Sunday, February 28, 2010

Armory Show

New York City is the place to be this week: the Armory Show takes place from March 4th to 7th.

The 1913 Armory Show, as it is now referred to, was a turning point in art history and Marcel Duchamp's "Nude Descending a Staircase" has become the catalyst of the exhibition.
The american public discovered "Modern Art" and the words used by some prominent citizens when viewing the art, are too embarrasing to repeat.

The "International Exhibition of Modern Art" was mounted by the "Association of American Painters and Sculptors". It brought in the same space realist american paintings and impressionist, fauvist, cubist paintings from Europe.
Some of the works like Cezanne's "Hill of the Poor" (bought by the Metropolitan Museum of Art) stayed in New York City.

NYC is the place to be this week ...on my way!

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Biloxi is still recovering from the disaster that struck in August 2005.

One of the landmark to be, the Ohr-O'Keefee Museum of Art was destroyed shortly before its completion.
Frank Gehry who was the architect, created a new design to rebuild the museum, and in the spirit of the hurricane's aftermath, included four "pods".
These "pods" will host the collection of potteries from George Ohr who called himself:"The Mad Potter of Biloxi".

I recently visited the work in progress and was not reassured to see the project located across the beach, again.
A glimpse at the site (it is not accessible to the public) revealed the elegant lines of the pods, reflecting the sun and glowing in the blue sky.
The stainless steel panels however appear weak and a few are already bent. This spoils the purity of the design which should be flawless to reach its full dimension.
The rest of the project is too far from completion to appreciate.

The museum is scheduled to reopen this year, in November?
Meanwhile, the collections of potteries have been travelling and displayed at several museums.
After all these tribulations, the mad potter deserves a new home.

PS: why pods? These transient storage units called pods were common site near the damaged houses after hurricane Katrina. They contained all the salvaged "treasures".

photographs by the author

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Local artist

Illustration for :"Puss in Boots."

Ocean Springs, Mississippi, is the home of a well known painter, at least in the South:

The artist was prolific and produced watercolors, oil paintings, sculptures, potteries. He also wrote books and illustrated a few.

The latest exhibit at the WAMA's (Walter Anderson Museum of Art) is particularly touching. Titled:" Lost Murals: the Art of Reading", it is a collection of mainly watercolors created to illustrate children's books. Most of these works were damaged by the flood in 2005 and were restored at the Mississippi State University.

Walter Anderson works are abundant.

Walter Anderson's life, his struggles are well known locally. His mental disease would isolate him and he would spend weeks alone on Horn Island where he would find material for his paintings. His representation of the local fauna and local flora is unique.

At each visit, I walk in the Community Center, decorated by murals on all walls. Over the years, the colors are fading. Restoration is in progress.

photographs by the author

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mardi Gras

Colours, Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

Meeting of Mardi Gras Indians in a neighborhood.

photographs by the author

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Paintings of Lascaux

Looking at the paintings from the grotto of Lascaux, two thoughts came to my mind:
-does art exist without a viewer?
-can man live without art?

These two questions do not have a final answer. These paintings from the Paleolithic age, 17000 years ago, bring material to the debate. They were physically in the grotto before their discovery in 1940 by two schoolboys but did not have an existence. Forgotten for so many centuries, they became alive again.
What would become of the paintings of an artist if not displayed? The viewer fills the piece of art with significance, discovers its "aura", the term is used by Steven E. Starowicz in his thesis titled "Art in Peril". What makes these paintings art and not artifacts? Were they created to be art, or is the viewer transforming them into art when looking at them?

The second question brings up the relevance of art in everyday life. I debated this subject many times with friends: "Art is a luxury, when people need food, they do not care about art."
My answer is that art is essential to life, and represents its legacy.

Picasso looking at the paintings openly wept and said that we had not invented anything.

The paintings viewed in the confinement of the caves must take their full dimension. Unfortunately, the visits are not allowed. The grotto is now closed to the public in order to preserve them.

A replica of the grotto called Lascaux II has been built near Montignac. It contains the reproductions of 200 paintings from the cave. There are also numerous videos on Utube.

The photographs are public domain.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


This is the title of the latest book I am reading. It is composed of a collection of texts all related to colour as the subject.
This book is part of the series on Documents of Contemporary Art and is edited by David Batchelor who writes a short introduction.

The cover is catchy but the book appears dull without photographs and a very dense typography. The selected essays are organized more or less by chronological order with a related bibliography at the end of each entry.

The editor characterizes the book as an "unruly assortment of 150 texts", starting with Baudelaire in 1946 and ending with a comment from Tacita Dean in 2007 .

This book is not to be read from cover to cover. I cannot quote a particular text or sentence. It is full of thought provoking comments from artists, philosophers, anthropologists, poets, musicians, architects...

At the end, this is a condensed collection of enlightening texts. Their messages take a different dimension as they are read and reread. This book, small at first glance, is pretty heavy on substance. I will keep it closeby, ready when I need good material for thoughts.

To stay on the subject, the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art hosts an exhibition related to colour titled "Colour in Art" from the 5th of January till the 13th of June. At first, I made plans to visit...till I realized: the museum is located in Denmark, far away from New Orleans where I live.

PS: the paintings belong to the Merzbacher collection

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Ray Donley

Among my peregrinations, I visited the Gallery Bienvenu and was able to view a show of the works from Ray Donley. It was the last days of the exhibit called :"Encounters in the Bone Garden".

Somber portraits, unframed, were lined up along the walls. The painter masters oil painting, using chiaroscuro to define the features of his models. He is getting his inspiration from the Great Masters from the XVIIth century, but created his own world with "los bien perdidos".

The expressions of his subjects are enigmatic and ambiguous. The absence of movement is noticeable in all the paintings, but frozen for eternity, they will be as relevant tomorrow as they were yesterday. They are provoking, disturbing, fascinating.
I tried to get some information related to the painter and found more of these portraits on his website. The future will tell us if he can move on or will stay in his world.

photographs copied from Ray Donley's website