Friday, 29 July 2016

Georgia O’Keeffe at Tate Modern - review

A major retrospective of the life and work of Georgia O'Keeffe is in progress at London’s Tate Modern, the largest ever exhibition of this artist outside the USA. This also marks the centenary of her first ever exhibition, when some of her charcoal drawings were exhibited by Alfred Stieglitz at his 291 gallery in New York.

Georgia O’Keefe poses outdoors in Mexico in 1960 with a canvas
 from her Pelvis Series Red with Yellow. Photograph: Tony Vaccaro/Getty Images
She is regarded as one of the USA’s greatest 20th century artists, but her work is hardly ever seen in the UK and no work by her is in any public collection here. This large exhibition includes her 1932 painting ‘Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1’, which became the most expensive painting by a woman artist ever sold at auction when Sotheby’s sold it for $44,405,000 on November 20, 2014. This painting is used on posters and banners for the exhibition.

Georgia O'Keeffe rejected the classification ‘woman artist’. Always aware of the disadvantages that she suffered as an artist, she nonetheless said,
O'Keeffe, 'Line and Curve' 1926

Men put me down as the best woman painter…      
…I think I’m one of the best painters.”

She was right as this exhibition shows. There are vertical, dark and glowing skyscrapers of New York; beautifully simple, hard edged almost white abstractions of the mid 1920's; gloriously vivid red oriental poppies from the late 20's; mysterious abstracted trees painted at Lake George; there are red hills, flowers in more tones of blue and pink than you can imagine; there are white skulls and adobe farms and above all there are her interpretations of her beloved New Mexico landscape. 

Not all is in vivid colour. Her early, monochrome charcoal drawings are a revelation. In 1915 she had set herself a target of working only in charcoal until the medium could no longer match her aspirations. These drawings took her a long way. Georgia O’Keefe is best known for her dramatic paintings of flowers, skulls and landscapes, but the chronology here shows how very early in her career she was already deeply into abstraction, the earliest drawings from 1915 are pure, simplified abstraction. Hers are not the intellectualized abstractions of artists such as Mondrian or I. Rice Pereira, O'Keefe's abstrctions come from feelings and internalized explorations of where a line or form can be driven, how far a landscape can be reduced to its vital sensations.

These early drawings were the ones shown by Alfred Stieglitz in April 1916. Photographer and gallerist Stieglitz, who became her husband, recognised her unique vision immediately. He was a singular influence on her life though he did not tell her what, or how, to paint. She lived more in New Mexico during their unusual marriage, while he remained in New York, exhibiting her work until his death in 1946.

The Tate exhibition shows some work by Stieglitz and other artists in relation to O’Keefe’s story, though in most of the rooms O’Keefe’s work is predominant. Including these other artists helps show the context in which O’Keefe was working. The exhibition also helps to dispel some of the mythology about the sexual nature of her work.


This is an important and splendid exhibition of an important and interesting artist. It’s on at Tate Modern, London until October 2016, then tours to Vienna and Toronto.  Don't miss it.

**
links:-
http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/georgia-okeeffe
https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/jul/04/georgia-o-keeffe-review-tate-modern-retrospective
http://www.thecityreview.com/okeeffe.html

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Haiku in July

Slow worm by John S Gilbert

While earth is brown, sandy            
a knowing slow-worm slips

beneath the white stones.

A monthly Haiku ....?

I'm doing so little creative writing these days, I'm not happy about it, I am very aware of it. I regret it every single day. I'm afraid my imagination may have disintegrated, permanently.

One thing I might be able to manage is the odd (?) short poem.

Afraid of setting myself any targets, I've come up with the idea... not a target... that I might be able to gather thoughts clear enough to create haiku, just one or two to illustrate a moment in the month. I did one for June before I realised even the idea...

So - a monthly haiku? If I can't do this, I'm no longer worthy of considering myself a writer.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Gretchen Corazzo in New Bauhaus Exhibition

I don't post about every new exhibition on one of the 31 Women, though I probably should. However if I find out in time I do try to write mention exhibitions of the less well known of them.
Gretchen Schoeninger Corazzo, who sadly died early this year at the age of 102, will feature alongside her husband Alexander Corazzo and two others, in an exhibition in Chicago in December this year:-

CUBISM COLLAGE CYBERGRAMS CONCRETE


4 Artists from Moholy-Nagy’s School



Alexander Corazzo 1908-1971▪ New Bauhaus 1937-1938


Gretchen Schoeninger Corazzo 1913-2016 ▪ New Bauhaus 1937-1938


Robert Nickle 1919-1980 ▪ Institute of Design 1944, 1946-1949


Tadao Takano 1926-2010 ▪ Institute of Design 1947-1951
 


December 9, 1016 – January 22, 2017
 


Hosted by the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art, 2320 W. Chicago Avenue, Chicago, Illinois


Organized by the Bauhaus Chicago Foundation, Curated by T. Paul Young



I will post more about this later...







Friday, 24 June 2016

Haiku in June

Tree bumblebee on forget-me-not flowers, by Susan Gilbert


Furry, brown bumblers

love the last forget-me-nots.
    
What should I plant next? 

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Tenants are People (well my tenants are) - part 1

I’m a landlord. Unpopular pastime, presumed to be for the filthy rich who abuse their poor, hard-pressed tenants and cheat the tax system. But I don't have vast estates and massive blocks of flats to let via cruel, grasping agents. I let out six rooms in my own house. I do it partly because I’m not that young and don’t have an index linked pension, partly because the house is in a wonderful location, the best in the town, overlooking the park. I rent out rooms so I can actually afford to live here. I manage my bedsits myself, I don’t use letting agents and as I have a flat in the same house I do like to meet and vet prospective tenants. Then I have some idea who they are, because they aren’t just my tenants, they are all individual people and over the years I’ve been letting rooms, some have become my friends.


The house itself is slightly peculiar; a tall Victorian semi, it has four floors including the large, and largely uninhabitable, basement. When I first arrived there were ten numbered rooms which had been let previously. Four of them, 1, 1A, 2 and 3 were all on the ground floor. Number 3 was actually the kitchen, the poor tenant who’d lived in it before had her bed in the cupboard under the stairs. I took all these four rooms, plus the old fashioned bathroom with its 1930’s eau-de-nil suite and tiles and turned them into my single ground floor flat. The remaining six rooms were all upstairs.

I began by trying to rent out three rooms on the first floor. There was number 4, which had its own very old fashioned little kitchen with a miniature gas cooker, plywood shelving and a ramshackle glass screen between it and the rest of the room. Its only redeeming feature was the lovely bay window with nearly new curtains. Flat 5 deserved the title ‘Flat’ as had its own 1950's melamine faced kitchen in a separate room, though this was accessed only from the communal landing. Flat 5 also had a huge bay window with a spectacular view across the park, it had period features including high skirting boards, moulded cornices and a ceiling rose. The downside was the grotty carpet and cracked ceiling. Room 7 at the back of the house had a small galley kitchen and was north facing. I thought it the least desirable, but theoretically lettable. Room 6 was carpet-less and had a hole in the chimney breast where a gas fire had been ripped out, so was deemed un-lettable for the time being. And so I put an advert in the local paper, and I waited.

Fred turned up and became the first to move into the house, even before me. I was still sorting my possessions before my move. Of all the rooms, he took a fancy to the least obvious – room 9, a top floor attic room with an ancient Baby Belling cooker, a tiny window and no heating. This was before I had begun to modernise the house. The room had low beams and a sloping ceiling over the living area, only the kitchen space was full height. Fred had floppy brown hair and was six foot two, at least. But he wanted the room with 3 beams to hit his head on, he liked the character!  I agreed to him having that room, even though it wasn’t intended to be ready to rent, as he had his own furniture while I didn’t have much at the time, just a few family left-overs. He also had references and a deposit.

Fred was a chef in his early thirties. Not your two Michelin starred type chef, he was the hard-working, run-of-the-mill chef who works in popular run-of-the-mill restaurants where the menu choice is slightly too large for it all to be fresh, but not so large that everything’s out of the freezer. When he was working he was probably efficient. When he wasn’t working, the whole of the top floor was a haze of aromatic smoke. Mostly he was working, his rent was seldom late and then only by a few days. He lived happily in the attic with a tank full of tropical fish and a mattress bed on the floor. He moved out after 12 months to go to a live-in job; for a chef, the kitchen he left behind was pretty dirty. He was a friendly, affable guy; I gave him a decent reference and I hope he did well.

to be continued...

BBC's Hollow Crown; Wars of the Roses; Richard III

Just watched BBC's Richard III with Benedict Cumberbatch. Not impressed with the overall production, it lacked any subtlety. I know it's not Old Will's most subtle play, but the character of Richard is capable of huge interpretation which Cumberbatch didn't bother with. He played the character as just a crazed grotesque. I've seen several far better portrayals on stage, including by Anton Lesser and Robert Lindsay in 1998; also Ian McKellan's film of Richard III set as if in World War One. I don't include Laurence Olivier's 1955 film which I also dislike. 


The play was part of the 'Wars of the Roses,' the culmination of 'The Hollow Crown' series with 4 plays, effectively crammed into 3 so something was bound to be lost in transition. I saw the first and last, it began with Richard II, one of Shakespeare's least known plays so that was interesting, even if I got a bit lost in the convolutions and samey characters - the latter problem is one which the later Richard III play also suffers from. 

At least with this latest BBC production the importance of three of the four women's roles in the play were spectacularly upheld with powerful performances from Sophie Okonedo as the long-lived and much wronged Queen Margaret and dignified fury from Judi Dench as the Duchess of York and Richard's despairing mother. Keeley Hawes as Elizabeth Woodville (the mother of the little princes in the tower) held the threads of the plot together. Phoebe Fox played Anne, Richard's traumatised wife and wasn't really given enough to do, but then Shakespeare often failed to give his female characters much to work with. 

Of course the plays have little to do with the real events and characters in history, which is always written by the victors. Richard III, with only a 3 year reign, was less successful a monarch than his predecessor Richard II who was monarch for 33 years, and both were destroyed by their enemies. There has been no King Richard in Britain since.