A few days ago I made my return visit to this year’s iteration of the annual Master Drawings in New York fair. I have developed some affection for the enterprise, which is much more diffuse than other New York fairs — to experience it one needs to perambulate among a selection of Upper East Side galleries beginning from a 54th Street location (technically on the west side) up to 93rd street. (Most, though, are clustered between 60th and 80th streets, so it can be easily walked in an afternoon.)
As with times previous, I found myself drawn to a diversity of work: illustrations, studies, human portraiture, animal portraiture, nudes, a couple of surreal landscapes, and inventive, post-war abstract works. I was surprised to find the latter, and when I admitted to Katherine Degn of Kraushaar Galleries that I admired her gallery the most of those I had seen that day, she said to me that their emphasis was more on the “drawing” than on the “masters.” This is where I saw a strange dreamscape by Dorothy Dehner titled “Balloon Ascension #3: Dithyrambe Played by the Ashraf” (1947), and a couple works that were not actually drawing: a print from a woodcut by John Storrs “Repose (Reclining Figure Under a Tree)” (ca. 1920); and a black-and-white, abstract work by William Kienbusch, “From the Porch, Cape Split #2” (1972), which might represent an old set of antenna that used to typically line the roofs of houses in the 1970s.
I paid less attention on this trip to works from the European Renaissance, with a couple of notable exceptions. Jacopo Pontormo’s work at Christopher Bishop Fine Art was quite impressive. Pontormo’s double-sided drawings represent four key scenes depicted in paintings that once occupied a loggia (a covered exterior gallery) at Villa Castello and which were lost after the Medici dynasty ended. According to Bishop, the drawings represent complex interconnected mythological narratives that dovetailed with the realpolitik intrigue of Cosimo I, who assumed the Ducal throne of Tuscany as a teenager to continue the reign of the Medici family after the assassination of a cousin, Alessandro.
Among my other favorites are a small, reddish study of a lion in repose by Théodore Géricault. It’s simple, but gets the blasé dispassion of the creature when it’s at rest. I was also completely engaged by Rembrandt Van Rijn’s “Woman Sitting Half Dressed Beside a Stove”(1658), an etching and engraving that captures the weariness of the subject. The more I see of Rembrandt, the more I’m convinced that as much as he was a master, he was also an empath. I was surprised to find a portrait of someone who looks like me in Santiago Arcos y Ugalde‘s “Absalam” (1887), on display at Stephen Ongpin Fine Art. Santiago expertly renders the facial hair of the Moroccan man, as well as his quiet self-containment; it’s rare to find this among the work across the fair: a dark-skinned person given this sort of dignity. I was also excited to see the drawing study by Jared French of a painting I’ve seen at the Whitney Museum of American Art: “Study for State Park” (1946). I immediately recognized the drawing because the painting had stayed in my memory years after seeing it — the strained poses of the characters are so strange and yet they seem comfortable in their strangeness.
Lastly, I was happy to run into Giacomo Balla’s “Vortice” (ca. 1913-14) at David Tunick. I have for a long time loved the Italian Futurists, particularly Balla, who made several paintings that looked liked swirling squalls of hurly-burly, and this constant activity certainly feels like a foundational feature of modern life, evocative of the way we live now.
Master Drawings in New York continues at several locations in Manhattan through February 3.
Goya’s Coded Love Letter to the Duchess of Alba
Goya neatly clothes himself in his own world of fantasy: He will have her in the end. In life, where the climate is much chillier, it was, alas, to be otherwise.
Witches Take Over Westchester
Bowen’s multimedia art is an alchemical mix of the sensuous and arcane, and it is more than a little witchy.
The Public Theater Explores the Hurricane Katrina Diaspora in shadow/land
Written by Erika Dickerson-Despenza and directed by Candis C. Jones, this lyrical meditation on legacy, erotic fugitivity, and self-determination is on view in NYC.
14 Art Books and Catalogues We’re Reading This Month
Anthologies and catalogues on feminist art in Latin America, Native mound building, Armenian photography, and more are on our reading list.
Saudi Arabia Announces $1M “Freedom of Expression” Art Award
Kanye West, Roman Polanski, and Carl Andre are among the shortlisted artists.
The Rubin Museum Presents Death Is Not the End
Tibetan Buddhist and Christian works of art made across 12 centuries explore death, the afterlife, and the desire to continue to exist. On view in NYC.
British Museum Offers Greece “Exclusive NFT” of the Parthenon Marbles
“With the power of blockchain technology, there will be no question who the real owner is,” said a British Museum spokesperson.
MoMA to Co-Curate Exhibition With NYPD
Arrest Me, Daddy hopes to cast a more positive light on the work of law enforcement officers.
When I Am Empty Please Dispose of Me Properly
Ayanna Dozier, Ilana Harris-Babou, Meena Hasan, Lucia Hierro, Catherine Opie, Chuck Ramirez, and Pacifico Silano explore the myths of the American Dream at Brooklyn’s BRIC House.
Repatriation-Inspired Fragrance Line Hopes to Heal Collector Wounds
The exotic scents of the Rapatriement line offer solace and joy to dismayed collectors who were forced to return looted artifacts.
Mediocre Painting Thought AI-Generated Revealed as Work of Real Artist
Visitors who spoke to Hyperallergic said they were “horrified” to learn that a human could come up with such a banal and poorly executed artwork.
Pratt’s 2023 Fine Arts MFA Thesis Exhibition Is On View in Brooklyn
The two-part exhibition features the work of 41 graduating artists across disciplines, including painting, sculpture, printmaking, and integrated practices.
Prince Harry to Star in New Van Gogh Biopic
The estranged prince said he took the role to raise awareness of mental health issues.
Newly Discovered Trove of Vermeer Works Reveals He Painted Mainly Dogs
A cache of 243 paintings found in an English castle, all depicting canine subjects, suggests Vermeer’s true aspiration was to become a dog portraitist.