Ken Carpenter

#31. Ken Carpenter writes on Three New York Shows: Burri, Pollock, Stella

Alberto Burri, “Rosso plastica (Red plastic)”, 1962, plastic (PVC), acrylic and burns on black cloth, 65 x 100 cm, private collection, © Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini Collezione Burri, Città di Castello / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016 / SIAE, Rome Photo: © Kunstsammlung NRW

Alberto Burri, “Rosso plastica (Red plastic)”, 1962, plastic (PVC), acrylic and burns on black cloth, 65 x 100 cm, private collection, © Fondazione PalazzoAlbizzini Collezione Burri, Città di Castello / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016 / SIAE, Rome. Photo: © Kunstsammlung NRW

Alberto Burri: The Trauma of Painting was at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York from Oct. 9, 2015, to Jan. 6, 2016, and is at the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen in Düsseldorf from March 5 to July 3, 2016.

Jackson Pollock: A Collection Survey, 1935-1954 is on at the Museum of Modern Art through May 1, 2016.

Frank Stella, A Retrospective was at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York from Oct. 30, 2015, to March 7, 2016. It will be at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth in Texas from Apr. 17 to Sept. 4 and the De Young Museum in San Francisco from Nov. 5 to Feb. 26, 201

NEW YORK: BURRI, POLLOCK, STELLA.

Alberto Burri was one of the giants of European matériel painting. The enormous exhibition, Alberti Burri, The Trauma of Painting, which at first occupied almost all of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and is now at the  Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen in Düsseldorf, presented numerous works from not quite a dozen series in the artist’s richly varied career. The exhibition was accompanied by a thoroughly researched catalogue of 279 pages. It argues persuasively that Burri’s artistic vocabulary emerged directly from his life experience.

Take for instance the “laborious sewing… stitching” and folding of Burri’s Sacchi (sackcloth paintings). Burri lived in Città di Castello, a mere half-hour’s bike ride away from Piero della Francesca’s Madonna del Parto in Monterchi, with, as Burri’s friend Sandra Blow recalls, its “mobile folds” of drapery “scrunched and tucked by laces.” The artist’s extensive military experience in Ethiopia, Yugoslavia and Tunisia, much of it as a doctor in the medical corps, required him not only to suture battle wounds but also to sew repairs in his own uniform. The exhibition curator Emily Braun writes, “Burri undoubtedly had images of combat wounds seared into his mind, not to mention the muscle memory of suturing actions.”

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#15. Ken Carpenter writes a Letter from New York

View of the sixth-floor Whitney terrace with Die by Tony Smith, 1962, steel, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Purchased with funds from the Louis and Bessie Adler Foundation, Inc., James Block, The Sondra and Charles Gilman, Jr. Foundation, Inc., Penny and Mike Winton, and the Painting and Sculpture Committee); and Robert Morris, untitled (4 Ls), 1965, (refabricated 1970), stainless steel, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Gift of Howard and Jean Lipman). Photo by Ken Carpenter.

View of the sixth-floor Whitney terrace: Tony Smith, ‘Die’, 1962, steel, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchased with funds from the Louis and Bessie Adler Foundation, Inc., James Block, The Sondra and Charles Gilman Jr. Foundation, Inc., Penny and Mike Winton, and the Painting and Sculpture Committee; and Robert Morris, untitled (3 Ls), 1965, (refabricated 1970), stainless steel, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Gift of Howard and Jean Lipman). Photo by Ken Carpenter.

The New York art scene was marked by a number of remarkable events this spring, and some important, worrisome issues came to the fore.

First, the auctions. There were four major previews on one day, Sunday May 10, with Sotheby’s and Christies offering brunches to their preferred customers: Pol Roget champagne, smoked salmon, quail-egg canapés and so on. Armed guards in special rooms with limited access to the big-ticket items underlined their importance. Heightened sales promotion does pay off. The $179m for what I take to be a rather undistinguished Picasso, Les femmes d’Algier, Version O (1955), was the largest sum ever paid at auction for a work of art, and a good, life-size Giacometti, L’Homme au Doigt (1947), set a record for a sculpture sold at auction, going for $141m. Rothko’s No. 10 (1958) went for $82.9m, just short of the record for that artist. Warhol seems to have retained his high-end status. Christopher Wool’s Untitled (Riot) (1990) went for an improbable $29.9m, a record for that artist, and what I take to be an undistinguished work by Robert Ryman, Bridge (1980), set an equally surprising record for him too at $20.6m. The auctions were a striking reminder that we are in a new and disturbing age of income inequality. If the buyer of the Picasso wanted to limit his cost to just one per cent of his wealth, his net worth would be $17.9 billion, However, according to Bloomberg, one underbidder did offer 3.7% of his wealth, so perhaps $17.9 billion is too high an estimate. Whatever the case, the implications are enormous. French economist Thomas Piketty has suggested new taxes on financial transactions and on wealth, but none are in sight. In the mean time, the new super rich class has found an attractive alternative store of value for their assets, although one has to wonder how stable it is. Will Warhol turn out to be the Meisonnier of our time, suffering an equally precipitous decline in favour? More importantly, to what extent has branding come to determine market value for art, and how much has artistic quality lost out as a value in and of itself? How much have the priorities of the advertising giants infected not only collectors but also the museums? Enthusiasts for Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons and the like will not be concerned, but others will be.

On the first of May the Whitney Museum of American Art opened its spacious new building designed by Renzo Piano and located close to the Hudson River at the south end of High Line Park. It has many strong features, one being the numerous good-sized outdoor terraces with engaging views of the River and Park, as well as comfortable seating and extensive space for such iconic sculptures as Tony Smith’s Die (1962) and David Smith’s Cubi XX1 (1964).

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#7. Ken Carpenter writes on Jack Bush and Jock Macdonald

Jack Bush, “Tight Sash”, July 1963, oil on canvas, 108.6 × 176.5 cm (42.75 × 69.5 in.), Collection of Elizabeth A. and Richard J. Currie, © Estate of Jack Bush / SODRAC (2014), Photo: Michael Cullen, TPG Digital Art Services

Jack Bush, “Tight Sash”, July 1963, oil on canvas, 108.6 × 176.5 cm (42.75 × 69.5 in.), Collection of Elizabeth A. and Richard J. Currie, © Estate of Jack Bush / SODRAC (2014), Photo: Michael Cullen, TPG Digital Art Services

A Celebration of Two Canadian Abstractionists: Jack Bush and Jock Macdonald.

“Jack Bush” was at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa up to 22nd February 2015, and will be at the Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton, 30th May to 23rd August 2015.

“Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form” was at the Vancouver Art Gallery, October 2014 to January 2015; is at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa, Ontario, 3rd February until 24th May 2015; and will be at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, 12th June to 7th September 2015.

Two senior members of Painters Eleven are currently the subject of enormous, traveling retrospective exhibitions in Canada. Painters Eleven, who were active as a group from 1953 to 1960, marked a key turning point in the history of art in English-speaking Canada – a pronounced shift away from Europe towards New York and from figuration towards abstraction. Bush is the one most familiar to a British audience. His work is in the Tate Modern and he regularly exhibited with the Waddington Galleries in London. In 1980, three years after his death at the age of 68, the Arts Council of Great Britain circulated an exhibition of 87 works to venues in London, Edinburgh and Birmingham. Macdonald was born in Thurso, Scotland, in 1897 and studied design at the Edinburgh College of Art, but after his emigration to Canada in 1926 to teach design at the Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts, he regrettably had scant presence in the United Kingdom.

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