Posted inArt

Flying Blind: de Kooning’s “Closed-Eye” Drawings

There are 24 charcoal drawings now on display at the Museum of Modern Art that Willem de Kooning did with his eyes closed. This was not an uncommon thing for de Kooning, who often liked to close his eyes, or avert his eyes, or use them to watch TV while he drew. This may sound like a gimmick, or some kind of dada or surrealist gambit, or an act of desperation from an artist running on fumes. But it was none of these.

Posted inArt

Patti Smith, MoMA and a Revolutionary Year

On December 19th of last year, Patti Smith and Michael Stipe gave a “walk-in performance” in the atrium of the Museum of Modern Art to celebrate the centennial of Jean Genet — poet, playwright, novelist, radical leftist, hustler and thief.

It was also the final day of the uprising in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, which started three days earlier when Mohamed Bouazizi, a street vendor, set himself on fire and burned to death to protest the confiscation of his merchandize by the police. The timing of the performance and the Tunisia riots were, of course, purely a coincidence.

On December 19th of this year, alone with her guitar, Patti Smith returned to the same place — now occupied by an enormous obelisk holding aloft Sanja Iveković’s golden, hugely pregnant “Lady Rosa of Luxembourg” — to mark Genet’s 101st birthday.

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The Overlooked Prints of the Abstract Expressionists

Tomorrow, Swann auction house will be presenting a sale, “Atelier 17, Abstract Expressionism & the New York School,” which showcases the prints of the Abstract Expressionist era that are often overlooked because the larger, flashier paintings inevitably grab the spotlight. The sale has a particular emphasis on the co-operative printmaking workshop Atelier 17, which was started in the Paris studio of English painter and draughtsman Stanley William Hayter in 1927. When World War II began, Hayter fled Paris for London and eventually settled in New York after a very short stay in California during the 1940s. The first New York incarnation of Atelier 17 popped up at the New School of Social Research but eventually the studio found a home at 41 East 8th Street in the heart of artistic Greenwich Village. Jackson Pollock lived across the street.

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Dear MoMA, Don’t Tease Me

So … by now we are all familiar with the critical fanfare surrounding MoMA’s de Kooning retrospective. Jerry Saltz is a big fan of the exhibition, Peter Schjeldahl thought it was awesome, Tyler Green keeps writing about it, even MSNBC covered the opening. I’m going to go ahead and agree with the common wisdom on the show. The exhibition, which is organized chronologically, takes the artists career as a whole, for better or worst. Apart from a slightly out of place wall of abstractions from the 1930s in the first room (small and gemlike) the whole show flowed intuitively and easily from development to development.