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Kitaj (1932-2007)

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Robert Brooks Kitaj was born in the US but his art is closely related to the British Pop Art. I am writing this blog because i recently acquired a german catalogue on his exhibition at the Kunsthalle Dusseldorf and i was impressed. Later i learned that Kitaj received a lot of criticism on his art as the press slaughtered his exhibition at the Tate gallery in 1994. Her is what i found on Wikipedia

A second retrospective was staged at the Tate Gallery in 1994. Critical reviews in London were almost universally negative. British press savagely attacked the Tate exhibit, calling Kitaj a pretentious poseur who engaged in name dropping. Kitaj took the criticism very personally, declaring that “anti-intellectualism, anti-Americanism, and anti-Semitism” had fueled the vitriol. Despite the bad reviews, the exhibition moved to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and afterwards to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1995. His second wife, Sandra Fisher died from hyperacute haemorrhagic leuco-encephalitis in 1994, shortly after his exhibition at the Tate Gallery had ended. He blamed the British press for her death, stating that “they were aiming for me, but they got her instead.” David Hockney concurred and said that he too believed the London art critics had killed Sandra Fisher.[14] Kitaj returned to the US in 1997 and settled in Los Angeles, near his first son. “When my Wife died”, he wrote to Edward Chaney, “London died for me and I returned home to California to live among sons and grandsons – It was a very good move and now I begin my 3rd and (last?) ACT! hands across The Sea.” Three years later he wrote: “I grow older every day and rather like my hermit life.” The “Tate War” and Sandra’s death became a central themes for his later works: he often depicted himself and his deceased wife as angels. In Los Angeles No. 22 (Painting-Drawing) the beautiful young (and naked) girl records the shadow of her aged lover (on whose lap she sits) in a pose directly taken from the Scots Grand Tourist David Allan’s Origin of Painting. The latter was included by Ernst Gombrich in his 1995 National Gallery exhibition (and catalogue) on Shadows so that Kitaj would have seen it two years before he left England for ever. 

Personally i think the critics are wrong. Kitaj deserves his place among the great European Pop Art artists and the future exhibitions that will include his works will probably prove me right. Some Kitaj catalogues are availableat http://www.ftn-books.com

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Tim Ayres (1965)

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A great artist with an even better designed catalogue by Rutger Fuchs. In the spirit of the art of Tim Ayres this Rutger Fuchs designed catalogue shows the best Ayres has produced. It was an exhibition at the galerie Markus Richter/ Berlin in 2000 and the first copy i encountered .Bright contrasting colors and lettering across front and back made this catalogue, from a design point of view, stand out for me and without any hesitation  i bought it. Leafing through it i found Ayres his art fascinating and since i have searched for this artist on the internet . This is a catalogue to admire and cherish. available at www.ftn-books.com 

ayres

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Graham Sutherland (1903-1980)

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When i looked for information on Sutherland I found this excellent article on the WIDEWALLS site.

One of the leading British artists of the 20th century, Graham Sutherland was widely known for his prints and paintings. Despite some other names coming to mind before him when talking about the art history, such as David HockneyFrancis Bacon, or Lucian Freud, there was a time when Sutherland ruled undisputed. From mid-1930’s, when he established his identity as a modern painter, to the 1950s, when his influence began to wane, there was a widespread consensus amongst fellow artists and critics that Sutherland was the most exciting and compelling voice in contemporary British painting.[1] He was even commissioned to paint a portrait of Winston Churchill, in what turned out to be one of the most famous cases of the subject disliking the artwork, which eventually led to its destruction.

Sutherland’s artistic career included several significant changes in direction. After specializing in engraving and etching, he began achieving fame as a printmaker. His early pastoral prints display the influence of the English Romantic Samuel Palmer, whereby prefiguring Sutherland’s later involvement within the Neo-Romantic movement in Britain. However, the famous 1929 Wall Street Crash bankrupted many of his collectors, thus forcing Sutherland to turn to other sources of income. He worked as an illustrator until he visited Pembrokeshire, becoming completely captivated by it, and subsequently, turning to painting as a primary medium for his expression. The artist continued to draw inspiration from Pembrokeshire countryside and its enthralling anthropomorphic natural forms for the rest of his life.[2] When working on landscapes, Sutherland’s working method included seizing on a detail such as a dead tree, boulder, thorn bush, everything that according to the artist, required a separate existence. He would sketch this on the spot, and later a studio painting would evolve. Sutherland wasn’t the first to do so – many landscape artists before him had done pretty much the same, but his studio hand moved considerable further from what his outdoor eye had seen. Neo-romantic at the core, his work inspired others such as Paul NashJohn Craxton, and John Piper. Over time, Sutherland began to reveal himself as a vivid colorist with an original sense of harmonies. He somewhat banished the dark and heavy tones which he had used earlier, though preserving the sharp black and white oppositions and using acid pinks and mauves, orange and light blue, emerald, chrome yellow, and scarlet.

http://www.ftn-books.com has some nice Graham Sutherland titles available

 

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Leon Kossoff dies at the age of 92

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The following article can be found at the Mutual Art site:

https://www.mutualart.com/Article/Grave-Architecture–How-Leon-Kossoff-Bui/451BDAE66E6E3100?source_page=Magazine&utm_source=MutualArt+Subscribers&utm_campaign=587eaad649-nl_20_07_19&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_0a9ce6ca24-587eaad649-445942749&ct=t(EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_10_5_2018_13_56_COPY_01)&mc_cid=587eaad649&mc_eid=129d9ef3a9

Earlier in July, British painter Leon Kossoff passed away. Sometime between 1939 and 1943, he entered the local museums at King’s Lynn, the Norfolk town in which the painter spent three years as a wartime evacuee. Here he saw paintings by local brothers, Thomas and Henry Baines, depicting the town’s famous-ish architecture (Daniel Defoe described the place as “well built” in the early 1700s).

This was Kossoff’s first experience of the productive tension between two-dimensional painting and three-dimensional structure; his first intimation of how the flat, framed surface could hold interior space and exterior space at once. It was the experience of leaving London, the buildings which had surrounded him in his native Islington falling away as he left for more rural surroundings, which piqued his interest in architectural painting. A sketch done during this time of the local King’s Lynn Customs House is Kossoff’s first architectural study. Later, he made pictures with oil paint so thick it was more like a built environment than a painted one, allowing the material to fall away from the surface and be rebuilt in waves.

The Baines brothers made technically neat, emotionally sentimental studies of the town’s North Gate, the Kettle Mill, the squat, brick-worked, 15th Century Red Mount chapel. Thomas Baines and others also painted several views of the Greyfriars Tower in Norfolk. The tower stands firm and alone, the only surviving fragment of the Franciscan monastery which was demolished after Henry VIII’s dissolution. Today, it is recognised as the finest among the three surviving Fransiscan monastery towers in England.

Thomas Baines depicts the tower standing proud in the far right of the frame, facing down a blazing wave of nimbus cloud at sunset. The shorter buildings around it are as subservient as the cows in the foreground, lying at the feet of two upright humans. The dominion of man over animal is clear in the painting’s composition, but the tower itself seems to suggest a structural means by which man can reach towards the divine.

To Kossoff’s young mind, the painting would’ve echoed the newspaper images showing blitzed London burning behind St Paul’s cathedral. Much less a case of man challenging the divine, great architecture came to symbolise, for Kossoff and the artists of post-war Europe, the rebuilding of the human soul after the inimitable evils of the holocaust, the blitz and the “moral bombing” of Germany by the victorious allies.

After returning to a bombed-out London, Kossoff began a career of architectural painting, which in turn informed his intimate brand of formal portraiture. The house he had grown up in had been razed to the ground by German bombs, and much of the London landscape underwent significant change in the rebuilding process.

St Paul’s Cathedral became a symbol of London’s resistance, of home-front stoicism, as it withstood the blitz. Kossoff complicates this line of thought with his painting, Small Landscape With St Paul’s (1960), a thick, swathy abstract in monochrome, diminutive in size. It has none of the upright architectural theism of the Baines monastery tower. Through the viscous, massy material of his own grave architecture, Kossoff communicates the difficulty of wading through post-war fallout.

A portrait from the same year, simply entitled Head (1960) has a similar vibe, the low-drooping of the sitter’s forehead seeming troubled, disgruntled, the currents of thick paint dissolving their form into the abstract

By the 1980s and 1990s, Kossoff built up the layers of his paint to a more firmly structural, figurative end. One of his self portraits from 1972 shows the angle of the head inclining slightly in comparison to earlier portraits. Later still, his celebrated portrait of his brother, Chaim, shows a proud and firm sitter, chin raised, hands locked like buttresses, looking down at the viewer. Maybe even a little haughty. It’s not dissimilar, in manner and attitude, from the dramatic perspective of his famous views of Christ Church, Spitalfields.

Even as he builds form throughout the decades, Kossoff’s paintings still always reverberate with some sonorous and unsettling boom, still rush and flow with the headlong motion of time. The sheer drama of a 1990 preparatory sketch for one of his Christ Church paintings is sufficient to show this.

Some of what moves Kossoff’s best paintings, however, is a certain warmth, a faith in the human animal, and an embodied, tangible sensation of London community. Perhaps this is best communicated by his series of swimming pool paintings. Like Kossoff’s paint dripping off the canvas and being reapplied, the water drips from the skins of the bathers. (The heavily-applied oils of many Kossoff or Aeurbach paintings are so thick that they hover between matter-states, half solid half liquid, never truly dry [like an ancient stained-glass window bulging at the bottom]). Similarly, the people captured merge and mingle with the water. Osmosis occurs between their bodies, between the waters, the different kinds of interiority going on here, all suffused with a natural sunlight which glints artificially off the poolwater. There’s a sense of true community, a dialogue between water and structure which includes the human.

Sometimes, things need to fall away to find their form. Kossoff, who built paintings, knew the differences and the non-differences between structure and fluidity, whose fluxes might be the roots of the human soul.

www.ftn-books.com has some nice Kossoff titles available

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Norman Parkinson (1913-1990)

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Another photographer . Yesterday William Klein and today Norman Parkinson. Two different approached to photography. For me Parkinson stands for typical sixties photography. Fashion and Royalty were his expertise and because of that expertise he stayed practically his entire life the preferred photographer choice of the British Royals. These photographs were typically staged photographs, they showed nothing spontanious and every pose, setting and prop was well thought over an staged. ( Yes, Audrey Hepburn is some kind of cinematic Royalty too)

His fashion photographs were much more loose and therefore i prefer these above the Royal photographs.

It is noot a very common book to find. A monography with photographs by Norman Parkinson is a rarity , but still www.ftn-books.com has one in its inventory.

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Allen Jones (1938) is British Pop Art

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For me Allen Jones stands for his mannequin like sculptures. Possibly the best known is a woman kneeling on all fours with on her back a glas table surface. The sculpture acting like a salon table. This use of glass and mannequin sculptures is frequently done by Jones. He made several tables and even some chairs out of these mannequins.

This is possibly the most famous part from his oeuvre, but one must not forget his paintings. Highly original Pop Art paintings and well deserving their place among the best Pop Art in the world. Jones his images are influenced by Lindner but they also have some parts of the cheesecake poses of the ones Mel Ramos produced ( tomorrows blog).

www.ftn-books.com has some Jones items available

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Richard Long (1945)

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Hamish Fulton and Richard Long…. Two artist who i learned to appreciate in the time that Rudi Fuchs was director at the Gemeentemuseum. Long was nominated 4 times for the prestigious Turner price , but only won it once in 1989 for White Water Line.

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Since i first saw works and publications i have seen Richard Long his works on many occasions and one of the most recent ones was at the Guggenheim Bilbao museum. Each time the lines, circles and labyrinths look random, but this is not true. The placement of the stones and paint is strict and makes it free whitin the object , but it has very strict boundaries making it perfectly shaped. The way each work is created is described and laid down in drawings i a way that each work can be re-cretaed at any other place than it was first was created. It is somewhat the saem as with the walldrawings by Sol LeWitt who uses the same method . The art work is the sketch/drawing and materials and can be re-created anywhere as long as you have the original drawing belonging to the work.

What makes Richard Long stand out from other contemporary artists is that many of his publications are also artist books which hold beside the works, photography and word “sculptures” by Long and http://www.ftn-books.com has some of these titles available.

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Lynn Chadwick (1914-2003) and Den Haag

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I know the Haags Gemeentemuseum has no sculpture by Lynn Chadwick, but what i did not know  is that there is a sculpture of a sitting couple on the Circusplein by Chadwick and when i read more about Chadwick i noticed that the gallery Nieuwenhuizen Segaar /had an exhibition in 1988 ( catalogue available at www.ftn-books.com) . So during a 40 year period there was a regular contact between the dutch art scene and Lynn Chadwick.

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Chadwick was an English artist known for his innovative bronze and steel sculptures of abstracted and expressive figures and animals. Chadwick’s method is considered unique in his choice not to sketch his sculpture beforehand, preferring instead to improvise and weld metal without a specific plan in place. He was born on November 24, 1914 in the London suburb of Barnes and studied as an apprentice architect under Roger Thomas, who would encourage him towards sculpture. Chadwick’s earliest sculptures were fragile mobiles constructed with balsa wood, copper, and brass, not unlike those of Alexander Calder. In 1950, he had his first major exhibition of his mobiles at Gimpel Fils gallery, which led to significant critical attention. The artist was then chosen to represent Britain at the 1956 Venice Biennale and was awarded its International Sculpture Prize, becoming its then-youngest recipient. He debuted his first steel sculpture, Two Winged Figures, for an outdoor show in 1962, and his works from this period are noted from their combination of abstract detail and natural forms. He was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1964 and a Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres in 1993. He died on April 25, 2003 in Gloucestershire, England.

 

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Leon Kossoff (1926)

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One of the grand old masters of British painting is Leon Kossoff. Kossoff is not very well known outside Great Britain , but had his exhibitions in one of the most prestigious museum for modern art, the Louisiana museum in Denmark. Beside that occasion he was presented on the Venice Biennale and in several group exhibitions in the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. In 1956, Kossoff joined Helen Lessore’s Beaux Arts Gallery, located on Bruton Place in London. In 1959, Kossoff began to teach at the Regent Street Polytechnic, the Chelsea School of Art, and the Saint Martin’s School of Art, all in London. While teaching, he continued his artistic career, and soon started featuring in galleries and shows, along with his friend Frank Auerbach and other artists such as Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud and Keith Critchlow a school friend from Saint Martin’s. During this time, Kossoff moved his studio to Willesden Junction, and in 1966, moved his studio to Willesden Green. It is not only his friendship with Auerbach, Bacon and Freud that his paintings deserve to be known better, but the quality of them stands out from many of the rest from his generation and he deserves a place next to his three famous friends and not behind them. Kossoff is a great painter. There are 2 publications available at www.ftn-books.com

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Sculpture 10 days… Day 4 ..Tony Cragg ( 1949)

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Tony Cragg, british and famous in the Nineties, but nowadays he almost looks forgotten. No more great shows , nor great assignments…..but his works are still there. Present in great collections like the Boymans van Beuningen, Tate and Caldic collection. Maybe it is time to rediscover Cragg, because his works are highly original and well worth seeing. In many cases the scale is large and because these large sculptures can not be dismissed they often impress. Take a look at the books available at http://www.ftn-books.com and if interested visit the Caldic collection for this and other great sculptures by contemporary artists.