NoteWorthy Shows- November, 2016

Things are reaching a fever pitch in the Galleries as the year end approaches, with nary a Black Friday Gallery sale in sight, allowing me to sleep in this year. Still, there was plenty to see and be Thankful for, along with the usual smattering of turkeys, but let’s get right to dessert, shall we? As in October, here’s my list, in no particular order, of what I found NoteWorthy in November. Once again, each one of these deserves a longer, in depth piece that I’m not going to have time to do, but I would be remiss in not mentioning them at all. November, also, marked the end of the world as we know it, so…

The world looks different…Brian Dettmer’s “Western Civilizations 3,” 2016. A “Book Sculpture.” More below.

“Faberge from the Matilda Geddings Gray Foundation Collection” @ The Met- Will the artist in modern history who is a greater craftsman than Carl Faberge please stand up and make yourself known to me? Thank you. While I’m waiting on that, this is the first show of the work of Faberge in New York since 2004. As small as one of the details on his timeless (and priceless) masterpieces, this show in a hallway at The Met is easy to miss (countless thousands do just that as they wait in line for the elevator to the roof, right in front of this very show). Ms Gray began collecting Faberge in 1933, when prices for his work were cheaper than they will ever be again. Money aside, Faberge combines the equally rare gifts of ingenuity, vision, craftsmanship and delight in works that are a century old but have lost none of their grace, beauty or charm. Scheduled to end on November 27, this show has been extended until 2021, giving you plenty of time to see it.

“Imperial Lillies of the Fields Basket,” 1896, Yellow & green gold, silver, nephrite, pearl, rose-cut diamond. This is considered THE most important Faberge piece in the USA. It was presented to the wife of Czar Nicholas at her visit to the Pan-Russian Exposition in 1896. This is only 7 1/2  x 8 1/2 inches!

“Imperial Napoleonic Egg,” 1912, gold, enamel, rose-cut diamond, platinum, ivory, gouache, velvet, silk. One of the infamous “Faberge Eggs,” this was presented by the Czar to his wife for Easter, 1912. Designed to commemorate the 100th Anniv of victory over Napoleon. This is 4 5/8 inches tall! The inside is solid gold, and holds…

a six-panel screen depicting paintings of six regiments she was an honorary colonel in.

Description in next photo. Click any photo in this Blog to see it larger.

“Imperial Caucasus Egg,” for Easter, 1893. This is 3 1/2 inches high!

Easy to miss, this is the whole show!

“Joan Mitchell: Drawing Into Painting” @ Cheim Reade- Yet another good sized show of an Abstract Expressionist, “second generation” this time, and the most renowned female (Lee Krasner may be gaining on her) AbEx painter, right down the street from the blockbuster “Mark Rothko: Dark Passage” Show, it makes the perfect before or after bookend to it. I owned a Joan Mitchell print until a few years ago, so I lived with the energy and lyricism her work is known for. Looking around, her work is in most major museums, though it’s been 12 years since an American museum gave her a show. So, it’s been left to Cheim & Read to fill the gaps, and they’ve mounted Joan Mitchell shows every two years, or so, going back to the late 1990’s. This one does make for fascinating pairing with the Rothko show- they couldn’t be more different, while sharing what the scholars call Abstract Expressionism, I’ve heard some of the Artists, including Philip Guston, say they prefer the term “New York School.”

“UNTITLED,” 1958, oil on canvas

“LA GRANDE VALLEE XVI POUR IVA,” 1983, oil on canvas

“UNTITLED,” 1982. oil on canvas

“Man Ray: Continued and Noticed” @ Francis Naumann- It’s been too long between Man Ray shows. Readers already know my fondness for Man Ray. Francis Naumann Gallery opened 15 years ago with a Man Ray show, so they revisited him for this anniversary show and they did it in style. Man Ray was so prolific, and so prolifically diverse he can be hard to “sum up” in a gallery show, but this one was an out and out winner, a must see, especially for anyone who thinks of Ray as “only” a ground breaking photographer. While featuring a wonderful selection of his photos, portraits and “Ray-o-grams,” it also included his drawing, painting, sculpture, writing, and even no less than 2 Ray designed chess sets.

“Paletteable,” 1969

The great Man (Ray). Self-Portrait, 1948. A card under speaks of his concerns in his early work- “1) a defiance of artistic convention replaced by steadfast commitment to absolute freedom in the arts.” That says it all.

…and seen again. “Autoportrait,” 1917/70, Screen print on plexiglass. Really? Hmmm…

…and again. “Self Portrait,” 1914

Yes, that’s one of the chess sets Man Ray designed to the left of the chair.

“Lampshade,” center, surrounded by an astounding range of creativity.

“Philip Guston: Laughter in the Dark, Drawings from 1971  & 1975” @ Hauser & Wirth- There was no more auspiciously timed show than this one which not only brings us the 73 drawings Philip Guston selected for his “Poor Richard” series but 100 additional drawings that didn’t make the cut and 3 wonderful paintings that are related or have relevance to them. Opening exactly 4 months after Hauser’s last Guston show, it would be very very hard to find work more different than those in seen in “Philip Guston Painter, 1957-67,” which I wrote about here, perhaps the “darkest” of his career, in many ways. Though the show’s title refers to the presence of “laughter” here, make no mistake it is more than tinged with darkness, especially because viewing them now, we know how things turned out for Nixon. These were dark times for the country, and many of these drawings were Guston’s “at the moment” reaction to unfolding events. Even before Watergate, the Nixon Presidency was not without a sizable opposition, for more reasons than the seemingly endless war in Vietnam. Everything about Nixon rubbed many people the wrong way, and provided a brilliant Artist ample fodder for “political satire” of the highest order. Most interestingly, for me, these are works in which Guston turns his focus outwards for, perhaps, the only time in his post 1940’s career. “Poor Richard” was published in 2001 and is still in print. You can see it here.

The 73 drawings that Guston selected for “Poor Richard” are shown, here (and below), together.

Title Page. Guston Depicts Nixon with VP Spiro Agnew (triangular skull), Attorney General John Mitchell (with his pipe) and Advisor Henry Kissenger (as glasses) as the cast of characters

Guston’s series begins with young Richard Nixon.

“Jeff Elrod: This Brutal World” @ Luhring Augustine- Chelsea & Brooklyn Galleries. It pains me not to write a longer piece on this. Jeff Elrod has been at the cusp of reinventing painting by combining digital drawing and computers with the end result of that stage outputted to canvas.where it may, or may not be combined with analog, old fashioned painting (at least those on display here). Dealing with blurriness from my recent eye treatment, my initial reaction was, “Hmmmm…If I close my right eye, my good eye, this is how the world looks to me these days.” But, I was drawn back repeatedly, even compelled to make the (unheard of for me) trip to Brooklyn to see the Bushwick segment of this show. In both locations, the effect was the same- I couldn’t get them out of my mind. They’re like something you see when you’re not really looking, or when you’re not fully awake after dreaming, or about to fall asleep…My initial reaction was “This looks easy to do on a computer. Take a photo, blur the heck out of part of it in Photoshop. Add a layer of a frenzied drawing and output to canvas. Then, I remember people say the same thing about Pollock and Rothko, yet no one else has done them. Some works remind me of passages of Monet, some of Yves Tanguay. But not really. They weren’t created like those were and so they don’t look like anything else. Mr. Elrod’s work commands some fancy prices. Ah well…They’re much too big for my place, anyways. If there’s a “cutting edge” in painting in 2016, Jeff Elrod’s work is the closest I’ve seen to being on it. I’m very much looking forward to seeing where this is going.

“Auto-Focus,” 2016 UV Ink on Canvas 9064 inches. Mystifyingly alluring.

“Rubber-Miro,” 2015 Acrylic and UV Ink on canvas. His uniquely shaped canvases give the work a different feel from most square/rectangular paintings.

“Rake-Adaptable,” 2016 UV Ink on FIscher canvas. The ghost of Robert Motherwell? “Haunting” is a word his work brings to my mind most often.

“Under The Skin,” 2016 UV Ink on canvas, 108 x 84 inches.

“Plume,” 2016 as seen in Bushwick, Brooklyn. 16 1/4 feet long by 9 1/2 feet tall.

After countless visits, I began to “see” “Jeff Elrods” everywhere I went. Like here-

Life Mirrors Art.

Honorable Mention- “Brian Dettmer: Dodo Data Dada” @ P.P.O.W. Mr. Dettmer creates “Book Sculptures,” something new to me. As far as I can tell, he takes a scalpel to a book, or books, and carves away all but what he wants to remain. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

“Funk and Wag,” 2016. As in, the whole encyclopedia.

“Ew Ass,” 2016

PostScript.- And meanwhile, over at Gagosian, Richard Serra’s MASSIVE “Every Which Way,” 2015, all 16 slabs of it was coming down, making way for the next show there…

Richard Serra, “Every Which Way,” 2015 @ Gagosian

*-Soundtrack for this Post is “It’s The End Of The World (As We Know It)” by Michael Stipe, Mike Mills, Peter Buck and Bill Berry of R.E.M. and published by Warner/Chappell Music, Inc and Universal Music Publishing Group, from their 1987 album “Document.”

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13 Years At The Metropolitan Museum – Part Two – The Light

This is Part Two of my ongoing series, “Thirteen Years At The Metropolitan Museum.” Part One is here.


Her Aim Is True. With an arrow to my heart, Saint-Gaudens’ “Diana” points the way to the undiscovered land.

It happens more than I’d like.

I stop into the bookshop every time I go to The Met (TM), either on my way in, or out. As these 13 years have gone on, unfortunately, it’s become one of the few decent art book stores left. They have a good stock of current and new art books and, of course, a very good supply of Met Museum Publications. Nothing old or out of print, still, I always find something of interest, either about whatever artist I’m currently fixated on (there’s always at least one), or someone I’m only discovering through a show, or right there on their shelves.


My apartment. Almost. No, it’s The Met’s Bookstore.

Then, it happened.

I picked up this heavy hardcover called “Portraits By Ingres.” Ingres. Yes. There are a few of his portraits upstairs in the European Paintings Gallery and an amazing one, which has become my very favorite painting in The Museum, in the Robert Lehman Collection Galleries. I start looking through the book. There, on page after page after page are THE most incredible drawings I may have ever seen! What? I’m amazed. Astounded. The line! The delicacy. He knows exactly what to leave out and still, somehow, capture the essence of his subject’s face, like in Chinese or Japanese painting, but more so. He’s using graphite. No washes, no ink, no nothing. The most amazingly beautiful lines I’ve ever seen on paper.

How did I not know about this?

Since the book is old, it’s on sale. How old is it? I look at the publishing data. “Published on the occasion of “Portraits by Ingres” at the Metropolitan Museum October 5, 1999 through January 2, 2000” (You can actually download it now, direct from TM(!), here, for free.)


You mean, this was A SHOW?



Oh my god… ….. ………….

And, that’s how I discovered THE WORST feeling I ever get when I to go TM. While “Portraits By Ingres” is the “big one that got away,” unfortunately, it’s happened more than once. And that’s only in the recent past.

Portraits By Ingres NYT 1999P

And? Look what I found recently on the back of an article I saved in the NY Times from 1999. History tugged my sleeve…and now mocks me.

Since then, I live with a terrible fear of missing a great show. Why? When a show is over? It’s gone…forever. It “lives on”, but to a much lesser extent in exhibition catalogs (thank goodness!) and through websites, online videos, maybe an app or two, but that’s it. The catalogs may or may not have all the works that were in the show and almost certainly won’t have them in their original sizes (maybe, one day, e-catalogs will, but the resolution of art e-books today is nowhere near there). Almost never are shows documented with a film or documentary, the way “Leonardo: da Vinci: Painter At The Court Of Milan” was.

In fact, I only discovered “the show of the Century,” “Leonardo da Vinci: Painter @ CoM” 3 days before it ended at the National Gallery, London. (It was put together by Luke Tyson, who I wrote about in Part One of this series, who is now working at TM.) I jumped on an over night flight and went straight to the National Gallery, without a ticket for the sold-out show, minutes before doors opened on it’s very last day. I got in (a story unto itself. The NY Giants won the Super Bowl that same night. Something crazy to watch in London). It’s the first and last time 9 of Leonard’s incomparable 17 (or so) paintings were being shown in one place. And, possibly, the first time ever both version of the “Virgin of the Rocks” were being shown together- in the same room (I had to take a step aside and pinch myself in utter amazement when I walked in to that gallery), and so much more as you can see on the checklist, here, including, astonishingly, a full size copy of “The Last Supper” done in 1520, shortly after the original had been painted! To think…If I hadn’t happened to accidentally stumble on that documentary at 3am on PBS, I would have missed it!

So, impelled by this fear, I have since designed each visit to TM around their exhibition calendar- I go and see whatever’s closing soonest, if I haven’t seen it already.

This has paid off, for me, in uncountable and undreamt of ways.

I have discovered countless artists I never knew about, who have enriched my life and my knowledge of art history in so many ways I can’t even count including Sanford Gifford (besides being a brilliant underknown member of the Hudson River School, he was also a Met Museum Founder in 1880), Henrick Goltzius (who overcame a fall into a fire that disfigured his drawing hand but turned that to his advantage becoming a graphic artist, perhaps, only equalled in the north by Durer), Thomas Eakins, Alexander McQueen, Christo & Jeanne-Claude (who I got to meet right before The Gates), Philip Guston, Bernini, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Chasseriau, Ellsworth Kelly, Girodet, Sean Kelly, Degas, Thomas Hart Benton, Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, Cezanne, Antonio Canova, Liu Dan in the revelatory Ink Art in China show, Faberge, William Kentridge, Balthus, Paul Klee, Neo Rauch, among individual artists I “discovered” at Special Exhibitions at TM since 2002! Some I had heard of or knew a little about but I “discovered” them here.

As someone obsessed with Art History who draws a little bit, these artists had/have a huge and ongoing influence on me. I learned so much from all of them. They have helped me refine my focus. Before 1999 I was solely interested in modern and contemporary art. After seeing the Mark Rothko Show at the Whitney in 1998, I started to draw. Then, I realized I needed to go back through the entire history of art and learn from the masters who could draw. That led me to TM. TM led me to “the Light.”

This is not to mention artists I’ve discovered by wandering the galleries, like Ingres, Stuart Davis, Tiepolo, Remington, Caravaggio, Goya, Yves Tanguay and Juan Gris among them.

I’ve seen the light.

Even now, today, September 18, 2015, I returned from TM after spending a large part of last weekend there for the last few days of China, with a fresh revelation- George Caleb Bingham. Bingham. Hmm… I know of him though the one intriguing painting that’s been continually on display in the American Wing. It’s a work you walk by and always draws you closer. You ponder it and are left thinking. “It’s interesting…different…powerful and real. Bingham, huh? I don’t know him.” There’s no other by him work on view to reinforce the feeling that “I really need to look into him.” Well, maybe he was a one hit wonder.


23 year old Bingham’s Self Portrait beckons us in to “discover” his unique light.

It turns out, he was far from it. After seeing his about to close show, “Navigating the West” featuring his River paintings and drawings, I came away struck by an artist that seems to be something of a missing link. Someone who fills in a gap before Thomas Eakins. He’s a master of the natural pose,while making that pose always seem uniquely American, a powerful draughtsman, with a real gift for setting the stage in his compositions, which often feature beautifully out of focus backgrounds years before cameras showed such things, and in ways I haven’t seen many other artists do this well. Ever since Leonardo artists have put in very realistic backgrounds, often consisting of modern towns or locations regardless of the time period being depicted (which no doubt charmed contemporaries, but always struck me as being weird and bizarrely out of place in the story). Bingham’s rarely depict a recognizable location (according to the catalog), but they add to the air of authenticity that he is trying to present more convincingly than some of his Renaissance predecessors. Interestingly, Bingham was influenced by the Hudson River School after his first trip east, and his early landscapes show their trademarked lush and thickly detailed flora and fauna. As time went on, he paid more and more attention to the focus of his work- his characters. Carefully working and reworking them in masterful preparatory drawings, he was able to simply transfer them to his canvas and then make sure that everything else supported them, or they got left out. He became an editor as much as he was a draughtsman. The Met has prepared a fascinating short analysis of the process Bingham used in creating his masterpiece, “Fur Traders Descending The Missouri,” The Met’s painting that first caught my eye. He was downright ruthless in his editing, down to the smallest detail, creating a work of sublime economy that I wonder if it in turn influenced another masterpiece of American River art, Thomas Eakins’ “ Max Schmitt In A Single Scull,” which happens to call TM it’s home, too.
His light runs the full range from soft to hard, and is never more masterful than in “Fur Traders.” The foreground water, in particular. Then there is a pair of masterful, yet entirely different, self portraits, one, early, of the artist in his 20’s, the other done 2 years before his passing. They speak volumes about his growth and the evolution of his technique and style. The early one is a marvel of seamlessly smooth skin coloring and belies a style of it’s own. It actually reminds me of early Ingres in this regard. The face just pops from the canvas 180 years later, and I found myself marveling at how few colors he accomplished this with. Ah, but then a closer look reveals his mastery of economical blending. The overall effect is both brilliant and unforgettable. All we see is his torso. No arms. No hands. It’s all in back, except for the collar of his white shirt, and his face. He looks out at us with an expression that says “Yes, I may be young, but I’m already THIS good, and I’m taking no prisoners from here on.” And? he didn’t. The late self portrait was done by an entirely different artist, one who had learned nuance, who’s craft had vastly deepened and who wasn’t afraid of truth or age. Interestingly, he paints himself in the act of drawing. After seeing the many drawings on view, it’s a tribute well earned. His drawings hold every bit of their own even when viewed right next to the paintings they preceded, including his masterpieces, like TM’s own “Fur Traders Descending The Missouri” from about 1845, the work I had seen before in the American Wing-


Bingham’s “Fur Traders Descending The Missouri.” The work that drew me to his light.

Everything about Bingham’s river paintings (and the drawings/studies that led to their creation) says “American,” in exactly the same way as Mark Twain’s writing does. From the attire to the attitude, all done with masterful attention to detail and shadow, THIS is American art for the people. The show is devoid of portraits of the well-to-do, the famous, or the powerful and is, instead, populated by the people who were trying to survive in a new land while helping their new country survive in the process. Is it any wonder that the school children of Missouri took up a state wide collection to help the State buy (and thereby preserve) a collection of Bingham’s masterful, iconic drawings? While being an act they all can be eternally proud of, it shows those kids had better taste in art than some of the dealers in Chelsea do today.

While not a big show, it’s a very deep show, and since it’s doors are closing for good on Sunday at 5:15pm, I’m going to be scrambling to see it one or two more times before it does.

Afterall? I well know what happens then.

These wonderful work will go back to where they belong, possibly never to be seen together again.

The light will go off in those galleries Sunday night.

But, it will remain “on” inside me for the rest of my life.

The second best thing I’ve gotten out of going to The Met so often for 13 years is Discovery.


Hark! A Met Angel Beckons me to the Light. To not hear it is my loss.

*-Soundtrack for this post is “The Shape Of Jazz To Come” by Ornette Coleman, 1959. I chose this to honor Ornette, who led us into many new frontiers of music, like TM has with Art, since he recently passed. He was exceedingly nice to me, a complete stranger to him, the one time I had the privilege of meeting him.

Please send comments, thoughts, feedback or propositions to denizen at
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