Picasso’s Picassos

Pablo Picasso Marie-Thérèse, face et profil, 1931 Oil and charcoal on canvas

Pablo Picasso
Marie-Thérèse, face et profil, 1931
Oil and charcoal on canvas

These aren’t my favorites, but the paintings in Picasso’s Picassos offer a unique glimpse into Picasso’s personal life. On view at the Gagosian Gallery on the Upper Eastside, the exhibit features works from the collection of Maya Ruiz-Picasso,and organized by Diana Widmaier Picasso.

Pablo Picasso Maya à la poupée et au cheval, 1938 Oil on canvas

Pablo Picasso
Maya à la poupée et au cheval, 1938
Oil on canvas

Maya Ruiz-Picasso is the daughter of Pablo Picasso and Marie-Thérèse Walter. Her personal collection is the part of the legacy Picasso left when he died in 1973. The work on view at the gallery is drawn from the period between 1931 and 1971, and includes several portraits of Marie-Thérèse Walter and a well-known portrait of Maya as a child.

The exhibition was initially going to close at the end of January but has been extended to February 18th.

Marisa Merz, Living Sculpture, 1966 Strips of aluminum

Marisa Merz, Living Sculpture, 1966
Strips of aluminum

If you go, be sure to also visit Marisa Merz: The Sky is a Great Space on view at the Met Breuer, across the street. The exhibition is the first major retrospective in the United States of works by this Italian painter, sculptor, and installation artist, the sole female protagonist of the Arte Povera movement.

The Power of Charcoal at The Drawing Center

Olga Chernysheva,

Olga Chernysheva, charcoal on paper, 2015

The Drawing Center, located on Wooster Street in SOHO, is a great place to see art. Though it’s mainly a two-room gallery, the space is large and the works on view are very accessible. Cecily Brown: Rehearsal is the main exhibit and is the artist’s first solo museum show in New York, and the first exhibition dedicated to her drawings. The large, colorful acrylic and watercolor works are engaging and imaginative. But it was the smaller exhibit, in the back room of the gallery, that really captured my attention.

Olga Chernysheva, Untitled (Forbidden),Charcoal and collage on paper (2016)

Olga Chernysheva, Untitled (Forbidden),Charcoal and collage on paper (2016)

The exhibit, Olga Chernysheva: Vague Accent is a series of drawings the Moscow-based artist made during a month-long visit to New York in November 2015. Each drawing is done in charcoal and captures an everyday scene Chernysheva observed while she was on her visit. The simple lines convey so much. Yet each feel as if the artist just took out her sketch pad as she was roaming through the city or looking out her window. The artist described her drawings as works that “show things that are already visible…things not asking to be looked at.”

Olga Chernysheva

Olga Chernysheva

Just one contained a hint of color which was quite impactful and made you feel like you wanted to see more of those hints in other drawings.

Both exhibits are only on view through December 18th.

Take Me (I’m Yours) at the Jewish Museum

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Chances are, if you’re heading to the Jewish Museum in the next few months it’s to see John Singer Sargent’s Mrs. Carl Meyer and Her ChildrenThis is a wonderful exhibit but another really great reason to visit the Jewish Museum before February 5th is Take Me (I’m Yours)

Plastic bags offered to visitors at the Jewish Museum

Plastic bags offered to visitors at the Jewish Museum

Most of the time, when you visit a museum, you look, observe, but never touch or take-away something. Take Me (I’m Yours) offers a different approach. At this exhibit, visitors are encouraged to take, touch, and transform the art they see. Forty-two international and inter-generational artists, are represented here, many of whom created new and site-specific works for the exhibition. This presentation builds upon an exhibition of the same name that took place in 1995 at the Serpentine Gallery in London. Conceived by the curator Hans Ulrich Obrist and the artist Christian Boltanski, it included works by twelve artists, several of whom are participating again here, according to the Jewish Museum.


Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Untitleed (USA Today), red, silver and blue cellophane wrapped candies

One artist who perfectly exemplifies the message of this exhibit is Felix Gonzalez-Torres. You may have seen his work at the recently closed Unfinished exhibit at the Met Breuer. “Untitled” (USA Today) is comprised of candies individually wrapped in red, silver, and blue cellophane. Viewers are invited to take a piece of candy. Gonzalez-Torres, who lost his partner to AIDS, created this installation, and similar ones with other objects, to symbolize the fragility of life.

With most of the exhibits in the show, the visitor is encouraged to take something, rather than create. Watchword (2012), by Rivane Neuenschwander, invites visitors to take a tag, either to safety-pin onto their own clothing or to pin to a felt-covered board. In both cases the words  — borrowed from the language of protest: take, back, justice — form a poetic, global map of resistance.

Take-away items from Take Me (I'm Yours), Jewish Museum

Take-away items from Take Me (I’m Yours), Jewish Museum

Take Me (I’m Yours) is engaging, fun and thought-provoking. What’s not completely clear, is why this exhibit is at the Jewish Museum.  The museum explains it as follows: “Sharing pervades Jewish life, beginning in the home and extending out to the community. Here the exhibition is the home, and the works are what we share with you, our visitors.” A bit of a stretch but don’t let that stop you from experiencing it.

Alma Thomas: Studio Museum of Harlem

Alma Thomas, Wind, Sunshine, and Flowers (1968), acrylic on canvas, (71 3/4 x 51 7/8 in.)

Alma Thomas, Wind, Sunshine, and Flowers (1968), acrylic on canvas, (71 3/4 x 51 7/8 in.)

As you walk into the main gallery space at the Studio Museum of Harlem you are immediately struck by the large color paintings in the middle of the gallery. Although this isn’t the beginning of the Alma Thomas exhibit, it’s the most impactful work in the show.

Alma Thomas

Alma Thomas

Thomas (1891-1978), began her artistic career after retiring as a school teacher at the age of 69. Not only was her age remarkable, but she succeeded as an African-American woman within Washington D.C.’s largely white and male artistic community. What’s so engaging about the large, mostly acrylic paintings, are both her color choices and the negative spaces between the shapes.

Alma Thomas March on Washington, 1964 Acrylic on canvas, 31 × 39 in.

Alma Thomas
March on Washington, 1964
Acrylic on canvas, 31 × 39 in.

The exhibition features works from every period in her career, including rarely exhibited watercolors and early abstractions, as well as her signature canvases drawn from a variety of private and public collections. The exhibit is on view through October 30th. The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday (when it is free).

Martin Puryear In Madison Square Park

Martin Puryear, Big Bling, 2016. Pressure-treated laminated timbers, plywood, fiberglass, and gold leaf, 40 x 10 x 38 ft.

Martin Puryear, Big Bling, 2016. Pressure-treated laminated timbers, plywood, fiberglass, and gold leaf, 40 x 10 x 38 ft.

I first came to know the American sculptor, Martin Puryear, through his exhibit at the Morgan Library and Museum. The show focused on Puryear’s drawings and his preparatory work for his large scale projects. There were also some of his sculptures — all sleek with clean lines and simple shapes that had powerful impact. But until my visit to Madison Square Park, I’ve never seen one of his massive pieces, like Bearing Witness which stands in front of the Ronald Reagan Building in DC.

Martin Puryear, Bearing Witness, 1997, Bronze

Martin Puryear, Bearing Witness, 1997, Bronze

Big Bling is more whimsical than Bearing Witness. It stands forty feet high and is a multi-tier wood structure wrapped in fine chain-link fence. A gold-leafed shackle is anchored near the top of the structure.

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It’s standing in the middle of Madison Square Park and will be on view through January 8, 2017.  You can’t get too close to it as there is a protective barrier around the perimeter. But one can view it from a variety of angles by walking around the Park; both on the greens and around the outside.

Martin Puryear. Untitled, 2009

Martin Puryear. Untitled, 2009

The shape is reminiscent of earlier Puryear works which bring to mind an elephant.  And while the size here can feel overwhelming, Big Bling is also joyful and brought a smile to my face.

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If you go to see it, I’d recommend entering the park from the west side; and go while the park is still green!

“Visual Storage” at the Met

When I first became a Visitor Services volunteer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art I was taken on a tour of the museum. It was the beginning of my training to learn about the museum so I could help visitors find their way around. The day was mostly a blur, but the one place I never forgot, and return to over and over again, is the Henry R. Luce Center for the Study of American Art. Commonly known as the Visual Storage area, these rows upon rows of objects represent American fine art and decorative art objects that are not currently on view in the Museum galleries and period rooms.

Hennry R. Luce Center, Met Museum

Hennry R. Luce Center, Met Museum

Objects are arranged by material (oil paintings, sculpture, furniture and woodwork, glass, ceramics, and metalwork) and within these categories are organized by form and chronology. Not only are the individual objects beautiful to look at but the spectacle of the volume of objects is beautiful too.

Henry R. Luce Center, Met Museum

Henry R. Luce Center, Met Museum

The Luce Center is located on the mezzanine level of the American Wing. Very few people find their way there so it’s very quiet and I find it very peaceful. There are computer displays at the end of each row so you can look up any of the objects you see. This is necessary because the objects don’t have the usual information cards next to them.

Next time you are at the Met, be sure to investigate the The Luce Center.

Eva Hesse



She died at age 34. Yet during her short lifetime Eva Hesse made a lasting impact on the art world. I had little familiarity with Hesse, having seen but one sculpture at MoMA.


I learned about this fascinating woman, and her work, from the documentary Eva Hess R Film By Marcie Begleiter.

Sent by their parents on a Kindertransport, Hesse, aged two, and her older sister Helen, left their native Germany during the rise of Nazism. They were later joined by their parents, eventually settling in New York. Hesse was schooled in American abstract painting and commercial design practices. She originally pursued a career in commercial textile design, but eventually her practice as an expressionist painter led her to increasingly experiment with industrial and every-day, or “found” materials, such as rope, string, wire, rubber, and fiberglass. While she’s best known for her sculptures, Hesse also painted and created “combos.” Some of her artwork can be seen now at the Met Breuer, MoMA, the Drawing Center and the Jewish Museum.

The movie is playing at the Film Forum through May 10th and it’s really worth seeing.

Isa Genzken: Two Orchids Towering Over Central Park

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Just as spring is trying to push its way forward, the Public Art Fund brings something new to the corner of Central Park at 60th and Fifth Avenue. Last year it was Tatiana Trouve’s “Desire Lines.” This year Two Orchids, by German artist Isa Genzken, adorn the entrance to the park. The slim and delicate looking “flowers” are 28 and 34 feet tall. They are best admired from across the street. Though orchids used to be considered a rare and exotic flower, today they can be purchased in your local supermarket. According to the Public Art Fund, “Two Orchids stands as an idealized, colossal version of the familiar plant: a civic monument to the perfect orchid, now the chosen ornament of contemporary culture.”

Two Orchids will be up until August 21st. But go sooner if you’d like a touch of spring before the weather catches up.

Bringing Community Art to the Subways

mosaic 3

Waiting for the subway to come can be a dreary experience. So it was a pleasant surprise to find a series of colorful ceramic street scenes lining the walls of the 86th Street Number One train station. Though I’ve been at this station before, I’ve never noticed the art work, and they’ve graced the subway walls since 1989!

The mosaics are a result of a collaboration between muralist and public artist Nitza Tufiño, and 17 young people, most of whom were part of Grosvenor Neighborhood House’s school equivalency and educational program. Carrying 35-millimeter cameras, the team went into area streets to photograph important historic sites and interviewed members of the community.

mosaic 2

A New York Times article, written on the 20th anniversary of the installation, described how the photographs became the ceramic squares. The negatives of the best scenes were made into slides, and the images projected onto a wall, where they were traced onto paper. These drawings were transferred in reverse onto 23-by-30-inch linoleum sheets that were then stamped onto large sheets of clay. The large clay images were cut into pieces small enough to fit into kilns and fired, then painted with colored glaze, put back together like puzzle pieces, then finally mounted onto large frames. They ultimately created 40 ceramic tiles based on their work.  All can be seen on the uptown and downtown sides of the station.

mosaic 1

Art work, like the mosaics in the 86th Street station, appear all over the subway system. As the MTA rehabilitates subway and commuter rail stations through its Capital Program, it uses a portion of the funds to commission permanent works of art. MTA Arts and Design taps into both well-established and emerging artists to  create works using the materials of the transit system — mosaic, ceramic tile, bronze, steel and glass. For the soon-to-be-open Second Avenue subway line, the MTA has commissioned well-known artists to create distinctive subway art, including Chuck Close and Vik Muniz.

So as you travel underground, look around; you may find art to brighten up your trip.


Surprised By Stephen Powers at the Brooklyn Museum

Whenever I visit The Brooklyn Museum — and it’s not often enough — I’m always reminded that it’s a great place to see art. Located on Eastern Parkway, it is 20 minutes from midtown Manhattan and offers a comprehensive permanent collection that includes ancient Egyptian masterpieces, African art, European painting, and contemporary art. The museum’s special exhibitions also make it an important destination for local and international visitors.

From This Place - Wendy Ewald, At Home, photograph by Amal, Negev Desert 2012

From This Place – Wendy Ewald, At Home, photograph by Amal, Negev Desert 2012

What brought me there recently were two well-publicized exhibits. This Place, (on view through June 5) is an exploration of Israel and the West Bank through the eyes of twelve internationally acclaimed photographers.  I particularly liked Wendy Ewald’s contribution. Ewald gave cameras to 14 groups of diverse people and asked them to capture their lives through their photographs.

From Coney Island - Swoon, Early Evening, Linoleum print on mylar (2005)

From Coney Island – Swoon, Early Evening, Linoleum print on mylar (2005)

The second exhibit I came to see was Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861–2008  (on view through March 13). The exhibit uses Coney Island as a vehicle for examining shifts in artistic styles and national moods through approximately 140 objects. There are photographs, paintings, carousel horses, postcards and film clips, among other representations. My favorite was a three-dimensional installation by Swoon. There are 18 pieces made from linoleum print on mylar and mixed media. The piece makes you feel like you are with the people she has brought to life.


Stephen Powers creating new "sign art" at the Brooklyn Museum

Stephen Powers creating new “sign art” at the Brooklyn Museum

While those exhibits were interesting and comprehensive, I was more surprised and delighted by Stephen Powers: Coney Island Is Still Dreamland (To a Seagull).  Presented in conjunction with Coney Island, Power’s  site-specific installation pays homage to the birth of new public art in Coney Island, and the  unique  “Coney Island style of painting.” In a video shown at the exhibition, Powers describes his fascination with the craft of sign-making.  In his work, he uses logotypes that have a superficially commercial look, combining them with his own text to create messages that have more emotional meaning.

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For this exhibit, Powers has partnered with other artists and sign makers to create the installation on view. He calls it “ICY SIGNS,” a traveling sign shop he first conceived in Coney Island in 2003. It’s visually engaging and lots of fun to read through. But what made the exhibit really special was the artist himself creating new “signs” while we visitors watched. Not only was it interesting to watch his steady hand paint out his messages but he was open to questions and readily engaged in conversation. Powers is there several days a week painting along with one or two other artists. The exhibit is on view until March 13.