May 21, 2003 |
Up the stairs, turning left, right, left, the map of the labyrinthine Philadelphia Museum of Art leads you into a darkened room. Projected on the wall is a profusion of images - some snatched from Bette Davis movies, others from documentaries - while musicians are playing a free-form mixture of jazz, blues, parlor songs and Sousa marches. Around the room are glass cases full of Liberty Bell kitsch - paperweights, chocolates - while the film examines the bell's crack like a doctor preparing for surgery.
April 28, 2000 |
Black and gray never seemed so entrancing as they do in Michael Olszewski's new fabric constructions at Schmidt/Dean Gallery. They may be the colors of melancholy and death, but in his hands they become beguiling and sensuous. Some pieces do feel elegiac, but in a style that's so elegant, restrained and tasteful that it precludes sentimentality or mawkishness. Olszewski's fabric collages are enhanced with various kinds of marks applied with stitching. Particularly with the grays, he orchestrates an impressive variety of moods and effects.
April 9, 2000 |
If there are any Marcel Duchamp fans among delegates to this summer's Republican National Convention here, they're going to be disappointed. The Philadelphia Museum of Art's 20th-century wing, including its preeminent collection of Duchamp's art, closed down quietly several weeks ago, and will remain closed through October. The galleries devoted to Duchamp and sculptor Constantin Brancusi are the highlights of the 20th-century wing, which is undergoing renovation and upgrading of its electrical, lighting and climate-control systems.
October 23, 1997 |
Yes, it's shocking, disturbing, even infuriating, but is it art? An exhibition across the Atlantic has reignited the infamous fight over the line between art and its commoner cousin, sensationalism. A Royal Academy of Arts show in London titled, candidly enough, "Sensation," includes a huge portrait of a convicted child killer made from children's tiny handprints and a glass box containing a rotting cow's head complete with live flies and maggots. Indeed, the only overarching theme binding the works seems to be shock value.
June 29, 1997 |
Steve Everitt's eyes widen. He is surrounded by the Art Museum's definitive Marcel Duchamp collection. To get here, Everitt has walked past paintings by Van Gogh and Renoir, Pollock and Chagall. He has stopped along the way, quietly admiring some canvases, squinting dubiously at others, just like any young artist with a head full of opinions. But it is here that Everitt's voice rises in excitement for the first time, here among the "readymades" and Nude Descending a Staircase and the Large Glass that he lets out a soft whistle.
December 15, 1996 |
To know the art, it helps to know the artists. That's easy to do this holiday season, thanks to a group of new biographies about several key figures in Western art history. The parade begins with The Painter of Modern Life (Random House, $55), the second installment in John Richardson's magisterial multi-volume A Life of Picasso. The first book, published five years ago, indicated that Richardson's effort would be something special, and not just because of its length. It was thoroughly researched, beautifully balanced in its assessments and delightfully readable.
June 7, 1995 |
Richard Torchia's last curatorial effort for Moore College of Art and Design is an exhibition that is long overdue in Philadelphia - a retrospective for city native William Anastasi, a prominent figure in the conceptual art movement of the 1960s. Torchia, curator of Moore's Levy Gallery for eight years, resigned several weeks ago to pursue his own art. He leaves with a flourish; the Anastasi show, which occupies all of the college's gallery spaces, is one of the most significant chapters of his curatorial career.
February 13, 1994 |
Great museum collections often have their roots in great personal collections assembled by individuals of exceptional taste and discernment. For example, two major bequests in the early 1950s gave the Philadelphia Museum of Art a strong position in early modern art. One is the Louise and Walter Arensberg collection. The Arensbergs were not only pioneering collectors of artists such as Constantin Brancusi and Marcel Duchamp, they presided over a cultural salon in their Manhattan apartment that included writers and musicians as well as artists.
November 14, 1993 |
If Sherrie Levine were a writer, her creative method might be regarded as chutzpah-enriched plagiarism. But Levine is a visual artist, and the visual arts have always been much more permissive about borrowing. For the most part, Levine's art is not only derived from that of other artists, it is their work. She has never pretended otherwise. She has always acknowledged her sources, which include U.S. photographer Walker Evans, Russian painter Kasimir Malevich and French Dada master Marcel Duchamp.
September 28, 1992 |
"The mystery . . . ," the actors chant during David Gordon's dance-play with music. "The mystery . . . " The mystery, of course, is life and art, and Gordon has fashioned his choreographed study of those essentials by contrasting a biography of dada artist Marcel Duchamp with the lives of Sam and Rose, ordinary people now grown old and confronting the greatest mystery of all. Just when Gordon's The Mysteries and What's So Funny? seems bent on grilling the elegant, offhand Duchamp about art, the work pulls the curtain back from another of life's truths.