Sunday, November 24, 2019

Venice: Peggy Guggenheim Collection – The Last Dogaressa

  Photo Tony Vaccaro / Tony Vaccaro Archives

“It is always assumed that Venice is the ideal place for a honeymoon. This is a grave error. To live in Venice or even to visit it means that you fall in love with the city itself. There is nothing left over in your heart for anyone else.”
Peggy Guggenheim,
Out of This Century - Confessions of an Art Addict

Peggy Guggenheim Collection
The Last Dogaressa

The exhibition The Last Dogaressa, until January 27, is curated by Karole P. B. Vail with Grazina Subelyte, it celebrates Peggy Guggenheim’s Venetian life, shedding light on how she significantly continued to add works of art to her collection after her departure from New York, having closed her museum-gallery Art of This Century - 1942–47 - and having made Venice her home in 1948.
Peggy Guggenheim - Venice – 1968


 
The exhibition presents a selection of paintings, sculptures and works of paper that Guggenheim acquired from the late 1940s to 1979, the year in which she passed away, while simultaneously highlighting the milestone events and exhibitions that she organized and participated in. Focusing on the last three decades of Guggenheim’s acquisitions, the exhibition offers an unparalleled opportunity to revisit and re-contextualize renowned masterpieces. These comprise Rene Magritte’s Empire of Light, alongside rarely exhibited works by artists such as Rene Bro, Gwyther Irwin and Grace Hartigan, as well as the Japanese-born Kenzo Okada and Tomonori Toyofuku, thus conveying Guggenheim’s interest in art beyond Europe and the United States.
Jackson Pollock – Two – 1943-45




Peggy Guggenheim Collection
The Last Dogaressa

A selection of Guggenheim’s scrapbooks are on display to the public for the first time. These are fascinating albums in which she meticulously collected newspaper articles, photographs, and ephemera covering the various periods of her life revealing new exciting episodes. 
Peggy Guggenheim Scrapbook – 1948-49


In 1948, Guggenheim was invited to exhibit her collection at the 24th Venice Biennale: it was the first presentation of her collection in Europe after the closure of her New York gallery, Art of This Century.  The exhibition opens with a tribute to this seminal event: the works of art exhibited in the Greek pavilion were at the time the most contemporary exhibited at the Biennale, most notably those by the young American Abstract Expressionists, which created a sensation. In addition, the exhibition marked Jackson Pollock’s debut in Europe and the first presentation of a new generation of artists who, in the following years, would dominate the international art scene. The same works by Arshile Gorky, Robert Motherwell, Mark Rothko, and Clyfford Still exhibited in 1948 open this show. Important works by Pollock are on view, including Alchemy and Enchanted Forest, thus paying tribute to his first solo exhibition in Europe, which was organized by Guggenheim in 1950 in the Ala Napoleonica in Piazza San Marco, Venice
Jackson Pollock – Alchemy - 1947
This is perhaps the first painting Pollock made with the revolutionary technique of pouring and dripping paint on the canvas placed on the floor.

 
Curators Grazina Subelyte and Karole P. B. Vail


 
David Hare - Moon Cage - Windows of Moons – 1951 ca.

 
With a reference to the first show Guggenheim organized at Palazzo Venier dei Leoni in 1949, marking this year its 70th anniversary:  an exhibition of contemporary sculpture, with works such as Jean Arp’s Head and Shell the founding work of the collection, Constantin Brancusi’s Bird in Space and Alberto Giacometti’s Piazza.
Jean Arp – Head and Shell – Tete et Coquille – 1933 ca.


  Photograph courtesy Peggy Guggenheim Collection – copyright Grace Hartigan estate –
collezione Peggy Guggenheim - Venezia


“I want an art that is not ‘abstract’ and not ‘realistic’ – I cannot describe the look of this art, but I think I know it when I see it.
Grace Hartignan

Grace Hartigan – Ireland – 1958
Oil on canvas - 200x271 cm



The Italians

After her arrival in Venice in 1947, Peggy Guggenheim commenced a new phase of collecting as she began supporting and acquiring works by local Italian artists. Her first acquaintances were the Venetian painters Giuseppe Santomaso and Emilio Vedova. In the post–World War II period, Vedova became one of the principal Italian proponents of Art Informel abstraction. Politically engaged, during the war he took part in the Italian resistance movement, often using his art to express his views. Image of Time – Barrier1951 - was born out of his investment in moral and social issues. Guggenheim saw in Vedova a rising star of the European avant-garde and acquired the painting when the artist was in his late thirties.
Emilio Vedova – Image of Time – Barrier – 1951

Photograph courtesy Peggy Guggenheim Collection – copyright Piero Dorazio Siae 2019 –
collezione Peggy Guggenheim – Venezia

Piero Dorazio – Unitas – 1965
oil on canvas 45,8 x 76,5cm

 

In 1951, the American artist William Congdon introduced Guggenheim to Tancredi Parmeggiani, a painter from Feltre. She quickly championed the Italian artist, giving him a monthly stipend and a studio space in the basement of her palazzo, and promoting and organizing exhibitions of his work, including a solo show in her home in 1954. Tancredi was a member of the Spazialismo movement, founded by Lucio Fontana in the 1940s, and developed his personal poetics of infinite space through the exploration of the relationships between the painted mark, color, and light, as in Composition.
Tancredi Parmeggiani – Composition – 1957


 
“I find myself in nature and nature in myself.”
Kenzo Okada

In Above the White, shapes and colors float across the surface of the canvas, evoking what was traditionally called a “landscape of the mind.” Although the composition is markedly abstract, it was likely inspired by nature, as Okada noted.
Kenzo Okada – Above the White – 1960

 
 British Art
 
In the 1950s, Peggy Guggenheim focused on collecting British art. She purchased sculptures by Kenneth Armitage, Reg Butler, and Lynn Chadwick, who had great success when they were introduced to the international art world at the 1952 Venice Biennale, as part of a new generation of young British artists. On this occasion, a sculpture by Henry Moore, whose work Guggenheim also collected, was installed at the entrance of the British pavilion, positioning him as the forefather of his younger peers. These sculptors united in their engagement with the figure, whether human or animal, and several abandoned the traditional bronze-casting method in favor of forging and welding.
Henry Moore
Family Group – 1944 ca. – Reclining Figure – 1938
Stringed Object – Head – 1938

 
Through the 1960s, Guggenheim added paintings to her holdings, such as Study for Chimpanzee by the Irish-born artist Francis Bacon, February 1956 – menhir - by Ben Nicholson, and Organic Form by Graham Sutherland, among others. Bacon’s and Sutherland’s compositions depict figures set against plain-colored grounds: a chimpanzee and an organic form reminiscent of an altar respectively.
Graham Sutherland – Organic Form – 1962-68



Op and Kinetic Art

The exhibition also includes highlights of works of Op and Kinetic art, which piqued Guggenheim’s interest in the 1960s, by Marina Apollonio, Alberto Biasi, Martha Boto, Franco Costalonga, Heinz Mack, Manfredo Massironi, and Victor Vasarely. Op artists made use of geometric forms and structures, industrial materials to create optical effects and perceptive illusions; they also exploited the transparent and reflective properties of materials such as aluminium, plastic, and glass. Their objects had a deliberate de-personalized look, in contrast to the emotional visual idiom of Abstract Expressionism.
Marina Apollonio – Relief N. 505 – 1968 ca.
Heinz Mack – The Joy of Calvin – 1963



“When I was walking through the Campo Manin, I noticed a very exciting painting in the window of a little art gallery. My first reaction was to take it for a Pollock. I went in and met the artist … Though his work was not bought by anyone except me for years, he is one of the best British painters.”
Peggy Guggenheim

Peggy Guggenheim’s interest in British art led her to acquire works by British artists Gwyther Irwin and by Scottish painter Alan Davie, in particular, she admired and encouraged Davie’s talent from the time that she discovered his work at his exhibition at the Galleria Sandri in Venice in 1948.
Exhibition View
Alan Davie – The Golden Drummer Boy No. 2 - 1962


In the 1960s, Guggenheim purchased Shelter by the Austrian painter Friedensreich Hundertwasser, and Autumn at Courgeron by the French painter Rene Bro. The two artists shared a studio in a country manor that Bro had restored in Courgeron, a small town in Normandy, France. This is where he likely made Autumn at Courgeron, a landscape populated by trees, painted in his typically simple, child-like style. For Hundertwasser, Bro’s landscapes were otherworldly, and his “round, radiant trees [had] souls and an inner life.”
Rene Bro – Autumn at Courgeron – 1960

 
 Boite-en-Valise 

Simultaneously on display at Palazzo Venier dei Leoni are works Guggenheim purchased between 1938, when she opened her first gallery in London, Guggenheim Jeune, and 1947, when she moved to Venice. The opportunity to see her collection almost in its entirety, including masterpieces such as the first Box in a Valise - Boite-en-Valise - created by Marcel Duchamp especially for Guggenheim in 1941, is not to be missed.  The work contains one ‘original’ and sixty-nine miniature reproductions of famous works by the multifaceted and irreverent French-American artist. It is rarely on view to the public due to its fragility, and it is now possible to admire it as it has returned to Venice after an important study and conservation campaign.
Marcel Duchamp - Box in a Valise - Boite-en-Valise – 1941



Marcel Duchamp - Box in a Valise - Boite-en-Valise – 1941

 

Vivien Greene and Francesca Lavazza

Dr. Vivien M. Greene is co-author with Karole P. B. Vail of the book, The Last Dogaressa, and Francesca Lavazza is Corporate Image Manager of Lavazza coffee, who is one of the institutional patrons of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.

 
Tomonori Toyofuku – Drifting No. 2 - 1959








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Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Venice: Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore - Le Stanze del Vetro – Thomas Stearns alla Venini

 
Venice - Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore
Le Stanze del Vetro
Thomas Stearns alla Venini

The Autumn exhibition at Le Stanze del Vetro, Thomas Stearns alla Venini, until January 5, is curated by Marino Barovier, it focuses on the American artist who collaborated with the Venini glassworks in the early 1960s. After the initial period during which Stearns familiarised himself with local techniques, he started to create works of an extremely original character and unusual for Murano.
Luna – 1962
Stearns’s intention with this series was that, when lifting the vase and looking through the base, one would see the shape suggestive of the moon.


 
“I now fully realize the serendipity of events surrounding my work at Venini. Paolo Venini’s death had left the firm virtually bereft of a designer; my own naivete’ and eagerness to explore the medium left me in zealous experimentation; and the young Maestro Francesco ‘Checco’ Ongaro’s own efforts to prove his abilities led him to stick out his neck by collaborating with me.  This timing was just right making germane a situation of exploration and accomplishment.  We each saw it as an opportunity for ourselves… and we leapt in.”
Thomas Stearns -1989

Maestro Checco Ongaro and American artist Thomas Stearns




Thomas Stearns alla Venini

For the 31st Venice Biennale in 1962, Venini chose to exhibit, together with Tobia Scarpa’s works, six pieces by the American artist, which were rewarded with the accolades of the adjudication panel. Celebrated are his pieces Il Cappello del Doge, the Facciate di Venezia. The gold medal was proposed for them but could only be awarded to an Italian artist.
Cilindri – 1961-1962
Capello del Doge – 1961


Incalmi – 1961-1962


Ai Fili – 1961-1962


Focciata di Venezia – II Versione – 1962

 
Thomas Stearns alla Venini

Various series of Thomas Stearns’s glass pieces came into being, designed as an artistic impression of a sculptural kind, characterised by asymmetric and organic shapes and unusual glass techniques, rooted in the material of glass itself and with singular colour schemes.
Sentinella di Venezia - 1962


 
Thomas Stearns alla Venini

Stearns was also interested in cold finishing techniques and in the lighting sector, as artistic expression as well as technical research.

Illuminazione – 1961-1962
Doge’s Table Lamp for signing decrees, lamp with opaline glass light diffuser and external part in smoke-coloured transparent glass finished with thin horizontal incisions. Support structure and metallic finishing in bronze-plated brass.



Ai Fili - 1962


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Tuesday, November 12, 2019

New York: The Met Breuer – Vija Celmins – To Fix The Image in Memory – Retrospective Exhibition


The Met Breuer

Vija Celmins – To Fix The Image in Memory

Retrospective Exhibition

At The Met Breuer the retrospective exhibition - Vija Celmins – To Fix The Image in Memory - until January 12, provides a comprehensive view of her work through a selection of approximately 120 works—from her earliest paintings made in Los Angeles in the 1960s to objects completed in New York in the last five years. Celmins bases her exquisitely wrought paintings, sculpture, drawings, and prints on the world around us—sometimes through direct observation, but more often mediated by photography. 

Pink Pearl Eraser – 1966-67
Balsa wood and acrylic paint


“Nostalgic images… reaching back and taking care of these memories…and sort of connecting with myself.”

This work marks a key moment in Celmins’s transition from depicting objects in her studio to working with wartime imagery. Through such - nostalgic images - as Celmins has called them, she revisited her childhood in war-torn Europe.
Vija Celmins – T.V. – 1964
oil on canvas


Celmins based her wood models on real buildings – one in Venice, California and another, a saltbox farmhouse in Indiana where she lived as a child. She painted them with favorite motifs such as airplanes, trains, smoke and clouds.  While Celmins acknowledges an interest in Oppenheimer and Magritte in these pieces she was also inspired by Tony Berlant, a friend and fellow UCLA student who was making assemblage sculptures of houses in the mid-1960s.
House # 2 – 1965
wood – canvas – oil paint – fox fur – metal


Explosion at Sea – 1966
oil on canvas

 

“It occurred to me that the image and surface were interlocking with the picture plane so the work could invite one in and keep one out at the same time.”

Celmins’s second Los Angeles studio was not far from Venice Beach and in 1968 she began taking photographs of the Pacific Ocean, a subject that would command her attention for the next decade.    
Ocean – 1990
oil on canvas

 

“The black images of the night sky invite you in, you come close, and then you’re kept out by their physical flatness…which begins to have this strange, quality. You think you may be seeing something that isn’t there…the feeling of a deeper space, but also solid structure before you.  Both things at the same time.”

Night Sky #15 – 2000-2001
oil on linen mounted on wood




“I tend to do images over and over again, because each one has a different tone, slant, a different relationship to the plane, and so a different special experience.”

Celmins stopped painting and switched to graphite as a new and more precise medium and she usually prefers to have her drawings shown without mats to underscore the notion that they are physical objects rather than windows framing an illusion.
Clouds – 1968
graphite on paper


  “Already made by schoolkids and me… a way of engaging somebody in what you have done.  Because when you look close, of course, you see one of the tablets has been painted.”

This group of blackboards includes three found objects and seven produced in wood by sculptor Edward Finnegan that were based on vintage tablets.  She painted each side of the facsimiles, inscribing traces of wear, cracks, and splinters.  Her inclusion of a meticulously stained tag further extends the work’s optical illusionism.  She was delighted by the consistency between handmade replicas and the originals.

Blackboard Tableau #1 – 2007-10
Found tablets – wood – acrylic paint – alkyd – pastel – string – paper – graphite
Blackboard Tableau # 14 – 2011-15
Found tablets – wood – acrylic paint – alkyd – pastel



“For a while the subject was the photograph… So whatever the photograph told me, I did.  I found a great freedom in this.”

In the late 1960s Celmins began collecting pictures of the moon from newspapers, magazines and astronomy books.  Her large personal archive became a basis for a number of drawings and became more of a starting point which she sometimes complicated her sources by placing pictures on top of one another or by doubling or enlarging details. Her shifts emphasize the constructed nature of the images and their distance from directly observed reality.
Untitled (Moon
Surface Luna 9 - #1) – 1969
graphite on acrylic ground on paper



Vija Celmins – To Fix The Image in Memory

Retrospective








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