Your eyes and ears on the world of art and culture. We remind you that 16 years of back issues of eMusings can be found on our archives page.
Although we are not traveling as we once did, and surely will again, the internet allows me to bring you excellence from around the world that you can view from the safety of your home.
Look at living creatures in a delightful way with these digital illustrations by Russian artist Maxim Shkret. Neither human nor animal is exempt from his delightful wit and sense of color. You can find more of Shkret's works online.
In spite of the overheated language used here, Canadian artist Matthew Wong was an extremely talented painter, poet, and photographer. Unfortunately he died by suicide when he was only 37 years old. There are echoes of Matisse in these paintings, accompanied by a strong sense of color and flattened perspective. Two more views of Wong's work are available online: one at a New York exhibition called Blue; the second at an auction by Christie's, which describes Wong as a "melancholy genius".
Let's move back to the 17th century with works from the Dutch Golden Age centered on elaborate banquet still lifes. Jan Davidsz. de Heem created these paintings betweem 1640 and 1643. Called vanitas pictures, they are described as "a symbolic work of art showing the transience of life, the futility of pleasure, and the certainty of death, often contrasting symbols of wealth and symbols of ephemerality and death"."
The Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California, brings us this delightful live video of jellyfish moving about in the water. Also known as Sea Nettles, these creatures have no excretory or respiratory organs, rather tentacles around the mouth with stinging cells that are meant to capture food which is digested in the mouth. What they really do capture in this video is our sense of relaxation and pleasure at watching them.
From the Menil collection, we are treated to a view of 20th century Italian drawings. Called "Silent Revolutions", the exhibit includes works by Umberto Boccioni, Alberto Burri, and Maria Lai. Much to admire here.
He makes his living sculpting Buddha images and realistic statues of the royal family in his native Thailand. Widsanupong Noonan is quite young, yet he has found a niche for himself with these highly skilled paintings and sculpture. His favorite medium uses oil color on fiberglass, although he has recently been warned about the dangers inherent in this material and so has discontinued his use of it. Whatever his material, he has achieved a sense of balance and beauty that are remarkable.
Celia Paul creates haunting portraits and evocative landscapes. Paul has lived across from the British Museum for decades, and admits to being suffused with its treasures and traditions. Her works invoke a deep sadness: one critic, writing of her painting "My Mother and God", comments that "the subject is immersed in a void, a dark vat of space". Paul is known as well for her relationship to the painter Lucien Freud, who is the father of her son Frank. She has recently published a book called "Self-Portrait" and is beginning to attract attention in the art world.
If you are not familiar with Susan Rothenberg's works, here is a good place to start. She is called "fearless" and her paintings "rugged". The strength of these pieces is hard to deny, the suggestion of brutality always there. Some years ago, she mentioned her profound reaction to learning that a group of ravens is named an unkindness. She called the ravens, which she saw at her ranch in Galisteo, New Mexico, "great", and added: "They do somersaults in the air. They play. They chase hawks away. They do so many things." Married to painter Bruce Nauman, she died recently at the age of 75.
The first contemporary art gallery owned by Native Americans is due to open in Buffalo, New York in mid-December. Called K-Art, it will bring to the world an admiration and focal point for the works of these artists. Initially ten artists will be shown.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is featuring a video walk-through of the works of Gerhard Richter called "Painting After All". Although nothing (yet) can replace the experience of standing right in front of these pieces to feel their power first-hand, the video does an excellent job of presenting 6 decades of the output of this important artist. Another video brings us the artist talking to the Tate Gallery Director, while another presents a conversation with him about his work.
Watch the Martha Graham Dance Company as they perform her celebrated choreography of Aaron Copeland's "Appalachian Spring". At this same site you are treated to other performances of her dances as well. For some reason, there is a greater sense of intimacy in watching videos of dance than of paintings: perhaps we are used to walking up to a painting and seeing it up close and personal, whereas we know dancers and their choreography from the viewpoint of audiences in a theater. The space that seduces us into the painter's world is vastly different from the space that divides us from a performance.
While we try to avoid proselytizing for any individual gallery, we are making an exception this month fot White Cube in London and Hong Kong. We present here three of their exceptional artists: you may well find others to investigate. Be sure to click on "view more works" for each artist.
A pandemic might offer the perfect time to check out the works of David Altmejd. Altmejd revels in the marriage of beauty and horror. Always centered on the human body, he suggests both sensuality and decay, eliciting a somewhat guilty pleasure in the grotesque. These sculptures are powerful, unafraid, and attention-grabbing.
Another White Cube artist, Imi Knoebel, seems to reduce painting to its most humble origins, so that the viewer asks both "why?" and "why not?" An exhibition of his pieces would be difficult to ignore or to walk by passively. Knoebel says of his work: "When I am asked about what I think when I look at a painting, I can only answer that I don't think at all; I look at it and can only take in the beauty, and I don't want to see it in relation to anything else. Only what I see, simply because it has its own validity."
Finally, we direct your attention to Raquib Shaw, whose gloriously elaborate imaginings stand in sharp contrast to the minimalist works of Knoebel. Shaw presents us with "phallus-headed birds, bug-eyed butterfly catchers, reptilian warriors or monkeys holding parasols, anthropomorphic in their gestures and regalia." He often finishes his pieces with embossed gold, lending an air of gorgeous opulence to his elaborately constructed worlds.
c. Corinne Whitaker 2020