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The Michael Rosenfeld Gallery’s mission is to promote important movements within American art while also increasing the visibility of under-recognized artists. Otherworldliness, the gallery’s current exhibition, executes the institution’s objective with cool aplomb.
Most of the works on view were completed midcentury, postwar. With the exception of George Tooker, the majority of artists on view were overlooked during their lifetime, living in the shadow of the New York School and Abstract Expressionism. The artists represented here worked in the tradition of surrealism and magic realism, which sought to convey unconscious yearnings. This exhibit’s varied subject matter includes portraiture, landscape and still life, as well as public nudity, space travel, alienation and murder. To be blunt, most of the paintings are bizarre and fascinating. To dismiss them as affected or artificial would be foolish.
The most engaging work strikes a balance between old-master-style rendering and nontraditional use of color and space as well as subversive imagery. Craftsmanship does not undo the peculiar pictures but serves them, adding depth and weight.
In Irving Norman’s “Flight” (1955), a rocket ship barnstorms across a cloudless blue sky; its nude passengers situated like peas in a pod. In the distance, the landscape recedes from view, becoming a patchwork of geometric shapes. The deliberate tension between pictorial realism and abstraction is severe, which helps to keep the viewer off-balance, uneasy.
The gaggle of nude women in John Wilde’s “The Wildehouse” (1952) inhabit a large country house; some prance and preen on the roof and porch while others pop in and out of bedroom and bay windows. They appear frozen, almost startled by the presence of the viewer. The picture is as uncanny as it is traditional. In addition to the rogue band of nudists, the colors are too clear, too crisp. I love it.
In Jared French’s “Murder” (1942), a nude man with bloody hands stands over an ashen cadaver. Like Italian Renaissance painters, French uses egg tempera paint, which is as vivid as it is flat. The artist’s choice of medium is traditional, but his use of color is not. The flesh resembles the pastel hues found on Easter eggs or Bazooka Bumble Gum, not human beings.
The wall-eyed girl in George Tooker’s “Girl in the Window” (c.1978) vacantly stares at the viewer, as if she were a drowning in an opium haze. The handling of the figure recalls Giotto, but the saturated color palette is strictly 1970s Playboy centerfold. In Federico Castellon’s “Veronica’s Veil,” a woman’s head mutates into curls of flames. This is not just another picture of a woman with her head on fire. She inhabits an unspecified space, which is neither here nor there. This is dreamtime.
In Hughie Lee-Smith’s stark untitled painting from 1954, a black man in suit and tie leans against the ledge of a tenement rooftop as he overlooks a ramshackle cityscape. By far, this is the most direct painting in the show. Though the picture lacks the pictorial strangeness of its neighbors, the composition is mysterious, brooding. Who is this man, what brought him to the roof, and why?
I loved this exhibition. I think everyone should visit the gallery, and check out the artists in the show. Why? These artists were able to employ traditional technique and craft without sacrificing personal vision and individual idiosyncrasies. Unlike the swinging dicks of the New York School, they were not caught up in bombast and machismo. Plus, I’ve seen a lot weird paintings in my life, but I have never seen weird paintings that were as quiet, understated and modest as the work on view here. Quite simply, the show encourages a sense of wonder.
Otherworldliness is on view until January 21 at Michael Rosenfeld Gallery (24 West 57th Street, Midtown, Manhattan).
“Black infants in America are now more than twice as likely to die as white infants—11.3 per 1,000 black babies, compared with 4.9 per 1,000 white babies, according to the most recent government data—a racial disparity that is actually wider than in 1850, 15 years before the end of slavery, when most black women were…
he ownership of images has a long and nuanced legal history, which has evolved dramatically in recent years as cultural standards and photographic technologies have rapidly advanced
The show, which honors the 50th anniversary of an exhibition history once ignored, continues a series of projects documenting Wilmington’s contemporary art scene.
Renty and his daughter Delia. Renty was an enslaved African, kidnapped from the Congo, sold and forced into slave labor on the South Carolina plantation of B.F. Taylor
What is the relation between possessing a person, possessing their image, and dispossessing their progeny
As a scholar of African American history and photography whose work has focused on the status of violent images in museums and archives, I fully support the validity of Ms. Tamara Lanier’s claim and the amicus brief.
Two K-12 art teachers will each receive a $1,000 cash gift and an additional $500 to put toward classroom art supplies. Nominations are due October 31.
The daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor, Delia, Drana, Alfred, Jack, George Fassena, and Jem remained in an unused storage cabinet until 1975, when it was discovered by an employee of the Peabody Museum.
I am writing in support of the amicus curiae brief submitted by Professor Ariella Aïsha Azoulay of Brown University for the full restitution of the daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor and his daughter Delia, currently held by Harvard University, to their familial descendant, Tamara Lanier.
We cannot be indifferent to the long-lasting effects of photography. The photographs at the center of Lanier v. Harvard are relentless in making Renty and Delia Taylor work and perform as slaves. The pain inflicted on them has not ceased. Photography has the capacity to propagate harm, and we have the moral obligation to interrupt…