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Posts Tagged ‘Willem de Kooning’

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August 27, 2014 | by

Remembering Ray Johnson through his pioneering correspondence art.

Not_Nothing_plate_191

Detail of a work from Not Nothing: Selected Writings, 1954–1994, published by Siglio.

Ray Johnson thought he was ugly, but I thought he looked cool—just like Ray Johnson.

Being a teenage modern-art fan in Texas in the sixties, I was excited to learn of the New York Correspondence School from Eye magazine, or maybe it was Artforum or Print. Ray, whose early abstracted celebrity photos and painted collages I had seen featured in the pages of many histories of Pop, was encouraging artists all over the world to make and trade mail as an art activity, an idea readily appreciated in the midcentury’s burst of experimental and novel art approaches. Thousands of people began to send art objects to each other through the postal service.

My notion was that Ray didn’t make the first piece of mail art, but his creation of a school around that activity was the benediction for a folk-art movement in motion. Some of these letters were finished statements or handmade objects; others were exquisite corpses conducted by mail, objects that traveled and accumulated the mojo of human touch and attention as they were ever modified. The latter was the kind of thing Ray did: he mailed objects and letters and asked the recipients to add to them and then return them, or send them along to other destinations. Ray’s handmade work, cryptic and rarely seen, was striking, sure, but humorous, too, a quality I really like in art. It had a purposive childishness, but also a readily appreciable design rigor—a controlled looseness, beautiful color, shape and textural sense, a mastery of a private hieroglyphics of bunnies and goo-goo eyes. Read More »

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Art House: On “John Ashbery Collects”

October 22, 2013 | by

Installation view of "John Ashbery Collects: Poet Among Things."

Installation view of "John Ashbery Collects: Poet Among Things," at Loretta Howard Gallery, New York.

So just what is the “thingness of the thing” that Heidegger was talking about? The phrase’s riddlesome poetry could easily have been penned by John Ashbery, instead of the crusty German phenomenologist. Is Heidegger suggesting that material things possess an essence, an abstract quality that both defines and constitutes, say, a shoe—its shoeness? Perhaps, but Ashbery, in fact, offers a more straightforward assessment of the unseeable stuff that makes stuff stuff in the opening lines of “Grand Galop”: “All things seem the mention of themselves.” Such are my thoughts as I roam the rooms of Ashbery’s Hudson, New York, home … well, only to the degree that the galleries at Loretta Howard, in Chelsea, have been decorated with trompe l’oeil drawings—wainscoting, doorways, mantels—to look like the rooms of the poet’s well-appointed nineteenth-century house.

Thoughtfully curated by Loretta Howard Gallery and poets Adam Fitzgerald and Emily Skillings, the show offers a selection of Ashbery’s own paintings, prints, collages, bric-a-brac, and furniture; it’s all cozily arranged to conjure as much domestic atmosphere as might be had in a gallery space. Kitschy figurines, VHS tapes (Daffy Duck and Jack Benny among them), bawdy toys, and hand-painted plates line the shelves of cabinets and bookcases that could have been lifted whole from Ashbery’s parlor. Other items, like the French Provincial chairs and Oriental rugs, have been. They complement a piano drawn on a wall on which are hung several selections of early twentieth-century sheet music (“Mr. and Mrs. Is the Name,” “Flirtation Walk”), as if resting on the instrument’s music desk.

Alongside such homey items (the cartoons playing on the TV jangle in a familiar way with the filigree wallpaper designs) are pieces by many of the poet’s friends and artistic confederates, such as Joan Mitchell, Fairfield Porter, Larry Rivers, Trevor Winkfield, Jess, Alex Katz, Jane Freilicher, and Willem de Kooning. There’s a gemütlich vibe, equal parts wry and melancholic, generated by this assemblage of things cultural that ably recalls the mood and manner of Ashbery’s writing. To elucidate this point, the curators include wall text featuring apt passages of his verse that treat the world, if not the mind, as a congeries of curios, a kind of Cornell box. Of course, the show includes a few of those; with poems populated by Popeye, Henry Darger, Chopin, Faust, Parmigianino, and a myriad of other, less identifiable references, it’s no surprise that Ashbery is a devotee of Cornell’s eclectic connoisseurship. Both share an affinity for the metaphysique d’ephemera, an aesthetic that elevates the trivial to the transcendent. Read More »

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Willem de Kooning, Untitled, 1970

December 10, 2012 | by

Since 1964 The Paris Review has commissioned a series of prints and posters by major contemporary artists. Contributing artists have included Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Helen Frankenthaler, Louise Bourgeois, Ed Ruscha, and William Bailey. Each print is published in an edition of sixty to two hundred, most of them signed and numbered by the artist. All have been made especially and exclusively for The Paris Review. Many are still available for purchase. Proceeds go to The Paris Review Foundation, established in 2000 to support The Paris Review.

 

 

 

 

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Cosmic Geometry

November 17, 2011 | by

Triangle and Square, 2008, mirror, reverse-glass painting, and plaster on wood, 39 2/5 in. x 63 in.

Born in a small town in northwest Iran in 1924, Monir Farmanfarmaian studied fine arts at the University of Tehran for only six months before deciding to move to Paris. But, with World War II raging, the ambitious young artist was denied entry in France; she opted instead for the United States, landing in New York City in 1944. “She traveled to the right place at the right time,” argues her old friend Frank Stella in Cosmic Geometry, Farmanfarmaian’s first and much-anticipated monograph, a testament of her continuing importance to contemporary Iranian art. Stella goes on to describe her facility with Abstract Expressionism’s “flatness” and “imagelessness”—her childhood home was filled with stained glass and wall murals—but neglects to mention all the other juicy details of her first decade in New York: how she rubbed elbows with the great artists of the day, including Pollock, de Kooning, and Rothko, at the Cedar Tavern and at the Arts Students League; how she worked as an illustrator for Bonwit Teller under Andy Warhol. “I wasn’t bad looking,” she says, “so everyone invited me to their parties.”

In 1957, she moved back to Tehran, married a young, American-educated lawyer named Abolbashar Farmanfarmaian, and began working with broken glass and mirrors in her studio—materials that became her hallmarks. She recounts traveling in 1966 to the Shāh Chérāgh mosque in Shiraz, Iran, a shrine “filled with high ceilings, domes, and mirror mosaics with fantastic reflections.” “We sat there for half an hour, and it was like a living theater,” she notes. “People came in all their different outfits and wailed and begged to the shrine, and all the crying was reflected all over the ceiling … I said to myself, I must do something like that, something that people can hang in their homes.” Read More »

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