Bite From The Big Apple

Tibor de Nagy has a memorial to
Jane Freilicher
The Art Show
Park Avenue Armory
Inside the Art Show at the Park Avenue Armory, the crowd is hushed – not overwrought.  Many of the visitors are actually collectors, or dealers, and a few art historians ready to test the pulse of the art world that landed in mid-town Manhattan in early March on a bright day in late winter.  At a booth maintained by Tibor de Nagy Gallery there is a memorial to Jane Freilicher who recently passed on, and the paintings she left were evidence of her sustained love affair with Long Island landscape and a certain domestic tranquility.  I remember going to many of her shows while she was alive and well and I enjoyed the brushy, un-fussy realism that she preferred.
Berenice Abbott ( 1930 ) Self-portrait

I stopped to look over a strange self-portrait from photographer Berenice Abbott and thought that this unusual image would look more at home in the contemporary art venues across town in the piers at The Armory Show.  I think my friend Amanda Means went to work for Bernice Abbott – to get her photos in order, and I recently read that a large part of her legacy – some 13,000 images were being donated to the Ryerson Image Center in Toronto.
The Art Show on Park Avenue seems to be a memorial to some wonderful artists and photographers, and supporting that notion was a group of very strong vertical compositions from Al Held at Cheim & Read.  I had not seen these paintings before and I enjoyed their energy and vitality which in his work gets more formal as he got older, and the paintings became strictly geometric and less juicy ( see the marker drawings in Van Doren, Waxter ).  I remember being interviewed by Al Held for a slot in graduate school at Yale, and it didn’t go over very well for me since I was painting very figuratively at the time.
Al Held paintings ( 1954 )
Cheim & Read 

Thinking back to my Al Held encounters, I recall how philosophically the art world was divided in the early 1970’s, and I don’t think you would find that so much today – and in fact it is  hard to pin down just what the art world is all about today – except it has to do with money..
At the Art Show I had a chance to meet with Tom Wolf, who is a long-time teacher at Bard College, and he is the scholar behind the new show that will open at The Smithsonian, in Washington, D.C. honoring “The Artistic Journey of Yasuo Kuniyoshi” featuring 66 of his finest artworks.  My friend Tom Wolf wrote the catalog, and I look forward to seeing this exhibition of which he is the curator, opening April 3rd, and running through August 30, 2015.
‘The Shooting Gallery” by
Anton Von Dalen
The Park Avenue Armory is not the gigantic cavern that the piers represent, and you can actually walk around this show in a few hours.  I looked over everything and found some interesting graphic drawings by Anton Von Dalen, including “The Shooting Gallery” from 1982.  I chat with the artist whose work I see from time to time, and he has a noir-ish take on life, and also a kind of desolation which I find both poetic and comic at the same time.
Yet another retrospective was being held at the David Zwirner booth which accounted for several of the late paintings by Forrest Bess that I had not seen before.  As usual these were singular images, modest in scale, but very deliberate in their restraint and color.  This is an art of a poet, albeit a very controlled one.
Painting by Michelle Grabner
Around toward the other end of the show we spoke with a dealer presenting Michelle Grabner’s early paintings from 1996 to 2001, and these all use textiles as a template for simple declarative patterns.  Her paintings are very plain-spoken and mid-western in their sensibility and in their comforting non-judgmental approach to expression.  But, I could hear in the breeze – it is all about what is not said, that makes this interesting.
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