August 2006

NOTES & COMMENTS

The Aristos Awards
We have named three new Aristos Award winners: Dave Barry, syndicated humor columnist of the Miami Herald; Bernard Holland, music critic of the New York Times (this is his second award); and John Zeaman, art critic of The Record (Bergen County, N. J.).

Readers familiar with the awards criteria and with the wide range of previous winners are invited to nominate individuals for consideration. Links to the relevant published material (book, column, article, etc.) should be provided, along with links to any biographical or other information available online. Alternatively, relevant items may be sent to the editors by postal mail. All nominations will be carefully considered, but only those selected as winners will be acknowledged.

Marian Anderson--Standing Tall
For just one day in Philadelphia, and forever after at Converse College in Spartanburg, S.C., an eight-foot-tall bronze sculpture of the incomparable contralto Marian Anderson (1897-1993), by Meredith Bergmann, will be on view. The unveiling in Philadelphia will take place at the Franklin Institute Science Museum at 11a.m. on September 7. An opera concert featuring Marian Anderson Historical Society scholars and Converse students will be offered that evening, as part of a fundraising celebrity gala for the MAHS. Converse College will dedicate the sculpture at 11:30 a.m. on September 12. A free celebratory concert is planned for the previous evening. See "Honoring Marian Anderson for further information.

Give yourself a treat. Take the time to listen to, and watch, Anderson sing. Here's a teaser: a tiny 26-second video [click on "V-video" link on page] of a performance of Schubert's beloved "Ave Maria" [1-minute Windows Media audio version--scroll down to #3]. "Marian Anderson: A Life in Song" is one of the gems on the Internet. On this rich website, to be visited and re-visited, click on the link to video and audio excerpts in the Table of Contents. Then do not miss the link to Anderson singing "My Country 'Tis of Thee" at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D. C., in April 1939. Also, "You've Got To Be Taught" [lyrics] from South Pacific, by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, performed before a rapt audience of Malaysian school boys. Watch those faces. (For a full-screen image of these and other videos, click on the square-box icon in the upper right of your browser.)

EXHIBITION: Three Painters
Triad: Three American Painters [more] (Newington Cropsey Foundation, Hastings-on-Hudson, N. Y., Weekdays, 1 a.m. to 5 p.m., September 12 - October 28). The work of classical realists Stephen Gjertson, Kirk Richards, and Steve Armes will be shown in this latest in a series of exhibitions of traditional contemporary art sponsored by the Newington Cropsey Foundation. Aristos readers may recall seeing Gjertson's The Recorder Lesson and After the Bath among our "Images of Exemplary Works of Art."

Visitors to the exhibition may also want to plan to tour the foundation's Gallery of Art (in the same building)--devoted to the work of Jasper Cropsey (1823-1900), a leading painter of the Hudson River school--as well as the Cropsey Homestead, located just half a mile away. The Cropsey Gallery hours are the same as those for the exhibition, and tours of the homestead take place between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Both are accessible by appointment only, however, and visits must be arranged at least one week in advance.

The Newington Cropsey Foundation Gallery is a short walk from the Hastings-on-Hudson train station on the Metro North line [general information and driving directions] [train information].

Herd of Art?
Colorful fiberglass cows have "grazed" (stood still, actually) in Chicago (1999) and New York (2000), among other urban landscapes, and are now ensconced in cities ranging from Denver and Boston to Paris and Tokyo. In July, the Christian Science Monitor took note of the phenomenon, called "CowParade" [more], in a two-page illustrated feature. On the Monitor's front page, alongside its banner, appeared a photograph of one of the Boston cows and a color graphic declaring "Simply bovine!" and asking: "Sure, But Is It Art?" (sound familiar?). The article, on page 14, was headlined "More City Dwellers Have Herd of Art," followed by a caption noting that "some critics question their artistic value." One such critic was quoted in the article. Now, who could that be?

Contrary to artworld denizens who regard CowParade as a successful "public art" project, Louis Torres was quoted as arguing that they are more akin to mannequins than to art. In his long telephone interview with Steven Ellis, who wrote the Monitor feature, he emphasized (among other things) that the cow figures are merely replicated from casts made for the express purpose of being whimsically "decorated" by various artists. Fun for their decorators and for some city-dwellers who happen upon the cows, but definitely not public art. On the other side of the debate, Beaman Cole, who painted two of the Boston cows (Tea Party Cow and Leav'n Town), argued that they are art because all art is supposed to be fun. "'Anytime you're doing something that conveys a feeling and some sort of idea, it's art,' he [added]. 'It doesn't matter whether it's a canvas or a cow.'" (For an earlier debate on the same topic, see Letters, August 2003.)

(Its name notwithstanding, the Christian Science Monitor [more] is a nonreligious international newspaper with a reputation for "integrity and influential writing" and "objective coverage" of topics ranging from economic news and politics to education and the arts--according to Dialog, a leading online information service provider. Its website attracts far more visitors per month than that of the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, or the Washington Post. "More City Dwellers Have Herd of Art" was picked up by CBS News online, among other sources.)

Honoring Jacques Barzun
At a gala on September 7, Gemini Ink, a literary organization based in in San Antonio, Texas, will present a Lifetime Achievement Award to cultural historian (and friend of Aristos) Jacques Barzun, who turns 100 in November.

EXHIBITIONS: The Whitney Shows Off
Full House: Views of the Whitney's Collection at 75 (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City, staggered closing dates from September 3 on). Many of the modernists and postmodernists discussed in What Art Is and in these pages are represented in this exhibition of holdings from the Whitney Museum's permanent collection, and their work should be seen to be believed (on Fridays, from 6 to 9 p.m., you may "pay what you wish" at the Whitney). Following is a sampling:

2nd floor (Abstract Expressionism), closes October 15:
Willem de Kooning, Woman and Bicycle [more ], 1952-53; Franz Kline, Mahoning, 1965; Barnett Newman, Day One [more], 1951-52; Jackson Pollock, Number 27, 1950, 1950; and Mark Rothko, Four Darks in Red, 1958.

3rd floor (Pop Art +), closes October 8:
Robert Gober, Untitled [Leg with Candle], 1991; Duane Hanson, Woman with Dog, 1977; Jasper Johns, Three Flags [three canvases stacked on one another], 1958; and Claes Oldenburg, Soft Toilet, 1966.

4th floor (Minimalism +), closes September 3:
David Hammons, Untitled, 1992 (copper, wire, hair, stone, fabric, and thread); Barry Le Va, Continuous and Related Activities; Discontinued by the Act of Dropping, 1967 [image].
See also these views of the exhibition and eight selected images [click on thumbnails to enlarge].

What the curators hope to accomplish with this exhibition is to give the public a sense of the "long-term memory" of the museum, whose goal is to bring "great works" to posterity--works of "great subtlety and breathtaking beauty" that "not only reflect culture but help to shape it." With regard to the the three main floors, heaven help us.

5th floor - Here, we are happy to report, real art is to be seen--the work of Edward Hopper. See note below.

An American Realist
Edward Hopper (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City, through December 3.) Welcome relief from the folly and hype of most of the Whitney's Full House exhibition (see note above) can be found on the 5th floor, devoted entirely to the work of one of America's best-known and most distinctive realist painters, Edward Hopper (1882-1967) [Self Portrait, 1925-1930]. Like him or not, Hopper is a genuine artist, and this selection of works offers an informative survey of his development, as well as insight into the genesis of some of his most interesting paintings. In addition to works from the Whitney's extensive holdings, major works borrowed from other institutions are on view. Among the happy surprises for us were previously unfamiliar atmospheric studies from Hopper's early years abroad, such as Steps in Paris, 1906; Le Bistro [more] (The Wine Shop), 1909; and Bridge and Embankment, 1906--and a delightful series of watercolor sketches of Parisians, from high-fashion to demi-monde, reminiscent of Daumier in their astute delineation of character. We also admired Small Town Station, 1918-1920, an atypical Hopper work for the soft warmth of its light.

A highlight of the exhibition is New York Movie, 1939, on loan from the Museum of Modern Art. One of Hopper's most evocative paintings, New York Movie [more] captures as only he can the sense of isolation that can be experienced in the midst of a populous city. In it he depicts an usher, a pretty young woman, leaning against a brightly lit wall at the side of an ornate darkened theater. Her eyes closed, she is lost in wistful reverie, oblivious of the flickering image on the partly visible movie screen. On view alongside the painting are some fifty preparatory studies, which vividly demonstrate that though Hopper was far from being an exceptional draftsman, he knew the importance of drawing and worked long and hard to achieve the effects he sought. (Hopper's most famous painting--Nighthawks, 1942--will be shown from October 4 through December 3, on loan from the Art Institute of Chicago.)

For more on Hopper, see: Edward Hopper: The Watercolors; Edward Hopper: The Paris Years; a chronological listing of paintings (some with links); 18 paintings; and Edward Hopper Gallery, a list of his well-known works with links to poster images [scroll down to links of images grouped thematically].

Still on the Edge
Louis Torres's letter to the New York Sun, published about a year ago, under the caption "Wooster Group Disappoints" [scroll down to title], is available online. It comments on theater critic Helen Shaw's article about a troupe that, though no longer on the "razor's edge" of avant-garde theater, was once "on the very edge of the cutting edge." These and other examples of Shaw's artspeak are included in our list of Artworld Buzzwords.

Letters to the Editors
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