Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sylvia Sleigh

Working At Home (1969)

From the New York Times:
Sylvia Sleigh, the British-born artist who put a feminist spin on portrait painting, died on Sunday at her home in Manhattan. She was 94.

"Ms. Sleigh, who came to prominence as part of the surging feminist art movement of the 1970s, turned traditional portraiture on its head by presenting the male nude posed as a reclining Venus or odalisque, although she also painted both sexes, clothed and unclothed," writes William Grimes.

She was born in Wales in 1916, studied at the Brighton School of Art, lived in London for about 20 years and moved to the US in 1961.

Through her work with the Ad Hoc Committee of Women Artists and Women in the Arts, as well as her exhibitions with the SoHo 20 Gallery and A.I.R., she emerged in the 1970s as a prominent artist with an audacious take on traditional art history.

Not only were the sex roles reversed, but her paintings also wittily cast her all-too-human subjects in situations reserved for the gods of antiquity in Renaissance art.

Turkish Bath (1973)

Rosano Reclining (1974)

Annunciation (1975)

It was interesting to see the paintings posted with the NYT article - and the gardens that she included as part of her paintings - such as in "Annunciation". I don't remember seeing those before. A nice mix of flowers/gardens and people. I've just started adding people into my own paintings. I'm much more comfortable painting nature - having done so for years - but I enjoy the challenge of painting people, and it certainly changes the environment. People can overpower the painting, because of the way we, as people notice the people more. But it is evident in her paintings that she was very interested in the gardens. It's also interesting to see the figures in the modern dress of the day - the cut-offs.

A.I.R. 1978

This would be a good painting to show with the Zoffany piece - when doing art history. The A.I.R. group portrait (AIR = Artist In Residence).

I noticed her best work was done in her 50s :)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Susan Sze

I was surfing along and came across this at the Villiage Voice:
Sarah Sze's Return of the Real
The sculptor conjures a low-budget cosmos.
By Christian Viveros-Fauné

Stuck between a recession and a recovery, the art world is predictably game for eating and hoarding cake, too. A perfect example of the current cupidity is Dan Colen's windily hyped exhibition at Larry Gagosian's big tent......Other gross-out manifestations of the art world's gluttony include, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article, the return of "the collector-cum-investor" (again?) and the upcoming October rehanging of Jeff Koons's 1990 porn paintings (not again!). Second servings of gut-busting excess, developments like these compare to excellent art as Marie Antoinette's high spirits do to Bishop Desmond Tutu's compassion. Expressions of sheer vulgarity, they conversely magnify the work of artists whose generosity exposes the lie that contemporary art is a members-only club for rich, superficial, faddish assholes.

The present antidote to piggish tidings is Sarah Sze's blooming, bounteous installations of stuff we regularly overlook, which she effortlessly transforms into far-out Lilliputs and down-to-earth Space Odysseys. A modest character—despite being a MacArthur Fellow—Sze has long pointed the way to Whitmanesque freethinking through her interpretations of democratic consumerism. Cast from the bins at Target, Walgreens, and Home Depot, her sculptures convey both the epic and mundane integrity of Leaves of Grass.

Sze came seemingly out of nowhere in the late 1990s as a full-blown original artist. Since then, she has been marshalling disposable objects such as matchsticks, water bottles, and office supplies to make three-dimensional paintings that double as sculpture, and sculptures that look like all-over Jackson Pollock paintings. Using shop-bought debris to confect experiences of visual overload, she has essentially made a metaphor of life's disorders...

Sarah Sze
Tanya Bonakdar Gallery
521 West 21st Street
Through October 23

I like Sze's work best when she incorporates space into them. Those are the ones that have more of the Jackson Pollock sense about them. Some of her pieces have more of a sense of a messy desk. The ones that I like are the ones where it seems that gravity is defied and there is all of this stuff of life floating around, yet interconnected.

_______________________Her 360 (Portable Planetarium) does this.

I prefer the practice of going to recycling places or Goodwills, Restores etc., to get all of the "stuff of life" to assemble - rather than buying up a bunch of new crap from Targets and Walgreens. Some things may be too difficult to find used - but it adds nothing of value to the pieces for them to be part of the cycle of buying a bunch of unnecessary Stuff.


While I enjoy Tara Donovan's work - often installations, as well - one thing I like about Sze is the huge variety of things that she uses in each piece. It's interesting the way in which Donovan will use just plastic cups, or sheets of paper piled up to suggest a landscape. But in a way, Sze's work seems more natural, even though she also uses man-made stuff, because of the variety of textures and materials.

And while one can enjoy seeing the photos of the works, these are works to be experienced. Walking around and considering how they look from many angles and distances, etc. is part of the fun. With the ease of images that we can get on the internet and other media, art such as this keeps galleries and museums relevant.


Last evening I watched the movie, Séraphine. The movie is about Séraphine Louis, known as "Séraphine de Senlis"(1864–1942), a French artist who was mostly supporting herself by cleaning, and who was also passionate about painting. She felt she had a divine inspiration. She was self-taught and painted in "modern primitive" style.

In the movie, Wilhelm Unde moves into a house that Séraphine had been cleaning - through an arrangement with the landlady. The landlady scorns Séraphine's paintings, but Unde loves them and buys many of them. He also gives Séraphine money, and at various points in the movie is shown to be supporting her so that she can paint instead of clean.
L'arbre De Vie (The Tree of Life)_________________

In the movie - the situation is presented such that Unde appreciated her, but was not able to get her a show because of the economy - and so the community never did know of her or appreciate her. It was all him. In the movie, all the money she got (besides cleaning) seemed to come from him.

It sounds like the real story is that he did discover her, was able to find venues for her work, and get her into shows, and that she developed a degree of prominence and financial success with her art through the shows.

The rewriting of the story to make Unde her sole benefactor and supporter does Séraphine (and I think all women) a disservice. It reminds me of the Aristotle prescription for theatre where women are not to shown as being clever or brave or independent. It doesn't fit the narrative that men such as Aristotle wanted to have for women in society. So Séraphine is shown as being totally dependent on Unde and then becomes mentally ill, is hospitalized and he is the only one to look after her (besides the hospital staff) then as well.

Unfortunately, this is not all that unusual. The movie about Camille Claudel was similar in that Camille was fine as long as Rodin was around, but then fell apart, went insane and died. Camille Claudel was more successful in real life than the movie indicated.

I blame it on Aristotle and everyone who blindly follows his ideas (whether they know they are doing that or not - the status quo). It would be a step in the right direction, and a boost for women's equality, if movies about women (esp. biographies) would show the women as being as successful as they were/are.

Seraphine's paintings may be found at the Musée Maillol in Paris, the Musée d'art de Senlis, the Musée d'art naïf in Nice, and the Musée d'Art moderne Lille Métropole in Villeneuve-d'Ascq. Last year there had been an exhibition "Séraphine Louis dite Séraphine de Senlis" at the Musée Maillol in Paris.