“Wayne Thiebaud, Draftsman”

"Wayne Thiebaud, Draftsman”

May 18 through September 23, 2018 – The Morgan Library & Museum

“Really, Wayne Thiebaud’s drawing?” was the question a lot of people asked to the curator Isabelle Dervaux when she decided on the focus of the Morgan Library & Museum’s new exhibition. In fact, the Morgan is the first institution to explore the artist’s lifelong engagement with sketches. Well known for his lifelike paintings of luscious pies, glossy candied apples and colorful ice cream cones, Wayne Thiebaud also spent his whole career ­–over 70 years of work– as a draftsman. This exhibition presents in a chronological order a relevant panel of his work, half of which came from his studio in Sacramento.

The show opens with a series of works from the 1960s. Jelly apples, candy sticks and so on are declined in different techniques and materials, proving the artist’s early interest in investigating the properties of a variety of mediums. He tries to avoid the sentimentally of classic American paintings and focus on surface texture more than the formal elements of design and composition.

In Nine Jelly Apples, Thiebaud plays with a range of red, pink and purple watercolors and graphite, to give to the surface of the fruit a luminous aspect. In the nearby version, Candied Apples, he works on the intensity of the black ink, opposed to the untouched white of the paper, to convey the shine of those fleshy apples. The accuracy of the pencil in the third interpretation of this subject, Three Jelly Apples, focuses on the material aspect of the hardened sugar surface, and reveals the technical virtuosity of the sketcher.

According to Isabelle Dervaux, Thiebaud likes the idea of series, of rows. These drawings, all from 1964, testify that since the beginning of his career, his approach has always been much more controlled than abstract.

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Wayne Thiebaud studied at Frank Wiggins Trade School, in Los Angeles, where he learned advertising, illustration and design: he originally wanted to be a cartoonist. Finally stimulated by his interest in Art History, he decided to become a painter, but this untraditional training would have a major influence in his later work and on his way to comprehend subjects. Actually, the artist’s figurative food theme isn’t innocuous: it echoes his desire to seduce the viewer as well as the publicist wants to seduce the costumer.

“Surprisingly, I didn’t think of pies at first.” As many young artists, Thiebaud went to New York in the 1950s. There he met people from the contemporary art scene such as Franz Kline and Willem de Kooning. But in the words of Scott Shields, senior curator at the Crocker Museum: “New York’s Abstract Expressionism didn’t work as well for the West Coast people—that brooding angst didn’t fit,” and Thiebaud struggled to find a place.  After a challenge by de Kooning to “decide what you like, what you want to do,” he went back to very basics: shapes and lines, recreating typical American objects. At the opening-night conversation with the curator Isabelle Dervaux, the artist said that his depictions of slices of pie on plates derived from a simple formalist desire to put triangles on ovals. It felt “interesting and comfortable” to him, so he continued.

Using his experience as a light technician -he worked at Universal Studios in his early career- he started to focus on the luminosity in his drawings, exploiting the radiance coming from the objects themselves. Hence, he created a new kind of imagery –with light subjects and bold shadows– which made him famous overnight after the Allan Stone Gallery in New York exhibited his works in 1962.

After reading « Interaction of Color » by Josef Albers, published in 1963, Wayne Thiebaud starts to work on colors. Inspired by this ouvrage, he combined conventional shading with unexpected color juxtapositions, opposing bright and colorful objects before pale backgrounds. A contrario of the Pop Art movement, which was developing at the same time, Thiebaud’s art was warmer and melancholic, in part due to the fact that he drew from memory, immersing himself into a nostalgic recollection of bakeries and diners from his youth. When Warhol was cool and ironic with his soup cans, Thiebaud was nostalgic and gentle with his lemon meringue and pumpkin pies.


Wayne Thiebaud never stopped drawing sketches, whether it was as a daily exercise or to jot down ideas for his paintings. This exhibition honors this substantial part of his work by unveiling an entire wall of his sketches that, for the most part, have never been shown before. The sheets presented are compositions, made up of different illustrations connected more or less consciously by the artist. For instance, in a pen, ink, and watercolor drawing from 1986, he matches up two portraits of art critic Clement Greenberg –we know from Thiebaud’s notes at the bottom of the sheet that he was giving a lecture on the artist Hans Hofmann at Berkeley – with three jelly apples in the critic’s favorite color.

From the 1970s, Thiebaud’s work showed a stronger engagement with the art of the past and the old masters that he admires. Accordingly, he changed his way of working to a more academic practice, and started dedicating time every week to work from the model. An anecdote related by Isabelle Dervaux describes Thiebaud, with the best of intentions, imitating even the signatures and dates of certain canons.

The artist said he draws “to find something, to make notations or just to experiment.” These sketches actually divulge crucial elements on which he works: proportions, light effects, and vantage points. And if those drawings are more traditional than the comics’ style he first developed, the subjects are still very modern.

For Thiebaud, another way to depicts American culture was to work on cities, streets, and the drama which exudes from them. “These drawings seemed to offer more the kind of visual and physical feeling that was closer to the idea of San Francisco” he said. The last part of the Morgan’s show presents a selection of these works from the 1980s.

With wildly shifting perspectives and geometric patterns created by curves and edges of the urban landscapes, Thiebaud oscillates between copy and composition. In his 1983 drawings of San Francisco, he plays with the intensity of darkness and its fateful effects on the composition. Here again, the materials used -ink and charcoal- refer to the influence of the artist’s first interest in lights and shadows, recalling his mastery of the film noir.

“My own sense of being American is a very important part of what I feel and do,” he said. While Pop Art was more interested in advertising, Thiebaud was paradoxically more traditional and focused on capturing a uniquely American sensibility. We can actually feel that this Americanness infuses his entire work, starting from the rows of pies, the gumball machines, to the urban landscapes.

By choosing to focus on the artist’s drawings, this exhibition offers a glimpse of the evolution of the artist works, which have an atmosphere all of their own: sweet, heartening and beautiful. During a recent conference at the Morgan Museum at which I assisted, Isabelle Dervaux lauded the artist’s continuity. “And you know what?” she asks at the end, “He still made pastel and pies”.

“Joan Jonas, NA: Ice Drawing” at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

“Joan Jonas: Ice Drawing” at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
September 24, 2017 – September 3, 2018

By: Léa MIRANDA, Intern, National Academy of Design, New York

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"I have always thought of myself as an electronic sorceress" Joan Jonas said once. After 50 years of career, the artist has bewitched both museums and mainstream audiences, by mastering the fusion and the blend of different mediums and techniques. She just received the 2018 Kyoto Prize in the fields of Art and Psychology, Advanced Technology and Basic Sciences, for her “immeasurable impact” in pioneering the integration of Performance Art and New Media.

Joan Jonas is a native of New York City, born in 1936. She holds a bachelor degree in Art History from Mount Holyoke College and a M.F.A. in Sculpture from Columbia University. Between 1958 and 1961, she joined the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. There, she immersed herself in drawing, both as a method of observation and investigation of the different subjects.

Back in New York's downtown art scene of the mid-1960s, Jonas began her career as a sculptor, but soon decided to expand her area of work. Mixing live performance, drawing, installation, video, and music, she often created a dialogue between rhythms of rituals, myths, objects, gestures, and texts from all around the world.

In 2015, she represented the United States of America in the Venice Biennale with an installation entitled “They Come to Us Without a Word” -a video installation involving drawings and sculptural elements- which was praised as “a triumph” by Roberta Smith, art critic and writer for The New York Times. Her recent works shift to focus on our complex relationship with the earth and the natural world.

In this perspective, Jonas gave her interpretation of the novel “Under the Glacier” (1968) by Icelandic author Halldór Laxness by creating a multi-channel installation “Reanimation” (2013). Accompanied by her musical collaborator, the pianist Jason Moran, this installation, originally performed in Boston at the MFA in 2014, traveled to various locations: Kassel, New York, Milan, and Paris. “One of the first thoughts that comes to mind is that glaciers are melting… ‘Reanimation’ involves the fragility of life in a rapidly changing situation,” says Jonas.

The mixed-media installation “Ice Drawing” (2012) is one of the artworks which compose this narrative masterpiece. A beamer projects a video against a wall of the darkened Krupp Gallery of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Between the projector and the image, a crystal sculpture has been mounted to refract the light and create an icy atmosphere. In a close-up video, the artist’s hands pour a glass of black ink on a light surface, before adding ice cubes. She mixes one with the other and quickly, the entire work plan is covered by a shiny and gooey ink stain. Finally, textures and elements coalesce into a fragile and ephemeral abstract drawing.

“Once a performance has taken place, video images, drawings, props, costumes and sets from it are transformed into an installation. The reverse can also happen: An installation can become a performance” said Farah Nayeri in The New York Times. As a poetic response to climate change, the artist uses ancient and contemporary technologies to show our tangibility and our ineptitude in the natural world.

Her ambiguous and mesmerizing works are on view this summer at the MFA Boston and in a retrospective at the Tate in London.

Museum Reviews by Nathale Nicoletti, NAD Summer 2018 Intern

Museum of Arts and Design – New York, NY  – Edward Durell 1964 /Brad Cloepfil (Allied Works Architecture) 2008

The first design of this building was made by Edward Durell Stone in 1964. The building had a closed façade made of concrete, using ornaments made by marble panels where they were perforated all over the edges of the structure, making more than a thousand little circular windows.

The only visible aperture was on the last two floors, where it was a restaurant and a lounge. It had huge arcs, which were made for better lighting and to have a view of Central Park.

Hartford, the owner of the building, had the intention to establish a Gallery of Modern Art with his own personal collection from the 19th and 20th centuries. Hartford was against modernist ideals. Stone disliked the glass and metal buildings that were prevailing.  Both valued democratic values.

The art exhibitions were situated where there were no windows or aperture. The reason was for better maintenance and views of the exhibitions, creating spaces that looked like an upscale residence. In the lobby were set the famous “lollipops” columns in a Venetian Gothic style with Swedish red rose granite ovals.

After five years, the building was sold. In 2005 they started reconstructing, and the architect that carried out this project was National Academician Brad Cloepfil from Allied Works Architecture firm. Cloepfil gave the building a new identity. He preserved Stone’s structure and from the inside one can still see the “lollipops” columns.

The new design is made from fritted glass and glazed terra-cotta tile. The terra-cotta is finished with a light iridescent glaze, which changes tones of color depending on the hour of the day or the perspective one looks from. There are series of lines of glass made by transparent and fritted glass that are around 80cm wide, which allow filtering light into the gallery.  This now allows for views of the city, which was not possible with the past design.

The façade has a geometric pattern, making it different from the buildings around it. The new design has a lighter look. One can understand from the outside how every floor works, where the restaurant, the art studios, and the galleries are.

It is very transparent ­-- inside the galleries the lines of glass that are on the outside continue on the inside, cutting the floors. This allows one to follow the exhibitions in the right direction, having a sense of space. Therefore, the visitor is able to see the exhibits clearly.

The second from the last floor is the restaurant, where there is a big glass window, with a panorama view of the park and sunlight, also for the art studios. The ground floor where the “lollipops” are is entirely made of glass, which invites people to come to the museum – this floor talks with its surroundings.

The MET Breuer, New York, NY - Marcel Breuer

Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney was a sculptor and art collector. She created the Whitney Studio Club, now home to the MET Breuer (formerly The Whitney Museum of American Art).

The Architect for this project was Marcel Breuer. He studied at Bauhaus. Breuer is famous for his international/universal style. Bauhaus was a school, from 1919 to 1933, that brought all the subjects of the arts together, such as music, crafts, and fine arts. Bauhaus is considered a style of the modern era.

Breuer was ahead of his time, he was innovative and a futurist. We can see that in his famous Wassily Chair, that even in the contemporary era still looks futurist.

The exterior walls are made of granite, which transmit a heavy look. The building looks as if there is no sunlight, transmitting a feeling of closure, even though one can see the upside-down windows, with their pushy and gauche format with ascending edges.

There are two small windows on each floor. On the third floor, the window is a bigger size that completes the front façade, almost looking like a cyclops’s eye, with a big view of the city.

The design of the building brings to mind the format of an upside-down staircase and ziggurat pyramid. Each floor is a different size but has the same form -- the first floor is smaller than the second, the same also for the second to the third.

The brutalist design is inspiring in its grandiosity, with a strong and innovative look. In the past when people had a more somber and brutal feeling, it was less acceptable because of its distinctly modern style.

Inside the building all these feelings change. The galleries have open spaces with concrete grid ceilings. All the ornaments that it did not have on the exterior it has on the interior -- the dimmed lights, the textures of the walls and the exhibition space itself. The windows become a part of the exhibition, with the view acting as if it were itself a painting.

The New Museum | John Akomfrah – Signs of empire

Usually, I am not the type of person who likes to stay and watch the films in exhibitions. But this one is impossible to not make you want to watch.

When you come to the second floor of the New Museum, you enter in a medium-sized square-shaped room. The room is completely dark, and the walls are even painted black. I felt afraid to walk in there, but that made me even more curious to know what was happening in that room.

You can see a huge screen showing pictures and some quotes. The background song is almost hypnotic, drawing you to stay and watch. This first room focuses on a historical context, from the persistent legacy of colonialism and historical memory.

The quotes are ironic, contradicting with the pictures. Some of the quotes were, “The fields of investment,” “Figuration Nation,” “Histories of Exclusion,” along with many others.

Akomfrah shows the power of the colonizers over the native people and how they were affected -- the competition over who has more power and land, not caring about the people who actually lived in that place, who were used as slaves and products.

The centerpiece of this exhibition is in the second room, containing a three-screen video of Vertigo Sea (2015).

There are videos of nature and how we are treating it, by destroying and contaminating our house (world). It has the same logic, one of the screens shows our reality, another one how we are treating the world/sea/people and another one how beautiful it could be if we do not damage it.

Nature will charge for all the damage we are causing, just wanting the power and the wealth. He shows more of the sea -- everything started at the water, sharks are all older than the trees. By affecting our ecosystem, especially the seas, we are destroying ourselves.

Such an irony -- showing the beauty of nature and what we do to it.

There is some strong content when he shows videos of people hunting whales, and then killing them; testing nuclear bombs in the sea, something that we should not even have; using our natural resources for a bad purpose.

And that all started with the colonialism -power over power- who is the best one, for us everything is a competition.

The New Museum: New York, NY – SANAA (National Academicians)

The Museum’s name embodies its pioneering spirit, focusing on emerging artists and contemporary art.

The neighborhood where the museum is located (the Bowery on Manhattan’s Lower East Side) has the typical squared block buildings. The design of the building reflects on that, taking those block forms and making it contemporary, using glass and steel.

Stacking seven boxes vertically around its central core with varying proportions brings a new design that is similar but also different from its surroundings. By shifting the boxes, they avoided using the maximum square footage that is permitted, creating a dynamic form between the volumes. It seems the buildings in their surroundings are one on top of each other.

The project has a skeletal structure, like in Mies van der Rohe projects. Less is more. The building has its simplicity, clearness and transparent architecture style, distinguishing the opaque building in its surroundings.

The texture of the body is delicate and soft, made of aluminum. It brings to mind fish scales, giving movement to the design and its transparency.

With its column-free design, the building has a large open-plan space that allows for natural light and high ceilings. By concentrating on the function of the building instead of the form, they were able to make the form as the function.

The building consists of galleries, offices, event spaces, a café, a theater, an education center, and two mechanical floors.

Visitors are drawn into the museum, with a glass wall entrance that enables one to see the inside of the lobby, implying transparency. The street’s concrete floor continues on the inside, connecting the street life and museum.

The visitor can choose the way they want to see the galleries by using the stairs or the elevator. The third floor is accessed by two different exquisite thin stairways that are just 90cm wide.  In one of them, there is a single-pane window that brings in natural light.

The structural columns are visible on the less public floors. On the seventh floor, there is a multipurpose room, with glass for almost all of the walls, where one is able to access an outdoor terrace that has different panorama views of Manhattan.

Interview of Pat Lasch, NA in her studio at the National Academy of Design

 By: Léa MIRANDA, Intern, National Academy of Design, New York

On a Tuesday afternoon, the sculptor Pat Lasch welcomed me into her luminous and quiet studio, on the second floor of the National Academy of Design’s building in New York. She is currently working on new pieces, which will be exhibited at the Meredith Ward Fine Art Gallery from September 20 through November 13, 2018. “People describe me as a feminine feminist” she said while raising up one of her new sculptures: a washy pink cake with tints of nacreous green and white. Covered by intricate, hand-made, piped-paint lace –the artist’s signature–, roses, pearls, and other shiny and delicate elements, her cake sculptures are the consecration of hours of work and an impeccable discipline. I pointed out that her work was similar to a monk’s labor. She burst out laughing and invited me to have a seat.

Léa Miranda: How and to what extent did your relationship with your father -who was a German pastry chef- influence the way that you work?

Pat Lasch: My relationship with my father is important because I learned his trade, but I was more interested in time. For me, cakes mark time, they mark celebrations of our life: our birthdays, our weddings. I also made a series of black cakes because nobody makes us a cake when we die.

LM: Is that a way for you to expose ordinary and everyday life objects in museums?

PL: I like the focus, yes. They are ordinary objects, everyone experiences them, and they are an important part of our lives. I think it is a very feminist view point, because women are the ones who, most of the time, make the cakes for the family and organize the social events that go around. On the top of that, I just love doing these works! I was trained very young, at thirteen.

LM: You were trained at making cakes or making cakes as artworks?

PL: At making cakes! Nobody that I knew did cakes as artwork. Now people do because I started, in the late 1970s. I made real cakes from thirteen to nineteen, but I was also going to art school. There, I realized a lot of things. Let me give you a wonderful quote from Antonin Carême, a French pastry chef from the early nineteenth century: « there are five branches of fine arts: there is painting, there is sculpture, there is poetry, there is music and there is pastry making of which architecture is a sub branch ».

Images provided by the artist of the 5-foot-2-inch-tall cake sculpture she created in 1979 as part of MoMA’s 50th anniversary

Images provided by the artist of the 5-foot-2-inch-tall cake sculpture she created in 1979 as part of MoMA’s 50th anniversary

Christening and wedding dresses (2016) exhibited at the Palm Spring Museum in 2017 for the artist’s retrospective ‘Journey of the Heart’

Christening and wedding dresses (2016) exhibited at the Palm Spring Museum in 2017 for the artist’s retrospective ‘Journey of the Heart’

LM: One of the first things that you said to me when I arrived today was that you are a “feminine feminist.” What does it mean?

PL: I love to make beautiful things. I love looking at them, I love looking at things that delight my eyes. But sometimes they are hard… Look at my new black cake! It looks like it is toxic, venomous, but it is also very beautiful.

I notice that in life many things become very beautiful when they decay. Sometimes you see a tree that is diseased, and it’s so interesting. I remember the last day before my father died, I just want to paint his face. He became so exquisite! It was only in that last day -I didn’t notice it before- when the blood was withdrawing of his face, that he looked translucent. It was very magical, because he was beautiful and dying.

LM: But do you think only women can make these beautiful objects? Do you think art is gendered?

PL: Most of the time I cannot imagine a man making these.

LM: Even as your father was doing his pastries?

PL: My father taught me, but I took off on my own things and made wonderful cake sculptures, just like a pastry chef! I did think men were supposed to cook for me, but they didn’t! What a disappointment! She laughed.

LM: For you, what does feminism mean when it comes to art?

PL: Expressing your soul with the experience of the other ones. For me, it’s about expressing corrections, wishes of what I could have done in different ways. My work has a lot of emotions, and it’s calling out to the universe. You know, I really like pink. But I also made series of black cakes and I wrote letters to the Dead in 1998. Everyone experiences death, because everything dies.

LM: What kind of impact do you hope that your work has? To new generations? To women?

PL: I hope my work leaves people with a sense of joy, a sense of fleetingness of life. Both are beauty, and they are difficult.

Intern Insights: Summer at NAD

Young Art Enthusiasts

The National Academy of Design is pleased to give our summer interns the opportunity to see exhibitions of their choosing. Below you can learn about our interns and the art and ideas that inspire them. 

Alison (Ally) Koumantzelis Pappalardo

Alison (Ally) Koumantzelis Pappalardo

I grew up in Mendham, a small town in New Jersey. I am now a rising junior at the University of Miami, studying fine arts, public health, and medical anthropology. I hope to eventually pursue my passion for public health and anthropology by joining the Peace Corps. However, right now the focus of my studies is around the fine arts, specifically graphic design and art history. My interest in the art world is what drew me to the National Academy this summer. I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to learn the ins and outs of a non-profit within the art industry. I was also attracted to the National Academy because of the opportunity to research and learn about such a wide array of American artists, expanding my knowledge of art history. Along with being a great summer experience, this internship also gives me the chance to get an idea of what I truly want to do after college. 

The Susanna Coffey: Crimes of the Gods at Steven Harvey Fine Arts Projects exhibition seems to combine two very different sets of work, one being a selection of woodcuts on rice paper from her artist’s book, The Homeric Hymn to Demeter and the other being a selection of self-portraits. The woodcuts are primarily black with cut, white lines and shapes, revealing illustrations of the Greek narrative, The Homeric Hymn to Demeter. While these works were inspired by myths, Coffey’s set of self-portraits seem to tell a different story.

Coffey created her woodcuts back in the 1980’s but when looking at them next to her self-portraits, she realized that her work had come full circle, she had “a tale and its teller.” Coffey’s exhibition aims to tell a story that isn’t completely hers, she wants her art to speak for the mother’s defending their daughters, for the innocents and the skeptics, for those crying out against the crimes of gender. Her exhibition is rooted in the notion that her art is intertwined with the lessons within The Homeric Hymn to Demeter.

The woodcuts illustrate the stories told in The Homeric Hymn to Demeter, stories that capture the “criminal behavior of patriarchs” according to Coffey. The woodcuts are intriguing to me because they have just enough detail to understand what the overarching theme of the art is, but not enough detail to take away the ability to make an interpretation of your own. The woodcuts are meant to tell the story of these myths and I think Coffey takes it one step further by creating this mythical feel to the woodcuts, a sense you get without yet knowing the story they tell.

I think you can tell Coffey’s interest in myth through her self-portraits as well. Although the two sets of art look different at first, the self-portraits also have a mystical nature to them. The part of the painting of Coffey’s face stands out and I think you can feel the emotions shown on her face. At the same time, in most of the portraits, I think it also makes you feel like you are in a dream state, with the portrait fading into a background of large brushstrokes, an array of colors, often forming an unrecognizable shape around Coffey’s head.

I felt like I could stand there for hours looking at her portraits, trying to understand how intricate her face could be at times and how, at others, it could lack so much detail, but either way you could feel the emotion on her face. I also found myself fixated on how her face blended so perfectly with the abstract background. The colors she chooses, along with her unique brushstrokes, set her self-portraits apart from most others I’ve seen.

I also think her self-portraits are interesting because she makes no attempt to follow the guidelines of what is usually associated with portraits of women. She feels no need to flatter her face or make herself out to fit under society’s understanding of what is beautiful. This makes sense because Coffey was inspired by the #MeToo movement and intended to join the “chorus of young women and ancient Greek voices” protesting crimes of gender.

Understanding Coffey’s thought process behind setting up this exhibition is essential to understanding why she put these two seemingly different works of art together.  I think it’s amazing how she was able to bring these pieces together and combine her artistic thoughts with her thoughts about the world.

Léa Miranda

Léa Miranda

Léa Miranda is a French student living in New York for the summer. She has an International Law degree from La Sorbonne University in Paris, France, and has attended classes of History of Art at the School of the Louvre Museum. In her desire to combine her different skills, Léa is now studying Management of Cultural Heritage as part of her MA. In this context, she is carrying out a research project focused on the circulation of artworks between France and the United States of America during the Cold War under the supervision of Sophie Cras, Assistant Professor of Art History at La Sorbonne University. Last year, she interned at the MAC VAL, a Museum Specializing in French Contemporary Art in Paris. She is currently a summer intern at the National Academy of Design in New York and a research assistant for Maura Reilly, curator, writer, and Executive Director of the NAD.

Donna Dennis: Ship and Dock/Nights and Days or The Gazer
May 31 – June 30, 2018 | Lesley Heller, New York City

Donna Dennis is an American artist, best known for her complex sculptural installations with sounds. Including one of her new installations and related gouache paintings on paper, this exhibition at the Lesley Heller Gallery opens a door to an immersive and poetic world —an expanded experience that disrupts our ideas of space and time.

The exhibition starts with the artist’s gouache on paper works representing water landscapes and focusing on the variation of the light and the moment of the day it is referring to. By showing us the recurring elements that she uses (boat, ship and dock, starry sky), these paintings offer a foretaste of the artist’s universe. Using black, grey, smoky blue and tints of white, Donna Dennis depicts a dreamy and smooth world which led to her introducing the “Ship and Dock/Nights and Days or The Gazer” (2018) installation.

Entering in a dark room, you are invited to sit on a bench against a wall drilled by small holes which recreate a starlit sky. This pattern is also used for the gouache paintings on paper seen at the entrance of the exhibition, making a marriage between the three-dimensional installation work and the two-dimensional paper works. The black curtains obstruct the light and isolate you from the outside, making it necessary for you to confront this mixed media assemblage. A video loop alternates days and nights by a slow and almost imperceptible evolution of light, in an immersive landscape background. The soundtrack is composed of sounds of water, boats and unknown noises which seem to come from the structure, in front of the video. By the dints created by shadows, we can guess that the framework is composed of a dock with two sheds. One of them, at the left of the installation, exudes an orangey-yellowish light –mysterious but not too intense, not to monopolize the attention of the viewer. The other shed, further from the viewer, is slightly elevated and facing left to create an impression of depth. The structure is actually made of wood, corrugated metal and rubber. Donna Dennis creates this installation in her studio in New York and recreates it for this exhibition at the Lesley Heller Gallery. By controlling the conditions under which the viewer experiences this installation, the artist invites you to contemplate the landscape and to lose notion of time. This procedure has already been used by Marcel Duchamp in “Étant donnés” (1946-1966), a small room with a locked wooden door where you can see through a peephole a landscape with a naked female figure. The video of this mixed media installation lasts 4.30 minutes, but the gallerist said it wasn’t rare that viewers stayed longer to enjoy a timeless moment, due to the immersive power of this overall installation.

Off the Wall on the Boundary of Painting + Sculpture
June 15 – July 27, 2018 | Locks Gallery, Philadelphia

By: Léa Miranda

Including works by artists who have mounted critical solo exhibitions like the Academicians Richard Artschwager, Jennifer Bartlett, Lynda Benglis, Robert Rauschenberg, Joel Shapiro, and Frank Stella, the Locks Gallery challenges our preconceived ideas about artwork to present a sophisticated and refreshing exhibition.

Some of the artists are best known for their paintings, other ones for their sculptures or for their installations, but the Gallery chooses to focus on the contemporary tendency that was seeded in the late 1950s but continues to the present, which has decided to drop the partition between painting and sculpture and to focus on the first nature of the objects: works of art.

The exhibition starts with a work from Joel Shapiro, who is well known for his sculptures and their position and proximity with the viewer. In his recent investigations of the expressive possibility of form and color in space, he suspends painted wooden elements from the ceiling, wall, and floor, exploring the projection of thought into space without the constraint of architecture. “Untitled” (1987-1988), a bronze with gold patina work hanging on the wall falls within the artist’s latest work.

Frank Stella on his part is using geometric patterns and shapes to create both paintings and sculptures. With “Anecdote from the Recent War” (1999) and “A Passage from the Higher Criticism” (1999), two mixed media on cast aluminum works, he wants to show the painting’s physical parameters rather than the illusion of space contained within it. To create these works, he used collages and maquettes that were then enlarged and recreated with the aid of assistants, industrial metal cutters, and digital technologies. The artist started to utilize this technique in the mid-1980s, when he created a large body of work that responded in a general way to Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.

Furthermore, “Contrapposto” (2017) by Lynda Benglis is a handmade paper over chicken wire painted with acrylic, which distorts traditional rectilinear painted planes as well as the sculptural tradition of casting as it extends out and away from its origin. This artwork was made in the context of “Post Minimalism,” a notion used for the first time by the art critic and historian Robert Pincus-Witten in 1971 to describe Eva Hesse works. While capturing the Minimalist heritage, the Post Minimalist artists depart from it by creating art objects that do not have the representational function of traditional sculpture, objects that are abstract, anonymous in appearance, and have a strong material presence. To a certain extent, they reacted against the earlier movement's impersonality, trying to invest sculpture once again with emotionally expressive qualities. 

Some people may ask “Is it a painting or sculpture?” Earlier in the century, Alberto Giacometti made fun of those distinctions by calling one of his paintings “Sculpture” (1927) and creating an ambiguity between the subject represented and the object. The important point here is the intention of the artists who are consistently interested in dissolving the preexisting distinctions used to classify works of art, and to go beyond them.

Jennifer Bartlett is an artist whose paintings, drawings and prints combine abstraction and representation. “I think of bringing the image out, pushing it down, bringing it out, pushing it down,” she said in an interview with Hillary M. Sheets from the New York Times on the occasion of her retrospective at the Parish Museum of Art in 2013. It is exactly what she did with “Fire / Three Cones” (1989), an oil on canvas representing a fire and three grey cones, that she takes out of the painting and duplicates in sculptures. Placed in the exact same position, the three sculptural cone elements seem to emerge directly from the painting and create an uncanny variation of layouts between the two-dimensional oil on canvas work and the three-dimensional cones, in a kind of augmented reality.

Robert Rauschenberg’s work is about establishing a dialogue between mediums, between handmade and readymade, between the gestural brushstroke and the mechanically reproduced image. In “Pegasits/ROCI USA (Wax Fire Works)” (1990), the artist introduces different unexpected elements between the art work and the viewer and outstrips the rigidity of the framework. By using acrylic and fire wax to reproduce images, wood patterns, bottles and texts from newspapers – elements that can be found in his landmark series of Combines (1954-1964) – he creates an impression of depth, due to the stainless steel used as a canvas. Moreover, he includes a chair arranged horizontally on the top of the work to break with the classical flattened frame. It is painted in the same silvery color as the printed image on the stainless steel, and it easily merges with the other mediums of the work to create a coherent and balanced set. The viewer is free to interact with the artwork by playing with his reflection on the untouched mirrored metal part of this Dada-inspired assemblage.

The thematic narrative of the exhibition continues through the notion of deformation that artists use to alter the viewers’ standards. This is what David Row has recourse to, to produce “Depth Grammar” (2017), an artwork made with three panels forming a hexagonal canvas, on which there is a yellowish-ochre cross on a black background. By pushing the boundaries of the traditional media distinctions and using irregularly shaped canvases and rich colors, the artist questions our a priori and celebrates the canvas in all ways.

Moreover Richard Artschwager is using the intersecting gallery walls to create a form within a right-angled corner to present his peculiar construction “Untitled (Splatter, Desk, Chair, Typewriter)” (1997). He causes a confusion by playing with shapes, materials and colors: on a wood panel base, the artist partly preserves the raw material, while partly covering it with formica and aluminum, and partly paints it to reproduce the wood pattern and create a trompe l’oeil, in a kind of postmodern use of the Greek and Roman technique from the Baroque period.

With Off the Wall, the Gallery takes a side, discusses and challenges our tendency to classify artists by the nature of their works. While continuing to explore this postmodern dissolution of usual media distinctions, the exhibition offers an idiosyncratic snapshot of a dissident contemporary movement, in agreement with the intention of the Locks Gallery to combine fresh perspectives of the 20th century in contemporary art.

Nathale Annete Nicoletti

Nathale Annete Nicoletti

Nathale Nicoletti is from Sorocaba, Brazil where she is in her second year studying Architecture and Urbanism at Universidade de Sorocaba (Uniso). Nathale received her International Baccalaureate from Rossall School in the United Kingdom. She also completed the Intro to Architecture program at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation in New York. Nathale’s interests in architecture and art history brought her to the National Academy of Design this summer. An avid traveler, Nathale has visited countries on five continents, always looking for inspiration and knowledge from around the world.

Sue Coe: Graphic Resistance
MoMA PS1 | Through September 9

"Graphic Resistance," is an exhibition by English artist and illustrator Sue Coe. Her works are mainly drawings and printmaking using the form of illustrated books and comics. The strong content of the whole exhibition creates a big impact on the audience. Her work shows art as a protest — political activism — where she highlights issues like sexism, racism, economic inequality, xenophobia but mainly animal cruelty. She has a focus on the right of marginalized peoples and criticizes capitalism.

You are able to find selections of drawings, prints, large-scale collages and some of her notes where we can try to understand how she felt about all of our past society and present. Her works are reminiscent of Francisco Goya and theModern Art Week” of 1922 in the way she shows the injustices and abuses of power of our society. 

Regarding the work Woman Walks into the bar – Is Raped by Four Men on the Pool Table – While 20 Watch, 1983, her first attempt of this mixed media picture was in a smaller scale that she published in a newspaper; the drawing was censored, focusing only on the woman, where we couldn’t see the violence of the men towards the woman. Because of that, she made this huge version so nobody would have any questions about it. There are a lot of details, where you can find phrases and a newspaper headline, allowing one to understand everything that is happening in the picture. All women could be that woman.

To make a bigger impact, the colors that she normally uses are dark tones, such as dark green, black, dark red and others. She is trying to call her audience to action — we have to change the way we live in this society — what will remain if we continue like this? When you get into the exhibition it is hard to not feel overwhelmed, bringing on feelings of disgust and sadness. 

Art is an important political tool, not only because it is a reflection of the current culture of its time, but also has the power to provide a range of representations of the various issues at hand, whether of the marginalized sectors of a society or of the population against the arbitrariness of the state that governs it. Seeing art as a materialization of culture, we can consider that, like culture, art has some widely debated functions, both as a mode of entertainment and as a reproduction of the traditions of a people.