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.

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).

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

Art From Scandinavia


Situated among the office buildings and hotels on Park Avenue is the Scandinavia House, the leading center for Nordic culture in the United States. It’s the home of the American-Scandinavian Foundation with a gift shop and a restaurant serving foods from the region. But more interestingly, it’s one of the few places in New York City to see art from Scandinavia.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

On view now through February 27 is Painting Tranquility: Masterworks by Vilhelm Hammershøi from SMK – The National Gallery of Denmark.  Hammershøi  was a Danish painter who lived from 1864-1916. His work focused on four main areas —landscapes, unpopulated urban cityscapes, portraits, and spare, sunlight-infused interiors. Some of the portraits are reminiscent of John Singer Sargent. Others evoke the landscapes of the impressionists. The gallery is small and intimate so you can really focus on the paintings.


Master Drawings New York Week


If you are a fan of drawings — as a viewer or a collector — then you can’t miss The tenth annual MASTER DRAWINGS NEW YORK show which will take place January 23 through January 30 at 30 leading art galleries on the Upper East Side.

The concept for the event originated in 2006 as a way to draw upon and reinforce the presence of collectors and museum officials during the January art-buying events, like the “Old Master” auctions and The Winter Antiques Show. But now MASTER DRAWINGS NEW YORK has become an important event in its own right, attracting  influential dealers from around the world.

Exhibitors at galleries from East 63rd-East 86th Streets will showcase important pencil, pen and ink, chalk and charcoal drawings, as well as oil on paper sketches and watercolors by artists from the 16th to 21st centuries.  Each exhibition is hosted by an expert specialist and many works on offer are newly discovered or have not been seen on the market in decades, if at all, according to the event catalog.

New exhibitors this year include:

Allan Stone Projects — with an exhibition entitled “Process and Presence: Mastery in Drawing” and includes figurative, landscape, still life and abstract works by prominent artists such as Arshile Gorky, Willem de Kooning, Wayne Thiebaud, Franz Kline, and Gaston Lachaise.

Kraushaar Galleries — featuring works by Marsden Hartley as well as Dorothy Dehner, among several important American artists.

Découvert Fine Art gallery of Rockport, MA — with an exhibition entitled “The Feminine Observed, 16th to 20th century, and New Acquisitions.”

Westbeth Annual 2015

show poster

The Westbeth Annual 2015 is a curated exhibition featuring 62 emerging and established artists who make the Westbeth Artists’ Housing  their home. The complex of 13 buildings, formerly the site of Bell Laboratories, was conceived in the 1960’s as a partial solution to the acute need to provide affordable housing and studios for artists and their families. It became one of the first examples  of industrial buildings being reused for artistic and residential purposes.

Westbeth Building on the corner of Bethune Street

Westbeth Building on the corner of Bethune Street

In addition to its residential component, Westbeth also contains large and small commercial spaces, performance and rehearsal spaces and artists studios both individual and communal, such as the Westbeth Sculptors’ Studio and the Westbeth Graphics Studio.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The 2015 Westbeth Annual features an eclectic group of art from paintings and drawings to photography and sculpture. It’s an opportunity to see work from both well-known artists and those who are still trying to make a name for themselves. Many of the pieces are for sale.  Westbeth is not too far from the Whitney Museum and the neighborhood is charming. The exhibit is on view until January 2nd and the gallery is open Wednesday – Sunday from 1pm – 6pm. It’s closed Christmas weekend and New Years Day.

Ofri Cnaani: Wrong Tools

front window

It’s hard to categorize Wrong Tools, the  Ofri Cnanni show at the Andrea Meislin Gallery. The exhibit includes a participatory performance piece as well as a series of cyanotypes —  a photographic printing process that produces a cyan-blue print.


My "reading"

My “reading”

The Cnnani performance is like a spiritual “reading.” It “expands on the idea of visuality, visibility and vulnerability in the image-saturated digital culture, highlighting fundamental paradoxes of the media era,” according to the exhibition notes.

For my reading, I selected two items from a collection of objects in Cnnani’s window “office.” Then I chose a Tarot card – mine read “unlimited,” and contributed a personal item — a red pen. Cnanni added other objects and composed my “reading.” You could watch her on a large screen projected in the gallery and outside. A photo copy was printed and signed, providing a very personal involvement with the artist and her art.

Ofri Cnaani Blue Print (OC real and fake hands) #1, 2015 Cyanotype

Ofri Cnaani
Blue Print (OC real and fake hands) #1, 2015

Also on view at the gallery are a series of cyanotypes Cnnani created using real and fake hands, as well as other objects. This form of “photography” is typically used by engineers as a simple and low-cost process to produce blueprints. In Cnani’s hands, the photos created are reminiscent of Matisse’s blue cut-outs

The title of the show — Wrong Tools — underscores Cnaani’s working methods. She deliberately misuses technologies, and chooses low-tech, imprecise techniques to create distinct visual stories.

Cnnani, an Israeli born artist and educator, has had solo exhibitions and performances around the world including:  The Metropolitan Museum of Art, PS1/MoMA, The Fisher Museum of Art in L.A., and the Haifa Museum of Art in Israel. Wrong Tools will be on view through October 24.


Jacob Lawrence: A Visual Story Teller

There are many reasons to visit the new Whitney Museum including enjoying the art in the spacious and inviting galleries; the Renzo Piano architecture; and the views from the 7th and 8th floor terraces.  But what I was not expecting was to see Jacob Lawrence’s War Series.  Lawrence (1917-2000) was an Africa-American painter known for his depiction of African-American life. He’s best known for his narrative collections that he painted in story format using blacks and browns juxtaposed with vivid colors.

Lawrence served in the United States Coast Guard during World War II.  The fourteen panel War Series describes his first-hand  “sense of regimentation, community, and displacement” that he experienced during his service.  The “story” alternates between vertical and horizontal formats, literal and abstract depictions; and individuals and groups. The series supports Lawrence’s belief that one cannot “tell a story in a single painting.”

I’m not sure I would have examined these as closely had I not experienced Lawrence’s equally compelling Migration Series on view at  the MoMA. Created in 1941, The Migration Series tells the story of the Great Migration, the multi-decade mass movement of African Americans from the rural South to the urban North that started around 1915. The series is comprised of 60 small tempera paintings with text captions that read like a children’s story book. The color palettes in the two series are very similar, but the text in the Migration Series is much more evocative. It’s the first time all 60 panels have been shown together.

The Migration Series is only on view until September 7th while The War Series is, for now, in one of the Whitney’s permanent galleries.

The Summer of Van Gogh

Paintings by Vincent Van Gogh were the first works of art to really have an impact on me. I loved his use of color and the feeling of constant movement that his lines evoked. This summer there was an opportunity to delve deeper into Van Gogh’s work with two shows — one very small and one large, both closing soon. The first is Irises and Roses at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (closes August 16). Painted on the eve of his departure from the asylum at Saint-Rémy, the group includes two paintings — an Irises and a Roses — from the Metropolitan Museum’s permanent collection, and one each from the National Gallery of Art in DC and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. The exhibition reunites the four paintings for the first time since the artist’s death.  It opened 125 years to the week that Van Gogh announced to his brother Theo, on May 11 and 13, 1890, that he was working on these “large bouquets,” according to the Met. The paintings are beautiful but they no longer carry the original colors that Van Gogh selected when painting them. To learn more about this, and other details behind the paintings, you must watch the terrific videos on the wall opposite the paintings.

A much larger Van Gogh exhibit can be seen at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown.  Van Gogh and Nature (on view through September 13) contains fifty works including iconic paintings such as A Wheatfield, with Cypresses (1889, National Gallery, London), The Olive Trees (1889, The Museum of Modern Art, New York), and The Sower (1888, Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo). As the Clark describes it, the exhibition focuses on Van Gogh  as a “thoughtful and meticulous student of nature who found solace and personal fulfillment in studying and enjoying the natural world.” What I found surprising about some of these paintings was the use of  a different color palette than one expects with Van Gogh’s works.

If you’re a Van Gogh lover like me, you can also see 15 additional works by Van Gogh in the permanent collection at the Met. Additionally, the Moma and the Guggenheim also have a few Van Goghs on view.