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Posts Tagged ‘art’

All in One: An Interview with Tomi Ungerer

January 30, 2015 | by

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Tomi Ungerer. © Luc Bérujeau

At the opening for the Drawing Center’s “All in One,” Tomi Ungerer’s first U.S. retrospective, swarms of visitors obscured the art on the walls. The crowd bent toward the artist, who was holding court and a glass of red wine, though none was being served. Ungerer, who is eighty-three, was in his element. For him, this retrospective is a kind of homecoming. After more than forty years in exile, his career is finding its rightful place in the New York art world.

The Drawing Center exhibition, curated by Claire Gilman, begins with Ungerer’s earliest doodles as a child growing up in Nazi-occupied Alsace, where under the nationalistic duress of war he first learned to be an outlaw. Delicately subversive, they are inscribed with a mature, swaggering humor that takes a subject as terrifying as Hitler and renders him a fool.

In 1956, Ungerer was lured to New York City at the height of print, when publications offered vast opportunities for creative illustrators. Without contacts or even a high school diploma, Ungerer impressed art directors with his idiosyncratic drawing style and witty candor. He became sought after for advertising and editorial work, and most prominently, his unconventional children’s books, which featured society’s most repulsive characters—robbers, snakes, pigs, beggars—as compassionate protagonists.

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Untitled, 1966 (drawing for The Party, first published by Paragraphic Books, Grossman Publishers, New York), ink and ink wash on paper, 18" x 18". Collection Musée Tomi Ungerer/Centre international de l’Illustration, Strasbourg. © Tomi Ungerer/Diogenes Verlag AG, Zürich. Photo courtesy Musées de la Ville de Strasbourg/Mathieu Bertola.

While working professionally in these PG-rated circles, he remained a deeply political artist, self-publishing bold posters against the Vietnam War, a book of harsh satire called The Underground Sketchbook, and sadomasochistic erotic drawings. But upon discovering his erotic work, the children’s-book community was scandalized. His books were removed from public libraries and his reputation tarnished. Dejected and unable to find work, he left New York in 1971, moving to Nova Scotia with his wife before finding a permanent home in Cork, Ireland.

This defection cost Ungerer the renown he deserves. It wasn’t until 1998 that he received the Hans Christian Andersen Award, the highest achievement for children’s-book authors, and a sign of the recent reappraisal of his career. Recent years have seen reissues of his children’s books in English and a large catalogue of his erotic drawings. In Strasbourg, he has a museum dedicated to his work, and in 2012, his life was the subject of a documentary film. Read More »

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Explorations and Surveys

January 29, 2015 | by

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William Steiger, USPRR Herd of Bison, 2014, gouache, glue, vintage lithograph, paper, 9" x 11¼".

William Steiger’s collages are wondrous, often humorous refractions of early American landscapes. They traffic in a very particular kind of anachronism, grafting zeppelins, prop planes, gondolas, bridges, and the gleaming apparatus of the steam age onto the vast plains and prairies of the nineteenth-century frontier. The images dare us to reconcile two equally innocent visions of American life. One is taut, sleek, and brimming with technological optimism; the other is lush, free, and unspoiled. Neither, it goes without saying, have quite panned out as our forebears hoped they might.

The series, “Explorations & Surveys,” plays with our country’s mythology, conflating more than a century of travel and invention into pale stories of our naïveté—everything in the world of these images is still ours for the taking. Steiger constructed the pieces using a nineteenth-century surveyors’ guide. His gallery, Pace Prints, explains:

Steiger borrowed the abbreviated title, Explorations & Surveys, from the title of his source material, Reports of the Explorations and Surveys to Ascertain the Most Practicable and Economic Route for a Railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. These accounts were published by the Federal Government in the late 1850s to both document the western regions and to locate the best routes for the forthcoming Pacific Railroad. Disseminated in bound editions, the volumes were essentially the first published images of the American West.

These works, and others, are on view at Pace Prints Chelsea through February 21, with an opening reception tonight at six. Read More »

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Lost Looking

January 27, 2015 | by

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Maia Cruz Palileo, Nochebuena, 2013, oil on canvas, 33" x 48". Image via Cuchifritos Gallery

Maia Cruz Palileo’s show “Lost Looking” is at Cuchifritos Gallery through February 6. Many of her paintings tell the story of her family’s emigration from the Philippines to America, confronting “the disconnect between memories, stories, imagination and experiences.”

“The imagery in my work is rooted in the American Midwest, where I was born and raised,” she told MoMA P.S.1 during a studio visit. “In 1999, my mother suddenly died, completely severing my connection to home, both geographically and psychologically. My naïve sense of wholeness and security was changed forever and I’ve been making work about it ever since.”

You can see more of Palileo’s work at Cuchifritos Gallery’s site. Her show there is curated by Jordan Buschur. Read More »

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Crunchy Systems

January 22, 2015 | by

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Borna Sammak, Untitled, 2015, heat applied T-shirt graphics and embroidery on canvas, 40" x 30". Courtesy of the artist, Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York and JTT, New York © Borna Sammack

Long before crunchy found a thrilling new life as a pejorative for hippies, the journalist Nico Colchester used it to describe a set of economic conditions: “Crunchy systems,” he wrote, “are those in which small changes have big effects leaving those affected by them in no doubt whether they are up or down, rich or broke, winning or losing, dead or alive … sogginess is comfortable uncertainty.”

Crunchy,” a new group show at Marianne Boesky Gallery, takes its inspiration from Colchester’s definition, though it owes just as much to the word’s new, granola-centric connotation. Organized by Clayton Press and Gregory Linn, it collects essentially tactile paintings—the hard, the crisp, the agreeably sharp. “It is about the materiality of material,” they say, which sounds tautological until you look at the paintings, all of which induce various forms of synesthesia. You’ll want to bite some of them. Don’t—don‘t make the same mistake I did. There are no flavors there.

“Crunchy” is up through February 21. Read More »

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Fleur’s Flair

January 20, 2015 | by

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Flair‘s first issue.

Flair Magazine existed for only one year and twelve issues, from February 1950 to January 1951. In that time, it published the likes of Jean Cocteau, Tennessee Williams, Simone de Beauvoir, Gloria Swanson, John O’Hara, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bernard Baruch, Gypsy Rose Lee, the Duchess of Windsor, Lucien Freud, Salvador Dalí, Colette, and Saul Steinberg, among others.

Fleur Cowles—who conceived of the magazine, edited it, and, perhaps most impressive, persuaded her husband to publish it, even when it meant losing his shirt, if not his whole wardrobe—would be 107 today. If that seems like a throwaway detail, bear in mind that she lived until she was 101. It’s maybe best to let her describe her own accomplishments:

Few women have lived more multiple lives than I have: as editor: as that anomaly, an American president’s personal representative, decorated by six governments; as a writer of thirteen books and contributor to six others; as a painter, with fifty-one one-man exhibitions throughout the world; patron of the arts and sciences, irrepressible traveller and, more importantly, friend-gatherer …

Fond as she was of bragging about her gifts as a friend, or even merely as a “friend-gatherer,” her most enduring creation is Flair, a beautiful, high-minded cataclysm of a magazine that incorporated “cutouts, fold-outs, pop-ups, removable reproductions of artworks and a variety of paper stocks of different sizes and textures”:

[Flair] was simply too expensive to produce … When Flair ceased publication, Mr. Cowles, who had financed it, estimated that it had lost $2.5 million … A spring issue featured the rose, a flower Ms. Cowles painted and extolled until her death. The issue was suffused with a rose fragrance, some four decades before scent strips became ubiquitous.

All this comes from Cowles’s New York Times obit, which is a work of art itself: “Fleur Cowles, 101, Is Dead; Friend of the Elite and the Editor of a Magazine for Them.” Take a step back and you can see the splotch of animus on that headline—“a Magazine for Them.” That’s what Flair was: their magazine. Never yours. It was designed to appear tantalizingly out of reach. That’s a commonplace these days, when every publication aspires to be “aspirational,” but Flair, with its peephole covers and almost farcically high production values, may have done more to further the concept than any other American magazine in history. Copies of The Best of Flair, a 1996 compilation, sold for $250 apiece. And is it any wonder? Just look at the covers: Read More »

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Behind the Curtain

January 7, 2015 | by

New paintings by Mamma Andersson.

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Mamma Andersson, Stays, 2014, oil on panel, 39 3/8" x 56 3/8". Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London

Mamma Andersson’s new exhibition “Behind the Curtain” opens tomorrow at David Zwirner. Andersson, who was born in Sweden and lives in Stockholm, paints with a muted palette—she tends to draw from old photographs and films, theater sets, and well-preserved interiors. There’s a look-but-don’t-touch quality to her subjects, as if she’s visited some quiet museum, or snuck backstage, and has decided to flout the no-photography policy by simply painting the view instead. And so what should feel aloof or antiquated feels intimate, almost even illicit. These are things we’re used to seeing at a remove or covered in dust: busts, stays, thrones. Looking at her paintings reminds me of that voguish phrase, secret history, that’s cropped up in dozens of titles and subtitles lately.

“All of us who’ve become artists, musicians, poets, dancers, film directors—God knows what—we were all once children who loved to delve into our other ego, where anarchy and limitlessness reigns,” she told BOMB in 2007: “If (healthy) schizophrenia can keep capitalism at bay, maybe we all should be much more schizophrenic than we are. I think it’s nice to be muddled.”

“Behind the Curtain” is at David Zwirner through February 14. Read More »

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