February 2016


EXHIBITION: Hudson River School Redux
* Kindred Spirits, Union League Club, 38 East 37th Street, New York City, through February 29. This impressive little exhibition features landscape paintings by Erik Koeppel (b. 1980) and Lauren Sansaricq (b. 1990). As the Introduction [scroll down] to the exhibition notes, they have become "leaders in a movement of young artists working to revive traditional landscape painting techniques, particularly those of the Hudson River School." Aiming to paint "in the humble and honest manner of their forefathers," working from plein-air sketches (not photographs), the pair seek to "celebrat[e] the glory of nature." And in works such as Koeppel's Dream Lake, Storm in the Rockies (oil on canvas, 25 x 30 in.) and Sansaricq's View of Mount Merino and the Catskills at Sunset (oil on panel, 12 x 16 in.), they admirably succeed. See the brief article on the show in Fine Art Today, a weekly newsletter published by Fine Art Connoisseur.

To view the exhibition at this private club [Facebook page], non-members must make an appointment through Beth Harrington at beth@ebhart.com. (Note that the club's dress code prohibits jeans.) Collectors, take note: the majority of works in the show range in price from only $2,000 to $5,000. All are handsomely framed (as in these examples from a previous show).

Both painters are artist members of the Grand Central Atelier (GCA)--previously known as the Grand Central Academy of Art--"a collaborative workspace for artists pursuing the methodology of historic ateliers to create drawing, painting and sculpture from life." (The Academy was founded by Jacob Collins, one of America's most accomplished painter-teachers and a leading figure in the international Classical Realist movement.) Sansaricq received academic training in drawing and painting at GCA and teaches every summer in the Hudson River Fellowship, which is associated with GCA. Koeppel has taught painting through the Atelier and also teaches privately.

A Prophetic Vision of the Future
In "The Future of the Art World" (Aristos, May 2003)--about an exhibition of work by first-year MFA candidates at Columbia University---I observed that students like those "in MFA programs across the land are the art stars of years to come." I further predicted that

work by them . . . will be exhibited in "contemporary art" museums. It will be acclaimed by critics, and sought after by wealthy collectors. It will represent the United States at international art festivals, and be awarded prizes. Some of it will one day be noted in art history texts.

In the dozen years that have elapsed since then, my words have proved all too prophetic. Work by one of the students included in the exhibition--Mika Rottenberg--is now exhibited in museums, acclaimed by critics, and sought after by wealthy collectors (one of her "video installations" sold for $150,000 [see Andrea Rosen gallery] in 2013). In addition to other awards and prizes, she represented the United States at last year's Venice Biennale, the world's most prestigious international art festival. Although she may not yet be noted in art history texts, Mika Rottenberg (2011) is no doubt a precursor. In sum, she is considered "a leading figure in the contemporary art scene." For a sample of her work, see "Mika Rottenberg, Exhibition Video, La Maison Rouge, Paris." --L.T.

Extraordinary Retrospective Honoring a Superb Woman Artist
Vigée Le Brun: Woman Artist in Revolutionary France, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, February 15 - May 15, 2016. Although Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun (1755-1842) was one of eighteenth-century Europe's most sought-after portraitists, she surely qualifies as a largely neglected artist of the past in our time, as this is the first modern retrospective devoted to her work. It is a breathtaking introduction to a brilliant, largely self-taught woman painter, who carved an impressive career across the Continent in the most turbulent of times. Thanks to her vivid portraits of Marie-Antoinette, the royal family, and prominent courtiers, it also offers a glimpse into the glittering court of Louis XVI before its tragic downfall. For more about the exhibition, see Roberta Smith's review in the New York Times (February 11)--"She Painted Marie Antoinette (and Escaped the Guillotine)." We rarely recommend anything written by Smith (owing to her avant-garde proclivities), but her informed coverage of this show is well worth reading.

Portrait of a Charlatan
Erwin Wurm. What is Wurm doing? He is "making 'The Half-Truth,' a One Minute Sculpture," according to the photo's caption in " 'One Minute Sculptures' Invade the Schindler House " (ArtsBeat, New York Times, January 27, 2016). If you visit the Wurm exhibition in Los Angeles before it ends on March 27, you, too, can create this and other similar "sculptures," or "performances," merely by following his handwritten instructions on the pedestals. Is Wurm a charlatan, and does it matter? I think he is and it does, as implied in a comment I made in response to the above account (click on "2 comments" under the headline) of his shenanigans on ArtsBeat, "a website devoted to culture news and reviews, and to the work and interests of [Times] reporters and critics." What do you think? -- L.T.

Is Photography "Art"?
William Henry Fox Talbot's The Boulevards at Paris (1843), for example? The Metropolitan Museum of Art claims it is (as do all art museums that venture an opinion). It frequently cites a photograph on its Facebook page as the "Featured Artwork of the Day," as in this recent post on Talbot's photo. (See my contrarian comment.) Note that nearly 2,500 people "liked" the Met's post, which may mean that they simply enjoyed the photograph. That seven gave my comment a thumbs-up suggests that at least a few brave souls who were willing to make their views public (all Facebook "likes" are identified by name with links to their personal pages) agree with our view that photography is not art. -- L.T.

What qualifies as "visual art" in academia these days?
See Michelle Kamhi's weblog post "Little Mattress Girl Moves On and Up in the Artworld"---which points to a lamentable nexus between the dubious "rape culture" on college campuses and academia's degradation of the "visual arts."

The Athenaeum [TA] Anyone wishing to view online images of painting or sculpture, especially from the past, should turn first to this comprehensive (if at times idiosyncratic) website. It is the one we always recommend whenever we cite essential information about an artist--most recently, for Winslow Homer last December.

Founded in 2000 by Chris McCormick (its sole programmer and web designer), TA currently displays more than 200,000 works of art by more than 9,000 artists. For living or recently deceased artists "whose work is believed to be under copyright," TA provides only thumbnail images. See, for example, Nora, by the Norwegian master painter Odd Nerdrum (b. 1944). Quality images of such works are widely available on the internet, however, through such search services as Google Images [about].

Because most of TA's content presently consists of artworks, its "Artworks by artist " is the page to start on. If you want to view 717(!) works by Rembrandt, for example, you can also access his page by entering "rembrandt athenaeum" (omit quotes) at Google. Once there, you can sort the list in ten different ways. For browsing, we prefer "year completed, in ascending order" because we find it interesting to start at the beginning of an artist's career.

Viewing Images Online
As we never tire of reminding readers, Firefox is the optimal browser for viewing images of art because it centers them on a dark background.

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