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    Chu Teh-Chun’s Abstract Landscapes Dazzle at a Rare Retrospective in Venice

    The name of Chu Teh-Chun (1920–2014) should be no stranger to art market watchers. The late Franco-Chinese painter is best known for his poignant abstract paintings that marry the techniques of traditional Chinese painting and that of Western art. Over the last several years, his work has been commanding ever-higher prices at auction. There are more than 3,200 entries of auction transactions on Artnet’s Price Database, with an auction record of $29.5 million set in 2021 at a Sotheby’s Hong Kong sale.
    Although one might catch a few individual works by the 20th-century master on view at an auction preview, a thorough survey of Chu’s work has been hard to come by despite the fact that his paintings have been widely exhibited in and collected by more than 50 museums worldwide.
    The opportunity for a comprehensive review of his artistic practice is here now. Coinciding with the Venice Biennale, retrospective of Chu titled “In Nebula” is currently on show at Fondazione Giorgio Cini on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore through June 30.
    Chu Teh-Chun, La grace de l’aurore (2001). Courtesy of Chu Teh-Chun Foundation.
    Organized with the support of the Chu Teh-Chun Foundation and thoughtfully curated by art historian Matthieu Poirier, this beautifully mounted exhibition in a vast space that was once a large swimming pool showcases some 50 exceptional works by the artist, including one on loan from the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris, from across the different periods in his expansive career.
    Installation view of “Chu Teh-Chun: In Nebula.” Courtesy of Chu Teh-Chun Foundation.
    Poirier takes the audience on a time-travel journey to discover Chu’s past and the evolution of his oeuvre, which is presented in a reverse chronological timeline that blends seamlessly with the architecture of the space. Viewers’ downward, winding movement along the three levels of boardwalk to the base of the pool reflect a journey into the heart of Chu’s mystic paintings.
    “Those paintings never let your eyes rest,” said Poirier during an introduction of the exhibition, noting that the artist was an abstract landscapist. “When Chu arrived in France, he carried his memories of the landscapes with him.”
    Chu Teh-Chun, Nature Hivernal A (1985). Courtesy of Chu Teh-Chun Foundation.
    Born in Baitu Zhen, Xiao district, Jiangsu province (now Anhui) in China into a family of art connoisseurs, Chu began learning calligraphy and Chinese poetry at a very young age. He then started painting under his father’s encouragement and in 1935, at the age of 15, he enrolled the Hangzhou Academy of Fine Arts, where he was first exposed to modern Western art from the teaching of artist-professors such as Lin Fengmian and Wu Dayu, both were educated in France. Around this time, he also met Wu Guanzhong, who went on to become one of the greatest painters of his time.
    Installation view of “Chu Teh-Chun: In Nebula.” Courtesy of Chu Teh-Chun Foundation.
    But Chu had to deal with hardships during the subsequent turbulent years of the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Chinese civil war between the Communists and the Kuomintang. He left the country to Taiwan in 1949 and eventually settled in Paris in 1955. He lost nearly all of his early works amid the turmoil. Following his settlement in Paris, despite continuing to create, Chu remained as a marginal figure.
    Chu Teh-Chun, Composition n°228 (1966). Courtesy of Chu Teh-Chun Foundation.
    “He was a quiet person, an introvert,” said Poirier, explaining why the artist was not very good at making himself the center of the spotlight, and hence a late boomer in his career. “He didn’t get his first retrospective until 1978. He was already 58,” noted the curator.
    Chu Teh-Chun, Le 8 juillet (1976). Courtesy of Chu Teh-Chun Foundation.
    The exhibition puts Chu’s works in context and as one walks further down to the bottom of what used to be a swimming pool, one can catch a glimpse of Chu’s evolution from the earliest figurative works available to the monumental paintings depicting not just an abstraction of landscape, but the depth of space conjured by light, time, colors, and brushstrokes.
    “Chu Teh-Chun: In Nebula” is on view until June 30 at Fondazione Giorgio Cini, San Giorgio Maggiore Island, Venice.
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    Here’s Why Artists Have Flocked to London Across the Ages

    Sotheby’s has partnered with Art UK, a charity that provides online access to every public art collection in the United Kingdom, and 12 public museums to stage an exhibition that showcases the multicultural history and diversity of the nation’s art scene throughout the centuries.
    “London: An Artistic Crossroads” is a free exhibition running until July 5, held at Sotheby’s New Bond Street location in the heart of the capital. It promises to bring together an incredible selection of artists who found inspiration, refuge, patronage, and influence within the U.K., including Piet Mondrian, Francis Bacon, Frank Bowling, and Magdalene Odundo.
    Francis Bacon, Pope I (Study after Pope Innocent X by Diego Velázquez), (1951).Aberdeen City Council (Aberdeen Archives, Gallery & Museums collections). Presented in 1956 by the Contemporary Art Society. © The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved. DACS 2024.
    The exhibition has been designed as a counterpart to the National Gallery’s new National Treasures program, launched to celebrate its bicentenary this year. The initiative sees 12 masterpieces from the museum travel to institutions across the country, including Caravaggio’s The Supper at Emmaus (1601) and Diego Velázquez’s The Rokeby Venus (1647–51).
    In mounting this new show, Sotheby’s has effectively done the reverse, by celebrating works of art that are to be found elsewhere across the nation (although there are two notable inclusions from London), as something of an advert for the strength of collections based far from the capital. It is the inaugural event in an ongoing partnership with Art UK.
    “This exhibition brings together a dozen stunning artworks primarily from museums outside London, highlighting the treasures to be found in our regional collections,” Andrew Ellis, chief executive of Art UK, said. “It powerfully illustrates how the U.K.’s rich cultural heritage draws on creators and influences emanating from well beyond our shores.”
    Showcasing the important contributions of immigrants and refugees is a key component of the show, which feels particularly pertinent in the wake of Brexit and the government’s implementation of “hostile environment” policies.
    Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Frances Howard, Duchess of Richmond and Lennox (ca. 1621). © Compton Verney, photo by Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd.
    The oldest work on display is a portrait of Frances Howard, Duchess of Richmond and Lennox (ca.1621) by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger. The artist was among thousands of Flemish protestants who fled persecution in the Netherlands in the late 1560s. While he arrived in London as a child, he developed a distinctly Dutch style of painting that revolutionized English portraiture. The work is traveling from Compton Verney in Warwickshire.
    Johann Zoffany was a neoclassical painter who completed his training in Germany and Italy before making his home in the U.K., where he found patronage among the aristocracy. He declared, “I am an Englishman, because in that country I found protection and encouragement.” His elaborate depiction of the collector Charles Towney, surrounded by friends and his considerable collection of books and antiquities, has been loaned by Towneley Hall Art Gallery & Museum in Burnley, Lancashire.
    Johann Zoffany, Charles Townley and Friends in His Library at Park Street, Westminster (1782). © Towneley Hall Art Gallery & Museum, Burnley Borough Council / Bridgeman Images
    More contemporary examples include Big Bird (1864) by abstractionist Frank Bowling, on loan from the Victoria Gallery and Museum in Liverpool. The artist moved to London from Guyana (then British Guiana) as a teenager and recalled his first visit to the National Gallery: “I was very struck by the British painters like John Constable, J.M.W. Turner and William Gainsborough, whose marvelous touch I was engaged by,” he said.
    Bowling’s career is a prime example of the rich networks of influences that inform and enrich an arts ecosystem. He was deeply inspired by two other artists included in the show, Francis Bacon and Piet Mondrian, and was also a peer of Peter Blake, David Hockney and R.B. Kitaj (another featured artist). He has also influenced and supported subsequent generations of creative talent through his work as an educator.
    “We are honored to be able to contribute to this important exhibition at Sotheby’s celebrating the major contribution that artists of African diaspora heritage have made to the British cultural landscape, and recognizing how London has had such a pivotal role in that process,” said Dr. Amanda Draper, the curator of art and exhibitions at the Victoria Gallery and Museum.
    Magdalene Odundo, Tall Bottle (2010). School of Art, Museum and Galleries, Aberystwyth University.
    Beyond painting, two examples of ceramics are included in the show. A bowl and a vase by Lucie Rie, who fled Nazi persecution in Vienna, has come from the Crafts Study Centre at the University for the Creative Arts in Farnham. Rie is widely considered to be a trailblazer of British modernist ceramics.
    Meanwhile, Tall Bottle (2010) by Magdalene Odundo has travelled from Aberystwyth University Art Museum. Odundo was brought up in Nairobi and Mombasa before studying in the U.K. and honing her craft in Nigeria and Kenya. She was celebrated with an O.B.E. in 2008.
    “London: An Artistic Crossroads” runs through July 5 at Sotheby’s New Bond Street, London W1A 2AA.
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    A Sharp New Show Highlights The Many Ways Artists Have Woven Meaning Into Textiles

    Just in time for the summer crowds to descend on the Eastern End of Long Island, Guild Hall in East Hampton has opened an intriguing show of textile art, organized by collector and art historian Estrellita Brodsky and Raul Martinez. The artists in it are all handpicked, mostly from her own collection.
    “Spin A Yarn,” had its debut at Brodsky’s own nonprofit art space in Chelsea, the appointment-only “Another Space,” where she welcomed visitors and numerous student groups from nearby schools for educational tours during its four-month run (November 10, 2023-March 15, 2024). At Guild Hall, the show is open to the public with free admission and related workshops, through July 14.
    “Spin A Yarn” examines artists’ interest in textile-making “as both subject and medium to reflect on social, political and environmental concerns,” according to a statement. Brodsky notes that while Western cultures have historically prioritized the written word, many societies, and particularly those in Latin America, have rich traditions of using threads, knots, and woven materials, as markers of identity and as a means of passing down information from one generation to another. The mostly fiber artwork on view is by more than two-dozen artists from different regions and periods.
    In conversation, Brodsky noted that textiles have played an important role in preserving memories and traditions. “We explore the ways in which artists have built on rich textile traditions from pre-Hispanic cultures as precursors of geometric abstraction to present day contemporary artists who use embroidery and weaving techniques as a means of advocating for the protection of the environment as well as of indigenous communities,” she said.
    Front: Dubreus Lherisson Blue Princess, (2018) Left: Mulyana Betty 10, (2022) Right: Chonon Bensho Wai (Farm), (2023) as part of “Spin A Yarn” at Guild Hall in East Hampton, New York.
    The show includes work by Claudia Alarcón, Olga de Amaral, Tony Bechara, Chonon Bensho, Feliciano Centurión, DETEXT, Jorge Eielson, Mónica Giron, Sonia Gomes, Sheila Hicks, Huari Culture, Jessie Homer French, Randolpho Lamonier, Julio Le Parc, Dubreus Lherisson, Mulyana, Anna Perach, Alejandro Puente, Mónica Millán, Manfred Mohr, Sandra Monterroso, Societé Réaliste, Susan Spangenberg, Pedro Tineo, Georges Valris, Cecilia Vicuña, and Yvonne Wells.
    One fascinating and unexpected aspect that Brodsky highlighted to me, during a walkthrough of the show in Chelsea, is the connection between computers and textiles as ways to store and code information. As the show’s statement explains, “the punch cards used in some looms to control the weaving process are the basis of computers’ binary logic.”
    For example, Manfred Mohr’s P-159-B from 1974 shows a sequence of intricately stitched geometric forms that evoke “an unknown arcane language,” generated by algorithms. Mohr, a leader in the concept of “rational aesthetics,” underscores the “ancient relationship between textiles and mathematical computer programming,” Brodsky told me.
    Front: DETEXT (Raul Martinez) Manstopper, (2015). Left to right: Mónica Millán, Inventar la piel (To invent skin), (2023); Claudia Alarcón, Tewok Tes P’ante (The Origin of the River), (2023), as part of “Spin A Yarn” at Guild Hall in East Hampton, New York.
    Many of the works here show modern and contemporary artists using indigenous textile techniques to reflect on environmental, political, or social issues. For instance, Alejandro Puente and Sheila Hicks reference the feather works and weavings of ancient pre-Hispanic cultures to convey a newly imagined language of abstraction. Argentine artist Mónica Millán has worked with Guaraní communities in the town of Yataity del Guairá in Paraguay, and advocates for the preservation of Ao Po’i textile traditions.
    Artists Jessie Homer French and Mónica Giron draw attention to the environmental crisis through their use of embroidery and knitting techniques that confront climate change and the loss of biodiversity. Cecilia Vicuña warns of the devastating effects of droughts while also bringing attention to ancient Mayan creation myths.
    Feliciano Centurión, Untitled, from the series Familia (Family), (1990) as part of “Spin A Yarn” at Guild Hall in East Hampton, New York.
    Other artists in the show use textiles as a way to explore issues ranging from gender discrimination and racial injustice to gun violence. For instance, Feliciano Centurión, an openly gay man, originally from Paraguay but working in Argentina, began producing embroidered and crocheted works on everyday household fabrics, placed alongside toy dinosaurs, to reference illness, sexuality, and death. (The toy dinosaurs reference extinction.)
    Meanwhile, social justice is the focus of Yvonne Wells’s large quilt titled A Shadow Over Justice (2004). Both a utilitarian object and a means of memory keeping, the quilt confronts bias in America’s criminal justice system. And DETEXT’s Widowmaker (2020-2022) is a woven rug that upon closer examination is made with nearly 30,000 bullet casings, referencing both policing and the gun industry in the US.
    Alejandro Puente Quipu “nudos,” (1971) as part of “Spin A Yarn” at Another Space in Chelsea, New York.
    Another Space in Chelsea, where I saw this show, is a nonprofit established by Estrellita and her husband Daniel, dedicated to building recognition and international awareness to artists from Latin America and its diaspora within a global context.
    Jessie Homer French, Westside Fault Zones Mapestry, (2018) as part of of “Spin A Yarn” at Another Space in Chelsea, New York.
    Said Estrellita: “I am particularly excited to be partnering with Guild Hall in East Hampton, a museum in an area where the Latino community plays an important role and that is free to the public.”
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    See the Rare Neolithic and Viking Treasures Returning to Scotland for Display

    On the Isle of Lewis in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, peat—that spongy stuff found in bogs and made of partly decomposed vegetation and organic matter—has long been a vital resource for heating, cooking, and yes, making whisky. Peat has also proven an invaluable keeper of the island’s past. Waterlogged, acidic and oxygen poor, it slows decay, and as a result remarkable artifacts have been pulled from the bogs that cover roughly a third of the island.
    One such item is a 2,500-year-old clay pot from Achmore (“big field” in Gaelic) that dates from a time when the island was gradually transitioning to the Iron Age. Simple and unadorned, it stands as an exceptionally rare example of craftsmanship prior to the arrival of the Vikings.
    The 2,500-year-old clay pot from Achmore. Photo: National Museums Scotland.
    It’s one of more than 40 artifacts that National Museums Scotland has sent to Lewis on loan. The artifacts are being exhibited at two local institutions, Comunn Eachdraidh Nis and Kinloch Historical Society Museum, as part of NMS’ national strategy to share its collection and expertise across the country.
    At Nis, a local community center in North Lewis, “na Dorsan” (The Doors) is being staged on the centennial anniversary of the area’s resettlement, following the forced land clearances in the late 18th century. Through fragments of pottery, carved animal bones, wooden instruments, and metal tools, the exhibition tells the local region’s story from early farmers 6,000 years ago through to the first millennium C.E.
    Group of ax heads that date from 3800 B.C.E. to 2500 B.C.E. Photo: National Museums Scotland.
    “This exhibition launch will be the first in a series of community events to celebrate the centenary, culminating in the unveiling of a stone monument by Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn later this year,” said Anne Macleod, operations manager at Comunn Eachdraidh Nis.
    The Kinloch Historical Society Museum will stage “Archaeology Homecoming” through March 2025. Alongside the Achmore pot, the museum is exhibiting a group of Neolithic ax heads that date as far back as 3,800 B.C.E. Also of interest is a Viking bronze buckle that features an intricate looping pattern. It is believed to have been cast somewhere in Scandinavia before making its way to Lewis.
    A scoop or ladle made from horn. Photo: National Museums Scotland.
    “The partnership with National Museum of Scotland is at the heart of sharing and learning about the history of our area,” said Anna MacKenzie, heritage manager at Kinloch Historical Society. “As the name Archaeology Homecoming suggests, this will be the first time these chance finds will be on display in Lochs.”
    The earliest evidence of human activity on Lewis date back to 6,000 B.C.E with the inhabitants gradually clearing woodlands and developing farms. Gaelic-speaking peoples arrived in the first century C.E., followed by the Picts, and the Vikings, who settled on Lewis in the ninth century. The island’s most famous archeological discovery are the Lewis chessmen, ornately carved pieces of walrus ivory that were found in 1831 and are held jointly by the British Museum and National Museum of Scotland.
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    At the Playful ‘KAWS + Warhol,’ Two Pop Art Titans Finally Meet

    A new exhibition of work by Brian Donnelly, aka KAWS, at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh puts the contemporary artist in conversation with his storied predecessor.
    The show “KAWS + Warhol” opened May 17, in true Warholian spirit, with a star-studded guest list including Pusha T, shoe designer John Geiger, and graffiti legend Futura. It was envisioned by Patrick Moore, the museum’s outgoing director who curated the exhibition, when he noticed how KAWS’s 2021 show at Skarstedt Gallery in New York drew a large young crowd. Moore hoped to bring a similar spirit to the Warhol Museum, particularly on its 30th anniversary, while showcasing how the Pop artist’s legacy endures in the living likes of KAWS.
    Installation view of “KAWS + Warhol” at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 2024. Photo by Adam Schrader.
    For example, a crowd favorite at the exhibition was the placement of the Warhol’s film Blow Job (1964) with two of KAWs’s KAWSBob paintings, the artist’s dark parody of the children’s cartoon character SpongeBob.
    “I said to Brian, ‘Have you seen this film Blow Job.’ He’s like, ‘no.’ And I said, ‘let’s look at,’” Moore said. “If you know the title, you know what’s going on. [The subject of the film], at many points, throws his head back and it’s unclear: is he in pain? Is he having pleasure? And then we have Brian reinterpreting Sponge Bob as KAWSBob in the same way.”
    To Moore, the similarities go on from there. He equates Warhol’s penchant for repetition and his cadre of Superstars with how KAWS treats his characters as motifs. He sees their shared fascinations with sex and destruction.
    Brian Donnelly, aka KAWS, in front of his Companion 2020 and Andy Warhol’s Ambulance Disaster (1963) at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Photo by Adam Schrader.
    The exhibition’s Instagrammable centerpiece pairs Warhol’s Ambulance Disaster with KAWS’s Companion 2020. It was the first coupling Moore showed Donnelly when asking him to do the show. The Warhol work replicates a newspaper photograph of an ambulance in a crash using silkscreen ink on linen. KAWS’s sculpture is a painted bronze of a cartoon-like character lying face down. Moore loved how “they’re treating death in a very different way.”
    Donnelly agreed with Moore’s assessment. “I just think there’s a sense of tragedy and seeing Companion 2020 alone might feel more about exhaustion or dealing with the state of the world that we’re in,” he said. “But having it in context with the ambulance crash, it feel like a much more tragic work.”
    Andy Warhol, Silver Clouds (1966), on view at “KAWS + Warhol” at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 2024. Photo by Adam Schrader.
    At least one guest identified a missed opportunity to pair Warhol’s Silver Clouds—an installation of pillow-shaped silver balloons filled with helium—with KAWS’s Space, a silver-colored sculpture of one of his characters as an astronaut. And not everybody was immediately a fan.
    Before the show opened, Donnelly said he was most looking forward to sharing his artwork in person with the people of Pittsburgh who might only be familiar with his work through online images. When we caught up with him after the show, Donnelly said the preview was a blur but remembered one woman admitting to him she “wasn’t always a fan” but warmed to him after seeing his works in person.
    “The thing about Warhol: there’s so many bodies of work to delve into and there’s so much that’s not in the show, like we didn’t tap into any of the fashion overlapping with him,” Donnelly said. He expressed interest in doing a second show with Warhol to dive into further comparisons.
    Warhol Museum director Patrick Moore at the “KAWS + Warhol” exhibition at the museum. Photo by Adam Schrader.
    The artist professed an enduring interest in Warhol’s work, especially because he “opened the door” for other Pop artists. He is especially inspired by Warhol’s work with fashion and his toy paintings—unsurprising for an artist for whom toys have long been a medium.
    “I choose to work in those outlets because that’s how a lot of work reached me. And I constantly think about how my work could disseminate,” he said. “I love the connection I get to have through making objects and clothing. I don’t think it would be possible from me just making paintings, drawings, sculpture.”
    Donnelly got his start on the streets of New York in the ’90s, his graffiti work paving the way for his paintings and sculptures that leaned into a similar cartoon-like aesthetic. From 1999, his characters—such as Chum, Companion, BFF, and Bendy—would also appear for sale as vinyl figurines, sparking off a still-thriving marketplace for the artist. Over his career, he has partnered with brands including Nike, Dior, Uniqlo, and Disney to create limited-edition products.
    Preview of the “KAWS + Warhol” exhibition at the Andy Warhol Museum with a sculpture by KAWS seen installed outdoors. Photo by Adam Schrader.
    KAWS’s cartoon-centric style and inspirations echo Warhol’s own fascination with consumer branding and advertising. In the show, Warhol’s Brillo boxes are staged before a wall of 2,000 cereal boxes KAWS made in collaboration with General Mills featuring beloved characters such as Count Chocula and FrankenBerry.
    “It’s funny. I never really think about making work targeted for children at all,” said Donnelly, who has two children. “With General Mills, that’s just something I always loved—cereal box graphics, and especially the monsters, started around the time I was born. I wanted to make work that can be in bodegas and shopping centers and have it on the shelf with all the stuff I grew up on.”
    Installation view of “KAWS + Warhol” at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 2024. Photo by Adam Schrader.
    Interestingly, the sweetness of the breakfast food could even be smelled in the room with the cereal boxes, creating what could be described as an immersive experience. Still, Donnelly insisted: “I’m not trying to theme-park it”—an interesting comment when comparing KAWS, a one-time street artist, with the likes of Banksy, the world’s most beloved anonymous street artist, whose Dismaland theme park was direct criticism of consumerism.
    Much like Warhol, Donnelly himself is not against consumerism and appreciates “making good things and putting it out in the world.” He also praised artists like Keith Haring that helped further break down such barriers.
    “Even today it feels a bit taboo working within the commercial space and with larger companies, even though it’s way more accepted now than it was 10 years ago,” he said. “Keith opened the Pop Shop and put the line in the sand just said, ‘Listen, this is my interest whether you accept it or not. This is kind of the direction I’m going.’ And I always loved that about him.”
    Andy Warhol’s Blow Job (1964) reflected in a KAWS canvas. Photo by Adam Schrader.
    For centuries, since the likes of Albrecht Dürer, artists have been trying to spur the patron, the wealthy businessmen who funded their work. Now, artists like KAWS are turning to corporate partnerships.
    “I would imagine that throughout history all artists had to think about how to be clever and get the work that they want made,” Donnelly said, when asked about the phenomenon. “And there’s tons of opportunities to make work and subsidize other works you need to get made.”
    Installation view of “KAWS + Warhol” at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 2024. Photo by Adam Schrader.
    But when it came to creating merchandise for the show, KAWS went for a more reverent approach. Where he had once (illegally) painted his characters over Warhol’s Chanel No. 5 posters, he opted not to appropriate the Pop artist’s work this time, even with the Warhol Foundation’s blessing. His previous graffiti work, after all, was of an era “when I was just stealing stuff, painting over, and putting it out,” he said. Now, his art coexists with Warhol’s on the exhibition’s official merchandise, without one overstepping the other.
    “It’s one thing to work with somebody who’s here that I could be in a room with and have an agreement,” he explained. “I just want to be really respectful of the work.”
    “KAWS + Warhol” is on view at the Andy Warhol Museum, 117 Sandusky Street, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, through January 20, 2025. 
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    Mary Cassatt Was More Than Just a Painter of ‘Perpetual Afternoon Tea’

    For all of her boldness as the only American to be a member of the French Impressionists, Mary Cassatt is often typecast as a painter of (dull) domestic scenes. Her mostly male colleagues—now being celebrated in exhibitions marking 150 years since the first Impressionist exhibition—used free brushwork to paint scenes of modern life in vivid color, often en plein air (outside). Cassatt, on the other hand, mostly stayed in.
    “Perpetual afternoon tea” is what a 1954 review in Art News by Edgar P. Richardson claimed Cassatt painted. “Tea, clothes, and nursery; nursery, clothes, and tea.”
    Photos of Cassatt reinforce the idea that she was a woman steeped in comfortable bourgeois life. No photographs exist of her studio or of her at work; instead, she’s seen sitting in a garden, reading a newspaper, wearing a nice hat. In other words, in the images we have left of her she looks like the women she portrayed in around 320 paintings, 380 pastels, and 215 prints over the course of her 50-year career.
    Mary Cassatt, Maternal Caress (1896). Courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art.
    “Mary Cassatt at Work,” an exhibition of over 130 artworks and personal correspondence on view now at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (the PMA has 84 works by the artist, one of the largest institutional collections of the artist in the United States), flips this tea party narrative on its saucer. If Cassatt painted women caring for children or tending to domestic duties, we could choose to read these images as documenting the sort of women’s work that is often deemed effortless or invisible. Home maintenance and paid or unpaid childcare populate her work. Cassatt’s labor is itself a subject of the exhibition, after the museum embarked on two years of in-depth technical study of her works.
    This is first large exhibition of the artist in the United States in over 25 years, and around three times more extensive than the last (a 1998–99 exhibition that traveled to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston). It will also show at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s Legion of Honor after it closes at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in September.
    While Cassatt’s work has been shown in group exhibitions and shows of women Impressionists (which exhibition co-curator Jennifer Thompson claims Cassatt would have hated), she hasn’t seen the same kind of focused attention as her peers. “We’re at a moment with her male colleagues where we do very focused shows. We have Cézanne rocks-and-quarry paintings, and we have Renoir nude paintings,” Thompson says. “But for the female Impressionists we haven’t gotten beyond the big monographic shows.”
    Mary Cassatt, A Goodnight Hug (1880). Courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art.
    Thompson and her co-curator, Laurel Garber, wanted to dig deeper and present something new about Cassatt, noticing that while scholars had begun closer examinations of individual Cassatt works, one gap was technical study. There are a few reasons why women are less often studied this way. For one thing, their works are more likely to be in private hands than institutional collections where they could be studied more easily. (Case in point: some 16 private collectors are loaning their works to this Cassatt show.) And when works are held by museums, because they might have just one or two examples by a well-known female artist, they are always on view and therefore never taken from the gallery wall to the conservation lab.
    “Documentation of Cassatt’s process is lacking in comparison to that of her contemporaries,” writes conservator Teresa A. Lignelli in the exhibition catalogue. “There are no studio photographs of Cassatt at work, no receipts for art supplies, and—despite an abundance of letters—scant reference to her practice in known correspondence. Instead, the paintings themselves are telling.”
    Cassatt’s paintings were studied using raking light, ultraviolet visible fluorescence, infrared reflectography, and X-radiography, and the results of this research are visible at several points in the exhibition. For the painting A Woman and a Girl Driving (1881), for example, an infrared image shows how Cassatt reworked the composition of her sister driving a carriage led by Bichette, the family pony. Cassatt played with the position of the carriage wheel spokes, groom, and trees in the background, ultimately landing on a composition that emphasized movement.
    The team at the PMA also x-rayed some of their pastels. “We’re not sure if anyone else has ever done that,” Thompson says. “That was helpful in understanding that, not surprisingly, she was making a great number of changes in works from the ’70s and early ’80s, but then she develops a very confident line in her later pastels and is leaving very visible signs of her work.” In a ca. 1879 pastel titled At the Theater (Au théâtre), an x-ray image that is part of the exhibition reveals that Cassatt adjusted the size and angle of the fan held by the woman in the theater box, varying how much of the theater’s balconies were visible.
    Mary Cassatt, Little Girl in a Blue Armchair (1877-78). Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
    Otherwise, by studying Cassatt’s works closely, conservators were able to tease out certain routines. She generally worked on top of a first draft, scraped and reworked her pieces, used materials with a confident spontaneity, and worked fast. Though Cassatt came from a self-made and well-to-do family, it was always clear to her that her painting career would have to pay for itself—and she worked in haste.
    This meant that sometimes she had to transport paintings that hadn’t had time to fully dry, using pins to create a distance between stacked canvases; these pinholes and marks are still visible at the corners and edges of some of her paintings. And for Maternal Caress (1896) in the PMA collection, correspondence reveals that the artist completed the canvas on July 11, 1896 and that within four days it was both delivered to her dealer Paul Durand-Ruel and sold. It wasn’t completely dry when Durand-Ruel framed it, so paint transferred from the canvas to the frame’s rabbet edge (which also confirms that the current frame is original).
    “With the paintings, we’re still at very early days in terms of understanding how she was working,” says Thompson of the research that led to the exhibition. “We’re hoping that this project will inspire museums and collectors to start to look closely at their Cassatt paintings.”
    “Mary Cassatt at Work” is on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, May 18-September 8, 2024, and at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Legion of Honor, October 25, 2024-January 26, 2025. 
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    Contemporary Art and Ancient Artifacts From Pompeii Converge in a New Exhibition

    They may be nearly 6,000 miles apart and they may focus on material separated by thousands of years, but the Archaeological Park of Pompeii and the Aspen Art Museum are coming together on a show. Curated by London-based artist Allison Katz, “In the House of the Trembling Eye” will take over the entire 17,500-square-foot exhibition space at the Colorado institution’s Shigeru Ban-designed building, which opened a decade ago.
    The art of today will hang alongside ancient painting: the show includes a group of fragments of frescoes from Pompeii, which are making a rare trip to the United States. There’s also an A-list roster, including figures like Lynda Benglis, Maurizio Cattelan, Marlene Dumas, Lucio Fontana, Eva Hesse, Damien Hirst, Jeffrey Gibson, Rashid Johnson, Bharti Kher, Yayoi Kusama, Kerry James Marshall, Alice Neel, Ed Ruscha, Rirkrit Tiravanija, and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. 
    Allison Katz, Eruption (2024). Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Eva Herzog.
    According to the museum, it’s the first time contemporary art has come together with these ancient artifacts, which were preserved when Pompeii was buried after nearby Mount Vesuvius erupted in the year 79 C.E., resulting in one of the world’s most enduringly fascinating archaeological sites, where Katz conducted research for the exhibition while there on a fellowship. 
    “Painting is for me a call and response, a question posed across time, techniques, and traditions to see who and what answers,” Katz said, “because at its core, painting is a conversation.” The conversation instigated with this particular exhibition will involve more than 100 artworks and objects by some 50 artists, drawn from personal art collections in and around Aspen. 
    Jana Euler, Close Rotation (Left) (2019). Courtesy the artist; Artists Space, New York; Cabinet, London; dépendance, Brussels; Valerie Neu, Berlin; and Greene Naftali, New York. Photo: Elisabeth Bernstein.
    Katz is exploring the boundaries—as well as the crossover—between different kinds of spaces; she sees ancient Pompeiian rooms as having been precursors to the modern museum. That concept forms the inspiration for the display architecture in Aspen, which echoes that of ancient Pompeiian environments: it will be designed by Katz with architect Caitlin Tobias Kenessey of Islington-based firm Bureau de Change. Departing from the standard white cube, Katz’s display will include raised floors, partitions, curtains, and other features to guide museum visitors’ movements and orchestrate their views. 
    The artist’s ideas will be further explored in a catalog with contributions from Katz as well as author Nuar Alsadir, curator Stella Bottai, curator and writer Saim Demircan, writer Hannah Johnston, and poet and playwright Ariana Reines. 
    René Daniëls, Untitled (1982). Photo: Robert Glowacki. Courtesy: the artist, Modern Art, London and The René Daniëls Foundation, Eindhoven.
    Katz, known for paintings that include mouths and various animals and sometimes include various plays on her own name, joined international powerhouse gallery Hauser & Wirth in 2022 after being included in “The Milk of Dreams,” the main exhibition at that year’s Venice Biennale, curated by Cecilia Allemani. She’s notched solo shows since 2009 at top-shelf venues from New York gallery Rachel Uffner to Shanghai’s Antenna Space and Germany’s Kunstverein Freiburg, as well as appearing in group shows at equally renowned forums, from Paris’s Palais de Tokyo to New York’s Lisson Gallery and the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw.
    She’s also proven alluring to critics. Artforum’s Andrew Hunt called her 2021 show “Artery,” at London’s Camden Art Centre, “an art critic’s dream,” saying that it asked questions about reflexivity “in a witty, sophisticated manner,” before finally asking, “did my brain actually get reorganized by this experience?” Writing for 4 Columns about the same show, Emily LaBarge called Katz’s subjects “vivid and energetic, unruly yet precise, as is her style and technique.”
    The Aspen Art Museum, which is celebrating its 45th anniversary, is not afraid of unconventional displays. A few years ago, the institution invited artist Jonathan Berger to reimagine its gift shop; the museum has also had a fruitful collaboration with Italian luxury fashion house Bottega Veneta.
    “In the House of the Trembling Eye” will be on view at the Aspen Art Museum, 637 E Hyman Ave, Aspen, Colorado, May 30–September 29, 2024.
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    A New Ettore Sottsass Survey Celebrates the Italian Designer’s Embrace of Color and Play

    Just in time for New York’s design week, the SoHo gallery Raisonné has unveiled a sweeping five-decade survey of the late revolutionary Italian architect and designer, Ettore Sottsass. A maestro of brash, vivid color, no one quite saw the world like him, nor the possibilities of material and shape.

    An Ettore Sottsass glasswork sits atop a custom desk. Photo: Jeffrey Graetsch, courtesy of Raisonné.

    Sottsass’s (1917–2007) vision was often playful, sometimes garish, but never boring. “I design without rhyme or reason,” Sottsass said in a 1993 interview with Azure. “I don’t even know why I design. I design because I have this disease of the pencil. Because it comes to me. I do it because it’s my destiny.” His range is fully on display here. “Shapes, Colors, and Symbols” runs through June 29.
    An iconic Ettore Sottsass piece. Photo: Jeffrey Graetsch, courtesy of Raisonné.
    “We are both obsessed with him and thought he was undervalued and under-appreciated,” said Debbie August, Raisonné co-founder. “He has such a depth of character, whether it’s architecture or furniture or glassware or ceramics.”
    Sottsass was a founder of the Memphis Group (and even coined its sobriquet)—a collective that came to be known for its bright, unorthodox designs—but he was so ahead-of-his time that some of his most quintessentially 1980s pieces were, in fact, from the 1950s.
    An installation view of “Shapes, Colors, and Symbols.” Photo: Zach Pontz, courtesy of Raisonné.

    August and her partner in the gallery Jeffrey Graetsch have been working for over a year to assemble a broad swath of Sottsass’s oeuvre, mainly from Italy. “Every time we unbox something it’s exciting,” August said.

    More than 100 pieces are on display, and more is on the way. “We’re still overwhelmed and digesting it!” said Graetsch. “It’s unreal. These are things that you just don’t get a chance to see. And hopefully no one will knock them over.”
    An installation view of “Shapes, Colors, and Symbols.” Photo: Zach Pontz, courtesy of Raisonné.

    Included in the show are functional objects, like an Olivetti typewriter (he designed the first portable one, the “Valentine”) and one-of-a-kind tables, as well a series of fascinating glass totems inspired Native American katsina dolls. To Sottsass, they symbolized “the unknown in our existence in the universe.”
    Valentine typewriter for Olivetti by designers Italian Ettore Sottsass and British Perry A King, 1969. Photo: Indianapolis Museum of Art/Getty Images.
    “When I was young, all we ever heard about was func­tion­al­ism, func­tion­al­ism, func­tion­al­ism,” he once said. “It’s not enough. Design should also be sensual and exciting.”

    “Shapes, Colors, and Symbols” is on view at Raisonné 16 Crosby Street, New York, through June 29.
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