‘Malangatana: Mozambique Modern’ at The Art Institute of Chicago

Born in Mozambique, Malangatana Ngwenya (1936-2011) was a painter, a poet, a revered national hero, and a pioneer of modern African art.

Malangatana Ngwenya. The Fountain of Blood (A fonte de sangue), 1961. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Lloyd H. Ellis Jr.

Opening March 21 and on view through July 5, the Art Institute of Chicago will be showcasing Malangatana: Mozambique Modern, an exhibition that brings together over 40 key paintings and drawings that highlight the years between 1959 and 1975. It was during this time that Malangatana developed a signature painting style, characterized by a dense assembly of figures on the picture plane, the phantasmagoric depiction of animals, humans and supernatural creatures, and a composite palette of bright and dark colors. Moreover, in this period Malangatana imbued his paintings and drawings with social commentary and critique of the colonial situation in Mozambique.

Malangatana: Mozambique Modern is organized by Hendrik Folkerts, Dittmer Curator of Contemporary Art; Felicia Mings, Academic Curator; and Constantine Petridis, Chair of the Department of Arts of Africa and the Americas.

In choosing the subjects of his work, Malangatana took a decidedly allegorical approach, taking inspiration from local religious practices, his own cultural background, and life under Portuguese rule. As such, many of the symbols in Malangatana’s paintings show the artist’s early exposure to Christian education and motifs that reference religious and cultural practices of the Ronga people to which he belonged.

Hendrik Folkerts, Dittmer Curator of Contemporary Art at the Art Institute of Chicago mentions: “The work of Malangatana presents an exceptional opportunity for the Art Institute to think more globally and critically about international modernisms, in both our exhibition program and the museum’s collection. Malangatana: Mozambique Modern proposes that modern art is an inherently unstable art-historical category that requires constant revision and questioning.”

Though largely self-taught, Malangatana took painting classes in the late 1950s at the Industrial School and the Núcleo de Arte da Colónia de Moçambique (Colonial Arts Center of Mozambique)—the latter a center of artistic activity in the capital Maputo (then Lourenço Marques). In this period, Malangatana became active in the artistic and cultural milieu of Maputo and found his first teachers and sponsors in artists and architects João Ayres, Augusto Cabral, and Pancho Guedes. While his first paintings show traces of the styles of European modernism he encountered in his art education and through the interaction with his mentors, Malangatana soon established his unique aesthetic, ranging from his distinct color palette to the inclusion of elements from daily life in fantastical scenes.

Malangatana’s stunning aesthetic will captivate audiences. This, paired with the social impulse of these works as well as his larger oeuvre and life, make him a truly prolific, civically engaged artist––someone that we can all learn from. He is also a figure that had a tremendous impact on Mozambican art history, so I am delighted to be part of a team that is bringing further visibility to his work,” says Felicia Mings, Academic Curator at the Art Institute of Chicago.

The changes in Mozambique’s political history during the 1960s and 1970s significantly impacted Malangatana’s life and work. A Portuguese colony until 1975, Mozambique was among the last African countries to gain independence from colonial rule. As the quest for liberation grew with the formation of the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO) in 1962 and the beginning of the armed resistance against the Portuguese in 1964, a strong anticolonial sentiment and a need for new artistic and cultural forms emerged. Malangatana had touched on social and political themes in earlier work, but from the mid-1960s through the 1970s he articulated them more explicitly, while always retaining an allegorical tendency in his approach.

Constantine Petridis, Chair of the Department of Arts of Africa and the Americas states: “The vibrant paintings of Malangatana provide a window into the political and cultural milieu in which the artist established himself as a pioneering modernist. Marked by both decolonization and nationalism, Malangatana’s oeuvre compels us to revisit the prevailing Eurocentric definition of the art-historical canon.”

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El Greco: Ambition and Defiance to Open at The Art Institute of Chicago

Bringing together over 55 paintings and sculptures, The Art Institute of Chicago presents El Greco: Ambition and Defiance from March 7 to June 21, 2020. The first major exhibition in over 15 years devoted to Doménikos Theotokópoulos, known widely as El Greco, Ambition and Defiance foregrounds the artist’s personality to chart the development of his distinctive style, offering a new view of his prescient aesthetic. The exhibition is organized by the Art Institute with the Réunion des musées nationaux–Grand Palais, Paris and the Musée du Louvre.

Photo Credit: El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos). The Assumption of the Virgin, 1577/79. The Art Institute of Chicago, Gift of Nancy Atwood Sprague in memory of Albert Arnold Sprague.

Remaining true to El Greco’s character, Ambition and Defiance provides a window into the personal aspirations and struggles that drove his artistic trajectory. Born in Crete, El Greco trained as a traditional Byzantine icon painter before moving in 1567 to Venice, where he became an avid follower of artists such as Titian and Tintoretto. Mastering but personalizing the techniques of Venetian Renaissance painting, he later sought patronage within the papal circle in Rome, but his ambitions would ultimately be undermined by his outspoken criticism of Michelangelo. El Greco received no commissions from the church during the six years he spent in Rome from 1570 to 1576, building his reputation instead on the basis of occasional commissions for portraits and small-scale devotional paintings.

Ambition and Defiance tracks the intersections of El Greco’s professional savvy, rebellious spirit, and artistic reinvention, culminating in the proto-modern style he developed in Toledo, where he settled in 1577. There, El Greco quickly earned a major commission for the altarpiece of the Church of Santo Domingo el Antiguo, anchored by the monumental masterpiece The Assumption of the Virgin (1577-79), a work acquired by the Art Institute in 1906 at the behest of Mary Cassatt. When a dispute over the price El Greco demanded for another major commission for Toledo Cathedral led to litigation and a fallout with this powerful institution, he embarked on a career as a portraitist of the local intelligentsia. El Greco’s aesthetic continued to transform, becoming otherworldly and deeply expressive, marked by dramatic, bold color, radical foreshortening, and elongated forms. Its distinctly modern tenor appealed to artists at the turn of the twentieth century, when El Greco’s oeuvre was rediscovered and championed by the avant-garde.

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Fifth Class Of The Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellows Announced By Six Major U.S. Museums

The Art Institute of Chicago, the High Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH), The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art are pleased to announce the 20192021 class of fellows designated for The Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellowship Program. The fellowship provides specialized training to students across the United States from historically underrepresented groups in the curatorial field and supports the goal of promoting inclusive, pluralistic museums. The students began their fellowships this fall. (More information about the need for a diverse educational pipeline into the curatorial field is available in the 2018 Art Museum Staff Demographic Survey.)

Fellows participate in The Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellowship Program during their undergraduate career, with the goal of continuing their education through graduate work. The two-year fellowship provides students with hands-on experience in a museum setting, assisting curators and staff on exhibitions, collections, and programs. Fellows are matched with a curatorial mentor at each museum who works to enrich the academic experience and to increase exposure to the museum context while broadening a fellow’s understanding of art and art history. Fellowships include regular engagement during the academic school year followed by full-time engagement over the summer.

Since the program began in 2014, 30 fellows have completed the Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellowship program. Two fellows have started the PhD program in art history at Harvard University, while nine others have completed Master’s degrees or are enrolled in graduate programs at the Courtauld Institute of Art; University of Chicago; University of Texas, Austin; University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies; Arizona State University; the Maryland Institute College of Art; the American University in Cairo; Cornell University; and the University of Southern California. Nearly half of the alumni are working in the arts either in staff positions or in other fellowship opportunities. 

The 2019-2021 Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellows:

Art Institute of Chicago: Iris Haastrup is a second-year student at Wellesley College double-majoring in art history and architecture. Haastrup is from the South Side of Chicago with familial ties to Mississippi and Nigeria. In her time at Wellesley, she is the lecture chair for the black student association, on the programming committee of the Davis Museum student advisory board, and a member of TZE arts and music society. Academically, Haastrup is interested in research regarding black women artists, the relationship between art and activism, equity in the arts, and the effects of sustainability in architecture. She is inspired by the works of Toni Morrison, Lorraine Hansberry, and Carrie Mae Weems. In her personal life, she enjoys making crafts and zines, skateboarding, and watching movies. For the 2019–20 academic year, Haastrup will be mentored by Constantine Petridis, Chair of the Department of the Arts of Africa and the Americas and Curator of African Art.

Kyndal Gragg is a third-year student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) studying art history and urban planning. Gragg developed a passion for museums early in her academic career and believes that museums are like books in their storytelling capacity. Gragg is passionate about advocating for narratives from indigenous communities and the African diaspora so that they may be recognized for the longevity of their artistic contribution and seen as contemporary practitioners. Currently, Gragg is a collections assistant at UIUC’s Spurlock Museum and a research assistant for Krannert Art Museum where she researches and digitizes Andean materials for an upcoming reinstallation. Gragg is interested in supporting the collective history of the world and emphasizing a pluralistic appreciation for art. For the 2019–20 academic year, Gragg will be mentored by Andrew Hamilton, Associate Curator of Art of the Americas in the Department of the Arts of Africa and the Americas.

It’s an honor to once again have the support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in the ambitious work of developing our next generation of curatorial leaders. Our Mellon Fellows continue to bring fresh perspectives to the museum and we are excited to see participants from our first cohort embarking on graduate studies and beginning careers at cultural institutions across the country. We look forward to following their future accomplishments,” said James Rondeau, President and Eloise W. Martin Director at the Art Institute of Chicago.

The Art Institute of Chicago is a world-renowned art museum housing one of the largest permanent collections in the United States. An encyclopedic museum, the Art Institute collects, preserves, and displays works in every medium from all cultures and historical periods as well as hosts special exhibitions. With a collection of approximately 300,000 works of art, the museum has particularly strong holdings in Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painting, early 20th century European painting and sculpture, contemporary art, Japanese prints, and photography. The museum’s 2009 addition, the Modern Wing, features the latest in green museum technology and 264,000 square feet dedicated to modern and contemporary art, photography, architecture and design, and new learning and public engagement facilities. In addition to displaying its permanent collection, the Art Institute mounts approximately 35 special exhibitions per year and features lectures, gallery tours, and special performances on a daily basis. Location and Contact: 111 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60603 | 312 443-3600 | www.artic.edu

High Museum of Art: Destinee Filmore is a third-year student from Tampa, Florida studying art history and international studies at Spelman College. On campus, she is an active member and leader of several organizations, most notably, the Bonner Scholar Program, Social Justice Program, and Curatorial Studies Program. Filmore is interested in a wide range of research topics but is most intrigued by the impact made by African American artists on communities abroad during their voluntary or involuntary departures from the United States. Filmore intends to pursue a doctorate degree in art history following her time at Spelman and aspires to become a curator. She is also interested in advocating for the accessibility of arts-based education programs for low-income students and students of color as such programs were vital to her success. As a Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellow at the High Museum of Art, Filmore is receiving mentorship from Katherine Jentleson, Merrie and Dan Boone Curator of Folk and Self-Taught Art.

Adeja Sterling is a third-year student at Emory University studying art history in hopes of becoming a curator, art writer, and one day a museum director. Originally from New Orleans, Louisiana, but now residing in Atlanta, Georgia, Sterling has had a range of experiences in the Atlanta art scene, previously interning at ART PAPERS magazine, and with the Museum of Contemporary Art Georgia (MOCA GA). As a Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellow at the High Museum, Adeja will be mentored by Stephanie Heydt, Margaret and Terry Stent, Curator of American Art.

As we welcome a new class of Mellon Fellows to the High, we reflect on the remarkable impact this program has had on our institution, but also look forward to how it will continue to shape the future of the field,” said Rand Suffolk, Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Jr., director of the High Museum of Art. “Bringing diverse perspectives to museum leadership will help to ensure that our organizations remain relevant and essential in our communities. We are honored to continue this important work with the support of the Mellon Foundation.”

The High is the leading art museum in the southeastern United States, housed within facilities designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architects Richard Meier and Renzo Piano. With more than 16,000 works of art, the High Museum of Art has an extensive anthology of 19th- and 20th-century American fine and decorative arts; major holdings of photography and folk and self-taught work, especially that reflective of the American south; burgeoning collections of modern and contemporary art including paintings, sculpture, new media, and design; a growing collection of African art with work dating from pre-history to the present day; and significant holdings of European paintings and works on paper. The High is dedicated to a program reflective of the diversity of its communities, offering a variety of exhibitions and educational programs as well as a host of new experiences that engage visitors with the world of art, the lives of artists and the creative process. Location and Contact: 1280 Peachtree Street, N.E., Atlanta, GA 30309 | 404 733-4400 | www.high.org

Los Angeles County Museum of Art: Emily Le is a third-year student at the University of Southern California (USC), double majoring in art history and creative writing. Throughout her time at USC thus far, she has been working as a collections associate for the school’s Archaeology Lab and has also had the opportunity to co-curate an exhibit for the USC Fisher Museum, entitled Suppression, Subversion, and the Surreal: The Art of Czechoslovakian Resistance. As a first-generation college student and a child of Vietnamese immigrants, Le was not exposed to art, art history, or museums until later in life. Coming from this background, she wants to bring greater accessibility and diversity to the museum world, breaking down the idea of art as being a “cultural privilege.” Her curatorial mentor is Hollis Goodall, Curator of Japanese Art.

Jackeline Lopez is a third-year student majoring in anthropology with a focus in archaeology, as well as art history at the University of California, Los Angeles. Born and raised in South Central Los Angeles, she strives to apply anthropology to curatorial work and is particularly interested in the process of making exhibitions accessible to underrepresented communities. Her goal as an aspiring archaeologist and curator is to protect and preserve cultural patrimony, and to encourage cross-cultural connections. Lopez is currently involved in an archaeological project based in Portugal and recently completed her second field season there. Along with writing an honors thesis based on the project’s research, she plans to co-curate an exhibition with the site director to make their findings accessible to the local, rural community. Stephen Little, Florence & Harry Sloan Curator of Chinese Art and Department Head, Chinese, Korean, South and Southeast Asian Art, will be her curatorial mentor during her first year in the program.

We are pleased to welcome the incoming class of Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellows,” said Michael Govan, LACMA CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director. “Now in its sixth year, we are beginning to see the potential long-term impact of this important fellowship, expanding the canon and the voices we hear from for generations to come.”

Located on the Pacific Rim, LACMA is the largest art museum in the western United States, with a collection of nearly 142,000 objects that illuminate 6,000 years of artistic expression across the globe. Committed to showcasing a multitude of art histories, LACMA exhibits and interprets works of art from new and unexpected points of view that are informed by the region’s rich cultural heritage and diverse population. LACMA’s spirit of experimentation is reflected in its work with artists, technologists, and thought leaders as well as in its regional, national, and global partnerships to share collections and programs, create pioneering initiatives, and engage new audiences. Location and Contact: 5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036 | 323 857-6000 | www.lacma.org

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“Rubens, Rembrandt, and Drawing in the Golden Age” at The Art Institute of Chicago

Drawing, the most intimate and immediate form of artistic creation, reached one of its pinnacles in the Netherlands during the 17th century—a period commonly known as the Golden Age. Produced in a broad range of media, including chalk, ink, and watercolor, the drawings in Rubens, Rembrandt, and Drawing in the Golden Age (September 28, 2019-January 5, 2020) at the Art Institute of Chicago are captivating examples of artistic skill and imagination. Together they provide a new view of the creativity and working process of Netherlandish artists in the 17th century and reveal how drawings came to be the celebrated works of art we know them to be today.

A Sheet of Anatomical Studies, 1600-10, Peter Paul Rubens

While the story of early modern Dutch and Flemish art typically focuses on the paintings created during the time, this exhibition constructs an alternative narrative, casting drawings not in supporting roles but as the main characters. Featuring works by Rembrandt van Rijn, Peter Paul Rubens, Hendrick Goltzius, Gerrit von Honthorst, Jacques de Gheyn II, and many others, the show traces the development of drawing in this period, exploring its many roles in artistic training, its preparatory function for works in other media, and its eventual emergence as a medium in its own right.

Seated Female Nude, 1660-62, Rembrandt van Rijn

The 17th century brought remarkable change in to the northern and southern Netherlands, including political upheaval, religious schism, and scientific innovation. The reverberating effects of these events had a great impact on art—what kind of art was in demand, who could and did produce art, and where and how art was made. Most artists in 17th-century Netherlands chose their career through family connections, training with a relative who worked in an artistic trade, although there are significant exceptions to this trajectory—Rubens was the son of a lawyer and Rembrandt the son of a miller.

View of IJsselmonde Seen Across the New Maas, c. 1640, Aelbert Cuyp

To become a respected artist, one needed to study under a successful and skilled master in a workshop or art academy. Abraham Bloemaert, Rubens, and Rembrandt supervised the three most important workshops of the period, overseeing the development of dozens, if not hundreds, of students. In these workshops, learning to draw was essential. Once an apprentice had mastered basic drawing skills by copying other works and drawing plaster casts or monuments, often traveling to Italy to do so, he progressed to creating drawings “from life.” The ability to accurately depict the human face and body was critical to an artist’s success and was especially important for those who aspired to create history paintings—the genre considered most prestigious because it relied on literary sources and often required portraying multiple figures in complex and dramatic scenes.

Rembrandt, more than other artists of this period, embraced life drawing. Most notably, he pioneered the collective study of the female nude—a commonplace practice today, but one that challenged the bounds of decency in the 17th century. Studying the live figure increasingly became standard practice in the Netherlands during this period, but it was generally restricted to drawing male models, since prevailing cultural norms made it difficult for artists to find women to pose for them, especially in the nude. Among the most celebrated of all Rembrandt’s drawings is a rare study of a female nude, which is featured in this exhibition. An emotive and striking work, it highlights the importance for artists of the period to learn to draw the female figure. This skill, despite its inherent challenges, was necessary to receive critical acclaim.

Although drawings in the 17th century served many purposes— as reference materials, studies for future paintings, preparatory designs for prints—they also emerged as independent works of art, bought, commissioned, and collected by wealthy merchants. This was due in part to the rise of a new genre of drawing: the landscape. Works depicting the natural world and countryside appealed to an increasingly affluent merchant class that lived in a dense urban environment. These city dwellers enthusiastically received highly finished landscape drawings and deemed them objects worthy of preservation and display.

Major support for Rubens, Rembrandt, and Drawing in the Golden Age is provided by the Wolfgang Ratjen Foundation, Liechtenstein.

“In a Cloud, in a Wall, in a Chair: Six Modernists in Mexico at Midcentury” at The Art institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago presents an examination of midcentury art and design with In a Cloud, in a Wall, in a Chair: Six Modernists in Mexico at Midcentury, on view now through January 12, 2020. The exhibition, which opened on September 6, 2019, brings together the work of Clara Porset (b.1895), Lola Álvarez Bravo (b.1903), Anni Albers (b.1899), Ruth Asawa (b.1926), Cynthia Sargent (b.1922), and Sheila Hicks (b.1934), reflecting the unique experiences of these designers and artists in Mexico between the 1940s and 1970s. Despite their singularities, they created work that reflected on artistic traditions, while at the same time opened up new readings of daily life at a time of great social and political change.

The work of Clara Porset, Lola Álvarez Bravo, Anni Albers, Ruth Asawa, Cynthia Sargent, and Sheila Hicks has never been shown together before. While some of these artists and designers knew one another and collaborated together, they are from different generations, and their individual work encompasses a range of media varying from furniture and interior design to sculpture, textiles, photography, and prints. They all, however, share one defining aspect: Mexico, a country in which they all lived or worked between the 1940s and 1970s. During this period they all realized projects that breached disciplinary boundaries and national divides.

This exhibition takes its title from a quote by Clara Porset who, encouraging makers to seek inspiration widely, wrote: “There is design in everything…in a cloud…in a wall…in a chair…in the sea…in the sand…in a pot. Natural or man-made.” A political exile from Cuba, Porset became one of Mexico’s most prominent modern furniture and interior designers. Influenced by Bauhaus ideas, she believed that design and art could reshape cities, elevate the quality of life, and solve large-scale social problems. She shared these values with the other artists and designers in this exhibition, who were also committed to forging relationships across cultures; bringing different voices into dialogue; and responding productively to a moment of profound cultural and economic transformation. While some knew one another and worked together, this constellation of practitioners was from different generations, and their individual work encompasses a range of media varying from furniture and interior design to sculpture, textiles, photography, and printmaking.

Clara Porset. Butaque, about 1955–56. Gálvez Guzzy Family/Casa Gálvez Collection. Photo by Rodrigo Chapa, courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Clara Porset conceived designs informed by modernism with clean lines and forms, while also inspired by Mexican lifestyles. Mexican photographer Lola Álvarez Bravo created dynamic photomontages by cutting and pasting together parts of different photographs to produce images that emphasized the intense urban development. She also photographed Porset’s work. Following Porset’s invitation to visit Mexico, German émigré Anni Albers saw the country’s landscape and architecture as a vital source of inspiration, informing the abstract visual language of her designs. Japanese American Ruth Asawa, who took a class on craft and housing with Porset in Mexico City, was drawn to the artistry in utilitarian looped-wire baskets that she encountered in Toluca and her sculptures made with this wire technique became her primary practice. Cynthia Sargent and her husband Wendell Riggs moved to Mexico City from New York in 1951, where they produced several popular lines of textiles and rugs in their weaving workshop, collaborated with Porset for her exhibition Art in Daily Life (1952), and encouraged an appreciation of crafts by founding the weekly market Bazaar Sábado. Sheila Hicks, who moved in the same artistic circles as Porset, set up a workshop in Taxco el Viejo where she collaborated with and learned from local weavers, while producing pieces that were resolutely her own.

In the decades following the Mexican Revolution, which ended around 1920, Mexico was rapidly modernizing, and the art scene of its capital was as cosmopolitan and vibrant as it is today. Government projects promoted the country’s artisanal traditions in an attempt to build a cohesive national identity. This open climate attracted intellectuals and artists, such as the six celebrated here. They were transformed by what they learned, drawing inspiration from Mexican lifestyles and artistic practices, including the patterns of ancient indigenous sculptures, the geometries of archaeological sites, and the complex technical qualities found in thousands of years of textile traditions.

Anarquía arquitectónica en la ciudad de México (Architectural Anarchy in Mexico City), about 1953
Lola Álvarez Bravo. Familia González Rendón. © Center for Creative Photography, The University of Arizona Foundation

Mexican artist Lola Álvarez Bravo, a close friend and collaborator of Porset, was one of few women photographers working in the country during this period. Her photographs are essential to understanding Porset’s no longer extant projects, and her dynamic photomontages, created by cutting and pasting together parts of different photographs to create new images, provide insights into Mexico’s richly layered social, political, and geographical landscape during the 1940s and 1950s.

Study for Camino Real, 1967
Anni Albers. The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, 1994. © The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York 2019. Photo by Tim Nighswander/Imaging4Art

Porset was also friends with German émigré Anni Albers. Encouraged to visit Mexico by Porset, she first traveled to the country in 1935 and made 13 subsequent trips. Mexico’s landscape and architecture became a vital source of inspiration and remained so throughout her career, providing an abstract visual language for her designs. The triangle motif, for instance, that she used repeatedly in textiles and screenprints was drawn from archaeological Zapotec sites such as Monte Albán.

Untitled (S.535, Hanging Five-Lobed Continuous Form within a Form with Two Interior Spheres and One Teardrop Form), 1951
Ruth Asawa. Courtesy of Charles and Kathy Harper Collection. © Estate of Ruth Asawa, Courtesy David Zwirner. Photo by Dan Bradica

Mexico also left a deep impression on Japanese American Ruth Asawa. In 1947, two years after taking a class with Porset at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, she returned to the country and was drawn to the artistry in utilitarian looped-wire baskets that she encountered in Toluca. From then on, sculptures made with this wire technique became her primary practice.

Scarlatti, designed in 1958, produced about 1968–1969
Cynthia Sargent. Riggs-Platas Family Collection. Photo by Wendy McEahern

American Cynthia Sargent moved to Mexico City from New York with her husband Wendell Riggs in 1951 and produced several popular lines of rugs in their weaving workshop. Porset championed Sargent’s work and included her fabric designs in her pivotal exhibition Art in Daily Life. Sargent and Riggs went on to co-found the Bazaar Sábado, an influential market for Mexican and expatriate art and craft that continues to this day.

Learning to Weave in Taxco, Mexico, about 1960
Sheila Hicks. Gift of Martha Bennett King in memory of her brother, Dr. Wendell Clark Bennett. © Sheila Hicks

While American artist Sheila Hicks never met Porset, she was aware of Porset’s designs through her close friendship with architect Luis Barragán, who worked with both artists. After studying Latin American weaving traditions and traveling to South America, Hicks relocated to Mexico in the late 1950s and set up a workshop in Taxco el Viejo, where she collaborated with and learned from local weavers, while producing pieces that are resolutely her own.

As a story, In a Cloud… reminds us that, for many, transnational migration is both a fact of life and a provocation of creativity; it also challenges easy assumptions about the directions that migration can take. Current political discourse in the United States often frames Mexico as a place that people either leave or move through and not as a country that attracts immigrants of its own. As this exhibition makes clear, it was this country’s openness to artistic practice that drew a host of ambitious modern artists and designers from around the world.

The work of these independent-minded designers and artists provides six distinct yet aligned models of creative practices that followed alternative routes and opened up new possibilities. Displayed together, their work makes the case for a continued evaluation of Mexico’s creative landscape and contributes to burgeoning discussions aimed at a more inclusive history of modern art and design,” said Zoë Ryan, John H. Bryan Chair and Curator of Architecture and Design, Department of Architecture and Design, the Art Institute of Chicago.

The pieces in this exhibition resulted from a complex dynamic of cultural learning and exchange. Each artist went beyond replication and applied their newfound knowledge and practices to create their own unique output while crediting the sources of their inspiration. These works highlight the importance of these still-influential contributions to art and design.

Major funding for In a Cloud, in a Wall, in a Chair: Six Modernists in Mexico at Midcentury is provided by the Gordon and Carole Segal Exhibition Fund; the Walter and Karla Goldschmidt Foundation; Margot Levin Schiff and the Harold Schiff Foundation; and Barbara Bluhm-Kaul and Don Kaul.

Additional support is provided by Maria and William D. Smithburg; Kimberly M. Snyder; the George Lill Foundation Endowment; Nada Andric and James Goettsch; the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts; Thomas E. Keim and Noelle C. Brock; the Butler-VanderLinden Family Fund; the Terra Foundation for American Art; The Danielson Foundation; The Robey Chicago; and CNA.

The Whitney To Present The First Andy Warhol Retrospective Organized by a U.S. Institution Since 1989

Andy Warhol—From A To B And Back Again, The First Major Reexamination Of Warhol’s Art In A Generation, To Open At The Whitney On November 12

Andy Warhol—From A to B and Back Again—the first Andy Warhol retrospective organized in the U.S. since 1989, and the largest in terms of its scope of ideas and range of works—will be an occasion to experience and reconsider the work of one of the most inventive, influential, and important American artists. With more than 350 works of art, many assembled together for the first time, this landmark exhibition, organized by The Whitney Museum of American Art, will unite all aspects, media, and periods of Warhol’s forty-year career. Curated by Warhol authority Donna De Salvo, Deputy Director for International Initiatives and Senior Curator, with Christie Mitchell, curatorial assistant, and Mark Loiacono, curatorial research associate, the survey debuts at the Whitney on November 12, 2018, where it will run through March 31, 2019.

 

While Warhol’s Pop images of the 1960s are recognizable worldwide, what remains far less known is the work he produced in the 1970s and 80s. This exhibition positions Warhol’s career as a continuum, demonstrating that he didn’t slow down after surviving the assassination attempt that nearly took his life in 1968, but entered into a period of intense experimentation, continuing to use the techniques he’d developed early on and expanding upon his previous work. Taking the 1950s and his experience as a commercial illustrator as foundational, and including numerous masterpieces from the 1960s, Andy Warhol—From A to B and Back Again tracks and reappraises the later work of the 1970s and 80s through to Warhol’s untimely death in 1987.

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Andy Warhol (1928–1987), Self-Portrait, 1964. Acrylic, metallic paint, and silkscreen ink on linen, 20 x 16 in. (50.8 x 40.6 cm). The Art Institute of Chicago; gift of Edlis/Neeson Collection. © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS) New York

(Following its premiere at the Whitney, the exhibition will travel to two other major American art museums, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and The Art Institute of Chicago. Bank of America is the National Tour Sponsor)

Perhaps more than any artist before or since, Andy Warhol understood America’s defining twin desires for innovation and conformity, public visibility and absolute privacy,” noted De Salvo. “He transformed these contradictory impulses into a completely original art that, I believe, has profoundly influenced how we see and think about the world now. Warhol produced images that are now so familiar, it’s easy to forget just how unsettling and even shocking they were when they debuted. He pioneered the use of an industrial silkscreen process as a painterly brush to repeat images ‘identically’, creating seemingly endless variations that call the very value of our cultural icons into question. His repetitions, distortions, camouflaging, incongruous color, and recycling of his own imagery anticipated the most profound effects and issues of our current digital age when we no longer know which images to trust. From the 1950s until his death, Warhol challenged our fundamental beliefs, particularly our faith in images, even while he sought to believe in those images himself. Looking in this exhibition at the full sweep of his career makes it clear that Warhol was not just a twentieth-century titan but a seer of the twenty-first century as well.

Occupying the entirety of the Whitney’s fifth-floor Neil Bluhm Family Galleries, the adjacent Kaufman Gallery, the John R. Eckel, Jr. Foundation Lobby Gallery, the Susan and John Hess Family Gallery and Theater, Andy Warhol—From A to B and Back Again will be the largest exhibition devoted to a single artist yet to be presented in the Whitney’s downtown location. Tickets will be available on the Whitney’s website beginning in August.large_68.25_warhol_resized

Through his carefully cultivated persona and willingness to experiment with non-traditional art-making techniques, Andy Warhol (1928–1987) understood the growing power of images in contemporary life and helped to expand the role of the artist in society, making him one of the most distinct and internationally recognized American artists of the twentieth century. This exhibition sets out to prove that there remains far more to Warhol and his work than is commonly known. While the majority of exhibitions, books, articles, and films devoted to Warhol’s art have focused on a single medium, subject, series, or period, Andy Warhol—From A to B and Back Again will employ a chronological and thematic methodology that illuminates the breadth, depth, and interconnectedness of the artist’s production: from his beginnings as a commercial illustrator in the 1950s, to his iconic Pop masterpieces of the early 1960s, to the experimental work in film and other mediums from the 1960s and 70s, to his innovative use of readymade abstraction and the painterly sublime in the 1980s. The show’s title is taken from Warhol’s 1975 book, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again), an aphoristic memoir in which the artist gathered his thoughts on fame, love, beauty, class, money, and other key themes.

Building on a wealth of new materials, research and scholarship that has emerged since the artist’s untimely death in 1987, as well as De Salvo’s own expertise and original research conducted by the Whitney’s curatorial team, the checklist of works has been carefully selected from amongst the thousands of paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures, films, videos, and photographs that Warhol produced during his lifetime.

Adam D. Weinberg, the Alice Pratt Brown Director of the Whitney, commented: “This exhibition takes a fresh focus, while continuing the Whitney’s decades-long engagement with Warhol’s work which we presented in 1971 in a traveling retrospective and in Andy Warhol: Portraits of the 70s, organized by the Whitney in 1979–80. Few have had the opportunity to see an in-depth presentation of his career, and account for the scale, vibrant color, and material richness of the objects themselves. This exhibition, to be presented in three cities, will allow visitors to experience the work of one of America’s greatest cultural figures firsthand, and to better comprehend Warhol’s artistic genius and fearless experimentation.”

Early Work

The exhibition covers the entirety of Warhol’s career, beginning with a concentrated focus on the commercial and private work he made between 1948 and 1960. Arriving in New York from his native Pittsburgh in the summer of 1949, Warhol began his career in an advertising world that was increasingly technological, and, concurrently, an art world obsessed with originality and the authenticity of the hand-made mark. The 1950s were a foundational period for the artist, a young gay man, beginning to find his way in the city. Though far less known than his later work, the commercial art that Warhol produced during his first decade in New York lays the groundwork for many of the themes and aesthetic devices that he would develop throughout the length of his career. Continue reading

The Whitney To Present Hélio Oiticica: To Organize Delirium

Hélio Oiticica: To Organize Delirium, to be presented at The Whitney Museum of American Art from July 14 through October 1, 2017, is the first retrospective to survey the groundbreaking Brazilian artist’s entire career, including the formative years he spent in New York in the 1970s. One of the most influential Latin American artists of the post–World War II period, Oiticica (1937–80) was a tireless innovator, from his start with the Neo-Concrete movement to his groundbreaking environmental installations. Co-organized by the Whitney together with the Carnegie Museum of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago, the exhibition presents a wide array of his paintings, interactive sculptures, films, audiovisual works, writings, and environments.

Hélio Oiticica (b. 1937), PN1 Penetrable (PN1 Penetrável), 1960. César and Claudio Oiticica Collection, Rio de Janeiro. © César and Claudio Oiticica, Rio de Janeiro

Hélio Oiticica (b. 1937), PN1 Penetrable (PN1 Penetrável), 1960. César and Claudio Oiticica Collection, Rio de Janeiro. © César and Claudio Oiticica, Rio de Janeiro

Oiticica was one of the most daring artists to appear anywhere in the years following World War II,” said Elisabeth Sussman, co-curator of the exhibition. “In conceiving this show, it was particularly important to us to focus attention on Oiticica’s presence in New York City in the 1970s, a time when many international artists came to live and work here. The expansion of his ideas into film, photography, and writing has been fully explored, as never before, in the research for this exhibition, and the works, some displayed for the first time, identify Oiticica as a paradigmatic presence in the global expansion of art practice in that decade.

Co-curator Donna De Salvo commented: “Oiticica’s departure from traditional notions of the static art object and his transformation of the viewer into an active participant were part of a larger, international desire to integrate art and life. Though his reputation is due primarily to his earlier work in Brazil, Oiticica was drawn to the scene of artistic experimentation in New York, and the eight years he spent working in the United States had a huge impact on his thought and continued to shape his art after his return to Brazil. By calling attention to the distinct differences that he absorbed in each locale, we hope to further the notion of art history as one comprised of multiple stories, and emphasize the Whitney’s expansive definition of who belongs in a museum of American art. This openness to patterns of artistic migration and cross-cultural thinking has a long history at the Whitney, which we are delighted to extend with this important exhibition.”

During his brief but remarkable career, Oiticica seamlessly melded formal and social concerns in his art, seeking to be internationally relevant and, at the same time, specifically Brazilian. The exhibition begins with elegant, geometric works on paper (1955–58): formal investigations in painting and drawing. These dynamic compositions gave way to more radical works as Oiticica became increasingly interested in surpassing the limits of traditional painting. By 1959, his painterly-sculptural Spatial Reliefs and Nuclei broke free of the wall and morphed into three-dimensional investigations of color and form. The Nuclei, composed of panels suspended from the ceiling, created areas through which the viewer could walk.

Throughout the 1960s and ’70s, Oiticica moved further toward the destabilization of the art form, making art that is intended for the viewer to manipulate, wear, and inhabit, including his Parangolés, wearable paintings inspired in part by samba schools in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, and Penetrables, colorful structures for viewers to navigate. In addition to viewing works on display, visitors will be invited to engage interactively with some of the artist’s works.

As Oiticica became further interested in bringing his art into the everyday, he began to create total environments suffused with color, texture, and tactile materials which were increasingly immersive in nature and transformed the viewer from a spectator to an active participant. The exhibition will include a number of these large-scale installations, including Tropicália and Eden. “Tropicália,” a name subsequently borrowed by the musician Caetano Veloso for his anthem against Brazil’s dictatorship, became an important and powerful movement in all the arts. Continue reading