which “[incorporates] mixed-media installations and jacquard photo tapestries.”
What the hell is that, you ask?
Yeah – we have no idea either.
From there we moseyed up to the American Folk Art Museum to catch Art Brut in America: The Incursion of Jean Dubuffet (through January 10).
Art Brut in America: The Incursion of Jean Dubuffet is the first major U.S. exhibition to explore the introduction of art brut to America. The nearly two hundred works of art on view, by both canonical and lesser-known art brut figures, were amassed and identified as art brut by French artist Jean Dubuffet, beginning in 1945. The selection is drawn exclusively from the renowned Collection de l’Art Brut in Lausanne, Switzerland, where Dubuffet donated his collection in 1971.
Beyond that, “[t]he presentation highlights Dubuffet’s passionate belief in a new art paradigm that was non-Western and non-hierarchical, and that championed creators who are ‘uncontaminated by artistic culture.'”
Not really sure what that means, but the exhibit was very . . . Dubuffetish.
About the show (through January 3):
Interesting that Ms. Knightley does not contribute to the trailer, but here’s some footage of her in the play.
New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley found Ms. Knightley – well, let him tell it.
In ‘Thérèse Raquin,’ Keira Knightley as a Baleful Adulteress
From the moment we first set eyes on the title character of “Thérèse Raquin,” the bleak literary melodrama that opened on Thursday night at Studio 54, we know without a doubt that she is doomed, doomed, doomed. Portrayed with a dedicated and joyless intensity by the film star Keira Knightley in her Broadway debut, she makes her entrance in the play’s opening seconds in stern, silhouetted profile, carrying a bowl of water and a heap of bad karma.
Her gait is laboriously slow and measured, as if she were leading a funeral procession for all her hopes and dreams. And though you may assume, dear innocent theatergoer, that things can only lighten up for this poor blighted creature, she will continue to march in lock step with an unforgiving destiny for the succeeding two and a half hours.
Happiness is never in the cards in this tale of murder and adultery. And that’s as true for audiences at this Roundabout Theater Company production, directed by Evan Cabnet, as it is for our gal Thérèse.
Then again, we’re not as smart as Ben Brantley, so we liked it.
Bright and (way too) early, we headed out to the Museum of Modern Art to see the blockbuster Picasso Sculpture exhibit.
And, man, Picasso is the man.
Picasso Sculpture is a sweeping survey of Pablo Picasso’s innovative and influential work in three dimensions. This will be the first such museum exhibition in the United States in nearly half a century.
Over the course of his long career, Picasso devoted himself to sculpture wholeheartedly, if episodically, using both traditional and unconventional materials and techniques. Unlike painting, in which he was formally trained and through which he made his living, sculpture occupied a uniquely personal and experimental status for Picasso. He approached the medium with the freedom of a self-taught artist, ready to break all the rules. This attitude led him to develop a deep fondness for his sculptures, to which the many photographs of his studios and homes bear witness. Treating them almost as members of his household, he cherished the sculptures’ company and enjoyed re-creating them in a variety of materials and situations. Picasso kept the majority in his private possession during his lifetime. It was only in 1966, through the large Paris retrospective Hommage à Picasso, that the public became fully aware of this side of his work. Following that exhibition, in 1967 The Museum of Modern Art organized The Sculpture of Picasso, which until now was the first and only exhibition on this continent to display a large number of the artist’s sculptures.
After almost two hours we staggered out of the staggering exhibit, which you should definitely catch (through February 7).
But wait . . . there’s more at MoMA.
Especially the excellent Joaquín Torres-García exhibit (through February 15).
This major retrospective of Joaquín Torres-García (Uruguayan, 1874–1949) features works ranging from the late 19th century to the 1940s, including drawings, paintings, objects, sculptures, and original artist notebooks and rare publications. The exhibition combines a chronological display with a thematic approach, structured in a series of major chapters in the artist’s career, with emphasis on two key moments: the period from 1923 to 1933, when Torres-García participated in various European early modern avant-garde movements while establishing his own signature pictographic/Constructivist style; and 1935 to 1943, when, having returned to Uruguay, he produced one of the most striking repertoires of synthetic abstraction.
Not to mention becoming involved movements from Catalan Noucentismo to Cubism, Ultraism-Vibrationism, and Neo-Plasticism.
Yeah – our head just exploded too.
No translation needed.
Also at MoMA:
Soldier, Spectre, Shaman: The Figure and the Second World War (through March 20) which was kind of interesting, and Jackson Pollock: A Collection Survey, 1934–1954, which was kind of meh.
We caught the excellent exhibit The Power of Pictures: Early Soviet Photography, Early Soviet Film (through February 7).
From early vanguard constructivist works by Alexander Rodchenko and El Lissitzky, to the modernist images of Arkady Shaikhet and Max Penson, Soviet photographers played a pivotal role in the history of photography. Covering the period from the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution through the 1930s, this exhibition explores how early modernist photography influenced a new Soviet style while energizing and expanding the nature of the medium — and how photography, film, and poster art were later harnessed to disseminate Communist ideology. The Power of Pictures revisits this moment in history when artists acted as engines of social change and radical political engagement, so that art and politics went hand in hand.
The photography was riveting, as was the screening of Aelita: Queen of Mars, which we watched for 45 headscratching minutes.
The full Aelita:
Then it was on to Becoming Jewish: Warhol’s Liz and Marilyn (through February 7).
The public personas of Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe were constructed, but when they converted to Judaism, the change for both women was personal and profound. Becoming Jewish: Warhol’s Liz and Marilyn draws parallels between the actresses’ identities as Jewish women and Warhol’s exploration of their celebrity through his image-making.
As our excellent niece Emily once said (at age 6) about something (we don’t remember what): Interesting . . . but irrelevant.
Deeley and his wife Kate are visited by Anna, a mysterious friend of Kate’s from long ago. What begins as a trip down memory lane quickly becomes something more, as long-simmering feelings of fear and jealousy begin to fuel the trio’s passions, sparking a seductive battle for power.
Academy Award® nominee Clive Owen (Closer) makes his Broadway debut alongside Tony Award® nominee Eve Best (The Homecoming) and Kelly Reilly (“True Detective”), also making her Broadway debut, in Old Times, written by Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter. Thom Yorke, singer and principal songwriter for Radiohead, provides incidental music.
Tony Award winner Douglas Hodge (La Cage aux Folles, Roundabout’s Cyrano de Bergerac), a frequent performer and director of Pinter’s works, directs this provocative revival of the haunting and passionate play, which has not been seen on Broadway in over 40 years.
About the show:
The set was fairly hallucinogenic: A bee-hived dome with horizontal striations, constantly pulsating, strobing, circling – just like the characters constantly circling each other, and the play constantly circling itself, and the entire set constantly circling sometimes quickly sometimes slowly . . .
It was altogether dizzying. And quite exhilarating.
But not for Sunshine Ben Brantley, who weighed in thusly:
This “Old Times,” too, might be described as an example of Pinter for the Hard of Understanding (i.e., Americans), or for audiences who might otherwise be bored by dialogue in which characters seldom say — or know — what they mean, and spend a lot of time saying nothing at all. Those celebrated Pinter pauses, which classically loom like a purpose-devouring black hole, are in this version plugged with electronic music by Radiohead’s Thom Yorke . . .
This is Pinter with apocalyptic special effects, “Old Times: Armageddon.” And at 70 minutes, it’s far shorter than your average end-of-the-world movie.
Not to get technical about it, but the play ran more like 60 minutes, which means the Missus and I paid $1.50 a minute to be thoroughly confounded by this – yes – Pinteresque curlicue of a drama.
Then again, the folks sitting next to us paid $2 a minute for the same experience, so we didn’t feel quite so bad in the end.
(Speaking of the end – sorry, the run is over.)
Bright and (not so) early we were off to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where we first visited Jacqueline de Ribes: The Art of Style (through February 21).
Talk about interesting but irrelevant . . .
A muse to haute couture designers, de Ribes had at her disposal their drapers, cutters, and fitters in acknowledgment of their esteem for her taste and originality. Ultimately, she used this talent and experience to create her own successful design business, which she directed from 1982 to 1995. While the exhibition focuses on her taste and style, extensive documentation from her personal archives illustrates the range of her professional life, including her roles as theatrical impresario, television producer, interior designer, and director and organizer of international charity events.
Countess de Ribe said she just wanted to be comfortable when she was backstage organizing ballets and charity events and TV shows and . . . whatever.
Glad that worked out.
We also caught Kongo: Power and Majesty, which really nailed the artistic traditions of Central Africa’s Kongo civilization. And the mega-exhibit Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom, which we sort of mailed in.
But we really loved The Luxury of Time:
This exhibition explores the relationship between the artistry of the exterior form of European timekeepers and the brilliantly conceived technology that they contain. Drawn from the Museum’s distinguished collection of German, French, English, and Swiss horology from the sixteenth through the nineteenth century, the extraordinary objects on view show how clocks and watches were made into lavish furniture or exquisite jewelry.
The creation of timekeepers required that clockmakers work with cabinetmakers, goldsmiths and silversmiths, enamelers, chasers and gilders, engravers, and even those working in sculpture and porcelain. These craftsmen were tasked with accommodating internal mechanisms by producing cases that, in both shape and function, adapted to timekeeping technologies. Their exteriors are often as complicated as the movements they house. Examining the dialogue between inside and out, adornment and ingenuity, The Luxury of Time reveals the complex evolution of European clockmaking and the central place of timekeepers in the history of decorative arts.
Check the link for very cool videos of the clocks in motion.
Our personal favorite? The African Princess clock, created by Jean-Baptiste-André Furet (French, ca. 1720–1807).
This bust of an African princess is one of the most remarkable clocks in the Museum’s collection. The marble plinth contains a musical movement: a tiny pipe organ. On the hour, music would play and the figure’s eyes would open, showing the hour in roman numerals in her right eye and the minutes in arabic numerals in her left. By pulling her left earring, her eyes could be opened at any time—a feature that remains functional today.