Galleries

Visionary Shoes, Not Made for Walking

This past Monday, my Hebrew teacher took members of our class to A Walk of Art: Visionary Shoes, an exhibition of footwear by Bezalel Academy graduates. She asked me to do a write-up on the show for the school’s PR department and I thought I would put it here—please excuse the aspects that might be slightly juvenile in my opening paragraph and so on, I thought they were contextually appropriate. Anyway, it was truly a privilege to gain further insight into the ingenuity of those involved and although the heels, stilettos, and sandals contained in the presentation are thoroughly unusable (at least they appear impossible to walk in), I would recommend going in the next two weeks while it’s still on if only for their aesthetic value.


One quiet February afternoon, seniors in Ms. Barak’s Modern Israel seminar journeyed beyond the Upper East Side, heading to the Bowery for a special presentation at Parasol Projects. Upon entering the gallery, students were immediately struck by a sprawling installation of avant-garde footwear sitting atop various platform boxes. In their viscerally mesmerized state, everything else would have to wait as phone cameras were pulled out and animated commentary ensued.

Curator Ya’ara Keydar, an Israeli-born fashion historian now based in New York, was charged with guiding the pupils through these compelling visuals. She began her talk by introducing the exhibition’s fitting title—A Walk of Art: Visionary Shoes—a heading which, in deeming the works thoroughly “innovative,” immediately indicated its focus on the boundary between fashion and art, a thread that would be explored throughout. Emphasizing the show’s experimental tone, Keydar next explained its foundational purpose: to spotlight alumni and students of Bezalel Academy, considered one of the country’s finest bastions of creativity. Israeli culture fundamentally involves a fusion of past and present to envision the future, and through pioneering cutting-edge techniques such as 3D printing alongside more traditional methods of design, Bezalel’s approach epitomizes this sweeping synthesis; even the school’s name places a Biblical episode in the context of modern life.  (more…)

Picasso and Picabia

Above: On left is Picasso’s Marie-Therese accoudee, copyright 2016 Estate of Pablo Picasso and Artists Rights Society, via WikiArts; On right is Picabia’s Portrait of an Artist, photograph by the author. Edited in Trigraphy and AdobeSpark.

Two wonderful shows on now that you should see: Picasso’s Picassos at Gagosian Madison and Francis Picabia: Our Heads Are Round so Our Thoughts Can Change Direction at the Museum of Modern Art. Picasso and Picabia knew each other personally, but artistically they shared a tone of natural playfulness, strong ability in any medium, and stylistic eclecticism. Below is a short breakdown of the current presentations.

Picasso

Picasso’s Picassos comprises a selection of paintings and a single sculpture (La femme enceinte, or The Pregnant Woman– see this version) from the collection of Maya Ruiz-Picasso, the artist’s daughter with famous muse Marie-Therese Walter. At two rooms it is quite palatable, exactly the kind of exhibit easy to pop in and out of while being still being worth attending. The works are mostly small in scale but richly hued, featuring compelling Cubist structures with tangled webs of body parts and physiognomy. They evidence his masterful weaving together of unusual colors and brushstrokes to create whole forms, and the resulting gestalt reminds viewers of why Picasso is so revered. The pieces are primarily portraits; subjects might be a young Maya, Marie-Therese, or even a Musketeer. It is an especially perfect show for someone who will appreciate Picasso’s content without needing background (as in most galleries, there is no wall text, only an explanatory sheet). The experience is a concise one, but quite enjoyable at that.

Through February 18th.

Picabia

The Francis Picabia survey boasts being the first of its kind in the U.S. to chart the entire career of the eponymous artist, who flirted with Impressionism, Pointillism, and Surrealism, became an important player in Dada, and worked both figuratively and abstractly, in addition to his graphic design endeavors. Picabia has an incredible range, having experimented with collage, mechanical diagrams, unusual painting techniques (such as building multi-layer transparencies), photorealism, film, carpets, Rousseau-like Primitivism, camp, Op-Art, and so on. Involved in the international art scene from 1903 through his death in 1953 (based everywhere from Paris to Cuba, New York, or Zurich), Picabia interacted with cultural icons such as Andre Breton, Alfred Stieglitz, Marcel Duchamp, and Gertrude Stein, and was arguably one himself. The MoMA mounting is an excellent spotlight on the multitalented artist in that it seems to cover much ground, although for a better sense of its comprehension (described by one publication as monstrous), avoid going at midday when the museum tends to be crowded and therein highly chaotic. Yet despite Picabia’s diversity of style, one thing to note is that the MoMA takes a keen interest in Dadaists, which comes as no surprise in light of its core concentration on the modern and postmodern eras. The institution staged an investigation into the movement last year with Dadaglobe Reconstructed, a tribute to Dada founder Tristan Tzara‘s failed attempt to assemble a massive catalogue of sorts with contributions from affiliates around the world. I have no idea whether this earlier coverage helped inspire the selection of Picabia for a 2016-2017 retrospective (a problematic thesis, given that he denounced Dada in 1921), but I’d recommend the latter just the same.

Through March 19th.

Assaf Evron at the Andrea Meislin Gallery

534 W 24th in Chelsea recently welcomed the works of Assaf Evron, an Israeli photographer, to its quiet streets. The solo show, entitled The Sea Was Smooth, Perfectly Mirroring the Sky, directly parallels the personality of its location: the pieces are soft and subdued, at first distant and then upon closer look, welcoming and even inviting discovery.

The main event is a series of photographs taken with an infrared camera that examine an Xbox’s projection of light beams onto various objects. However, the context and the background of this grouping– a triptych– remains second to the enigmatic beauty of the works themselves. These works are sprinkled with star-like shapes of a lavender color that create misty shadows when covering the geometric forms that are front and center in the works. The exploratory process is endless, with the result of the time spent studying the pieces being a feeling that one is immersed in a transcendental galaxy beyond one’s imagination. It just helps that the images themselves are covered in reflective glass that enables one to really feel situated within the pieces. And what could be better than having a tangible as well as the obvious emotional connection to an artwork? Oh yeah and perfect for a selfie.

 

Lessons at the Ronin Gallery

A few months ago, I had a chance to learn about a corner of the art world that was new to me and will be interesting to you. The Ronin Gallery is an oasis of serenity and beauty amidst the grit and chaos of Midtown Manhattan. It is kind of like the art-world secret that isn’t a secret, but it’s hidden location– the upper levels of an office building on the lower end of Madison Avenue– certainly makes it appear that way. The gallery is owned by the Libertson family of New York whose enterprises are mainly real-estate-related. How they came about owning what is the largest and most important collection of Japanese woodblock prints outside of Asia is a  remarkable story. The Libertson patriarch came across his first Japanese woodblock print by chance many years ago in his travels to the Orient, fell in love with it, and since then amassed a gargantuan collection of the prints, later transforming it into a business enterprise.

I was invited to the gallery with my father by David Libertson, the son of the gallery’s founders, and the person who now runs it. I had the privilege to learn from him not just of the gallery’s background but also an in-depth history of the evolution of Japanese woodblock-prints. Having known nothing about this prior to my visit, I was in for a real treat as David described his pieces in terms of the evolution of both artistic style and crafting technique. Aided by his assistant Maggie, a PhD student at Columbia focusing specifically on Asian art-history, David detailed for us the influence of the socio-economical state in Japan had on the artworks produced. Mr. Libertson explained that the push for more graphically sophisticated woodblock printing followed a long period of simple cut-outs and came from the development of a richer merchant class and their endless wealth, which inspired gaudiness and lewdness as a form of cultural expression. This merchant class had a surplus of money that could not be used to climb the social ranks due to the rigid class structure of Japan, and so this money went to fund entertainment. I found this fascinating and loved seeing how the social environment was an intrinsic driver of the production and style of art. (more…)