Thursday, December 26, 2013

12 Days of Christmas Week Museum Exhibitions

What are those "12 days of Christmas" which my true love gifted so generously?  From Christmas Day through Epiphany Eve (December 25th through January 6th), the holiday season rolls along. And with it, the throngs of museum audiences who squeeze in the last days of Fall's fabulous shows.

Here are my 12 suggestions for Fall 2013:

Wednesday, December 25 - The Jewish Museum: "Chagall: Love, War, Exile" through February 2; Art Spiegelman through March 23 (btw - the Spiegelman is demanding. I recommend 2 visits at least.)
(New York Arts Exchange tour of Chagall on Thursday, January 9th, 1 - 3 pm, details below.)

Thursday, December 26 - The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Julia Margaret Cameron, international textiles and Hildesheim treasures through January 5

Friday, December 27 - Whitney Museum (special holiday hours 11 am - 9 pm): Robert Indiana through January 5

Saturday, December 28 - Guggenheim Museum (pay what you wish from 5:45-7:45 pm): Motherwell collages through January 5

Sunday, December 29 - Frick Museum: Vermeer's Girl with the Pearl Earring and other paintings from Mauritshuis through January 19 (pwyw Sundays 11 am to 1 pm)

Monday, December 30 - Neue Galerie: Kandinsky through February 10

Tuesday, December 31 - National Academy of Art: "See It Loud: 7 Post-War American Painters" through January 26 
(New York Arts Exchange tour on Thursday, January 16, 1 - 3 pm, details below.

Wednesday, January 1 - Museum of Modern Art (yes, it's open): Magritte through January 12

Thursday, January 2 - Asia Society: Iran Modern closing Janurary 5
(New York Arts Exchange tour on Thursday, January 2nd, 1 - 3 pm, details belong.)

Friday, January 3 - Scandinavia House (12-5): "Danish Painting from the Golden Age through the Modern Breakthrough" through January 25; ICP (pwyw 5-8); Morgan Library (free 7 - 9 pm)

Saturday, January 4 - The Brooklyn Museum (Target First Saturdays 5 - 10 pm): "Art in the Spanish American Home" through January 12;  Jean Paul Gaultier through February 23; Wangechi Mutu through March 9

Sunday, January 5 - PS 1: Mike Kelly, through February 6 (12 noon - 6 pm)

[And check out the holiday windows through January 5 - Bergdorf Goodman's "Holidays on Ice" gets my vote for best display of 2013.]

New York Arts Exchange January 2014 Tours:
Thursday, January 2 - "Modern Iranian Art," Asia Society, 1 - 3 pm
Thursday, January 9 - "Chagall: The War Years," 1 - 3 pm
Thursday, January 16 - "See It Loud: 7 Post-War American Painters," National Academy, 1 - 3 pm

Series of 3 tours: $150; a la carte $60

(Winter Tours 2014 will be announced in the next email.)

Ho ho ho ho - Happy Yuletide,
Beth New York

aka Beth S. Gersh-Nesic, Ph.D.
New York Arts Exchange

Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas

Viggo Johansen (Danish 1851-1935), Silent Night, 1891

With all our best wishes for the holiday season! 

The New York Arts Exchange

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Last Call: Janet Cardiff's 40 Part Motet at The Cloisters through December 8

Janet Cardiff, Forty Part Motet (2000-1) 
from the Collection of the National Gallery, Ottawa

Janet Cardiff's Forty Part Motet first came to New York as part of an exhibition of her works at PS 1 in Long Island City.  It was in the fall of 2001 - a very strange time for New York.  Back then, the music seemed mournful, a fitting accompaniment to a city shrouded in pain.

Today. listening to the deeply moving intonations of Thomas Tallis' (c.1505-85) Spem in Alium (Hope in any other), composed c. 1570 for Queen Elizabeth, feels very different from the fall of 2001.  We have changed.  We are less attentive to sensation as we welcome distract from our entertaining mobile devices.  Cardiff's work touches a nerve for those of us who associate her first performance with another place and time. For others, the work is sheer bliss.

Performed through speakers that capture each voice, The Forty Part Motet still offers a sublime experience, enhanced greatly through its installation within the gallery that extends out from the Fuentidueña Chapel in The Cloisters. (Please click on the link provided here so that you learn about the chapel's journey to the New York.) The sensation is magical - if we allow our minds to soar with the promise of spiritual transcendence.  Letting go to feel music may be the key to fully surrendering to this pleasure. (The lyrics speak of other things, of humanity's lowliness in the face of God.)

Janet Cardiff's sound installations have no equal in our contemporary art world.  Her Murder of Crows (created with George Burnes Miller) was presented last fall 2012 at the Park Avenue Armory. Extraordinary in its simplicity and completeness, Cardiff and Miller took the listener through a dream journey that depends primarily on sound.  The listener's imagination did all the rest. More powerful and convincing than recorded books, Cardiff and Miller seem to transform the very air we breathe. We feel as though we are somewhere else during the entire aural performance.

Forty Part Motet is non-narrative. We see forty speakers and walk around this spare, unattractive setting to drink in every note. The beauty of the work comes from the sound. It urges us to stay within the moment, to savor the here-and-now, to be mindful of where we are: to feel from within, intensely. 

As we usher in the holiday season, this work of art reminds us to take time out from the busy throng and count our blessings.

Merry Holidays,
Beth New York

aka Beth S. Gersh-Nesic
New York Arts Exchange

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Reception will follow -
Please join us to celebrate the Holiday Season

Beth New York
aka Beth S. Gersh-Nesic
New York Arts Exchange

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Giuseppe Arcimboldo, Autumn, 1573
oil on canvas. 29.9  x 25.2 inches
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Best Wishes for Thanksgiving -
May you enjoy its pleasures and its plenty 

With heartfelt gratitude for supporting the
New York Arts Exchange

as we celebrate our 10th Anniversary


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Hanukah Greetings and Last Call for Israeli Exhibition at Neuberger Museum, through December 1

Adi Nes, Untitled (from the Soldiers series), 1999 

I refuse to use that "Thanksgiving-whatchamacallit" to usher in The Festival of Lights. Tonight Jews will light the first candle for Hanukah. It's not Thanksgiving yet - I'll send you Thanksgiving Greeting separately.  Thank you very much!

But first, a quick reminder to catch The Compromised Land: Recent Photography and Videos from Israel at the Neuberger Museum, which will close on Sunday, December 1st. The museum is open today, 12 - 5 pm. Closed on Thanksgiving and open again Friday, Saturday and Sunday (even though the students are on vacation).

Curated by Senior Curator of Contemporary Art Helaine Posner and art critic Lilly Wei, this fabulous show is well worth the schlep up Anderson Hill Road and to Purchase College campus drive all the way to the parking lot, then up the stairs to the campus plaza. Oy!  The photogrtaphs are terrific, but the videos take a while. Be prepared to stay at least two hours.  My favorites are Dana Levy's The Fountain, 2011 and Shahar Marcus, Sabich 2006.

Plus the museum's gift shop has many wonderful items you might like to purchase for your special someones.

Happy Hanukah  for now - 

With my best wishes for a delicious celebration,
Beth New York

aka Beth S. Gersh-Nesic
New York Arts Exchange 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Suzanne Lacy's Between the Door and the Street; Creating a Stoop of One's Own

Photos taken by Beth S. Gersh-Nesic

Maybe in L.A., where artist Suzanne Lacy lives, eavesdropping is a novel event. Here, in New York, it is routine - on the subway, in a bus, at Starbucks, by the cash register, and next to a person talking on his/her cellphone. Listening is what New Yorkers do most of the day - invited or not - when we are not talking (which we do the rest of the time).

As I understand it, Lacy initiated a performance piece entitled From the Door to the Street, sponsored by Creative Time, to focus on listening to groups in conversations.  Spectators were listeners, leaning in to overhear thoughts on significant issues addressed by activist groups, whose representatives sat on the stoops.  At the end of the performance, the conversing group broke the "fourth wall" and there was a block party with coffee and donuts for everyone.

The topics ranged from immigration to aging; arranged marriages to adult children of divorced parents - the personal and the political, with the intersection of both very much in evidence throughout.

According to a post-mortem blog, the participants felt acknowledged and satisfied. However, as a member of the audience, my feelings remain mixed and unresolved, tarnished by my introduction to the event on the other side of a barrier at the entrance.  I was told that I could not attend the performance until the street was less crowded.  I used my press card to get in.

So - I didn't like the feeling of exclusivity and being excluded.  As I wandered through the dense crowd of 'viewers," I discovered that it was difficult to hear the conversations from the street and judge the context for these random encounters.

Of the snippets of conversations I did hear, most did not "raise my consciousness" beyond what I generally know.  Listening to WNYC and NPR most of the day, every day, moves my heart far more than anything I caught last Saturday.

Instead, as I gazed upon this scene of these beautifully dressed women in a bourgeois part of Brooklyn, I felt ashamed: ashamed of standing around among artsy, pc people imagining this was significant.  For us, this adventure in social awareness would last a few hours. Then, we would take our shivering bodies inside for warmth, food and the next diversion.  And while we mused on "piecing together the strands of a complicated narrative coming from this intergenerational group" (according to the curatorial statement), millions of people worldwide would still suffer without basic human comforts. Is there something else we can do with activism in art or art in action which makes a dent in this unequal world?  I think so.

On the other hand, I do believe that Lacy's project was initiated in the spirit of good will. As people came off the stoops, conversations between the audience and the participants generated connection. This was the good part.  I spoke to several women whom I hope to meet with again. I hope that these encounters will lead to genuine friendships and fruitful projects in the arts that engage people outside the confines of this one block.

Artist Clarity Haynes put the performance in perspective for me.  She wrote in an email:

"I've been thinking a lot about the differences in art and activism, and what it means for a project to combine elements of both.  I thought the piece was heavy on the activism. The limitations, to me, of activism are the literalness, the lack of imagination in the discourse and presentation. The lack of humor.  There was a straightforwardness about it that, if I were to critique it, I would point out. Still, I do at the same time see that there was something special about its totality, the location, the parameters etc that does add up to something ineffable, more than the sum of its parts. In short, which make it art and not just activism."

I agree with Clarity.  As a work of art, the performance looked wonderful.  As activism: meh.  We can do better, New York.

In view of this criticism, I decided to create a stoop of my own - an inclusive stoop which invites conversation among all the people in the room.

Please join me on "my stoop" on Saturday, November 9th at 4 pm at Fridman Gallery. We will engage in a conversation with anthropologist Habiba Boumlik, assistant professor at La Guardia Community College, devoted to "The Middle East and Women: Past and Present." Professor Boumlik, who comes from Morocco, is an expert in the field.  

We welcome your questions, concerns and opinions.  Most of all, Professor Boumlik will be happy to explain the fundamentals if you are still confused: what is the difference between the Sunnis and Sh'ia; what is the difference between wearing a burka (full covering) and a hijab (headscarf); what is sharia, the law of Islam, and how does it influence the emerging political situations in the Middle East?  Plus, what should we know about Syria?

Our "stoop" is located inside Fridman Gallery, 287 Spring Street (between Varick and Hudson Streets), toasty warm, free of charge and open to the everyone - children too.

Feel free to share this invitation with your friends.

Beth New York
aka Beth S. Gersh-Nesic, Ph.D.
New York Arts Exchange

Friday, October 11, 2013

Janie Cohen, Director of Fleming Museum, UVM, on "Staring Back: Picasso's Demoiselles," a lecture at Fridman Gallery, October 16 at 7 pm

Janie Cohen, Director, Fleming Museum of Art, 
University of Vermont

Is there anything new to add to our numerous analyses of Picasso's shocking Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907)?  Plenty - including one idea that has been staring at us for all their 105 years.  

Janie Cohen, director of the Fleming Museum at the University of Vermont and internationally published Picasso scholar, promises to explain all this to you and more on Wednesday, October 16th at 7 pm in the Fridman Gallery, 287 Spring Street (between Varick and Hudson Streets).  

Free and open to the public, this is one Demoiselles lecture that will not only add to your iconographic arsenal on this radically revolutionary painting, but will change your mind about yourself in relation to viewing this work of art.  Get ready to be surprised and enthralled by Janie Cohen's convincing new research on Picasso's notorious brothel.

For more information, please click on the press release.  Ms. Cohen's lecture is the second in the New York Arts Exchange Fall 2013 Lecture Series at the Fridman Gallery.

Copies of The Demoiselles Revisited (wherein I say my piece on the painting) will be on sale in the gallery.

Here's looking at you -  

Beth New York

aka Beth S. Gersh-Nesic, Ph.D.
New York Arts Exchange 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Last Call: Hopper's Drawings and Paintings at the Whitney through October 6

Edward Hopper (1882–1967), Study for Nighthawks, 1941 or 1942. 
Fabricated chalk and charcoal on paper; 11 1/8 × 15 in. (28.3 × 38.1 cm). 
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York;
 Purchase and gift of Josephine N. Hopper by exchange  2011.65

Josephine Nivison Hopper (1883-1968) bequeathed over 2,500 drawings by her husband Edward Hopper (1882-1967) to the Whitney Museum.  The exhibition Hopper Drawings offers the opportunity to study dozens of the drawings from this gift in the same room as the masterpieces which have made Edward Hopper one of the most beloved artists in American art history.  (And judging from the enormous turnout in Paris, we might say mondiale - worldwide.)  If you have not visited the Whitney Museum's exceptional show, please make a point to stuff it into you schedule by the end of the final day, Sunday, October 6th.  This Hopper show is one of the best (among the greats) ever mounted. 

Edward Hopper (1882–1967), Nighthawks, 1942. 
Oil on canvas, 33 1/8 × 60 in. (84.1 × 152.4 cm).
 The Art Institute of Chicago; Friends of American Art Collection 1942.51. 
Photography © The Art Institute of Chicago

One of the glorious aspects of the New York show is the opportunity to see Nighthawks sketches right next to the painting.  What is the women in the red dress holding?  In the sketch, it seems to be a sandwich.  We also see that in one drawing of 1941 or 1943 the couple seems pretty chummy - a far cry from the painting's characterization of the couple, and all the figures in this all-night diner.  Most viewers consider Nighthawks a pictorial comment on urban alienation.

In the same gallery, another well-known Hopper painting, Early Morning Sunday, sits on an easel, which Hopper used in his Washington Square studio.

Hopper Drawing Edward Hopper’s Early Sunday Morning (1930),
 on his easel at the Whitney Museum of American Art. More Photos »

For more information about Hopper and the exhibition, please visit the Whitney Museum's exhibition page and read Robin Cembalest's article about Nighthawks posted in July 2013 on the Art News website.

(The New York Arts Exchange will tour Julie Margaret Cameron photographs at the Metropolitan Museum on Wednesday, October 9.  Come join us:

Best wishes for the fall,
Beth New York

aka Beth S. Gersh-Nesic, Ph.D.
New York Arts Exchange

Friday, September 20, 2013

Last Call: James Turrell at the Guggenheim through September 25th

James Turrell, Aten Reign, 2013, Guggenheim Museum

James Turrell (b. 1943) makes art that requires long, drawn-out periods of concentration.  Do you think we can manage that in this hyper-active, ADD, Digital Age?  It's a stretch.  Aten Reign, on view in the rotunda of the Guggenheim Museum, needs about an hour of constant viewing to experience the complete cycle of color changes.

Informed by his Quaker background (the belief in receiving an "inner light" through individual meditation at meetings), Turrell seems to make secular environments that seduce us into a moment of visual - and perhaps spiritual - pleasure.  These installations illuminate shapes in contained spaces, sculpting interiors through directing radiance.  Aten Reign's slow, subtle spectacle of color transition increases our awareness of an architectural form created specifically for the Guggenheim's central rotunda. The tones change ever so slowly, asking us to be patient. To wait.

And so we wait, becoming increasingly mindful.  We wait to delight in the next magnificent hue, and we wait to embrace a fully conscious act of seeing in time and space.  

For more information on this exhibition and other Turrell projects, please watch an interview on Charlie Rose  wherein the artist explains his philosophies and ambitions.

And for an illuminating aural essay on eye-mind perception, please listen to Radiolab's podcast on color: (Season 10; Episode 13).

Aten Reign is Turrell's biggest museum installation so far.  He is still working on his colossal masterpiece, Roden Crater, in Flagstaff, Arizona, begun in 1979.  The Guggenheim's exhibition, James Turrell includes other works by the artist which belong to the museum's collection.

Concurrent with the Guggenheim exhibition, Turrell has two other shows in the US: 
James Turrell: Retrospective at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA, through April 6, 2014) and James Turrell: The Light Inside at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas (through September 22, 2013).

And now a word from Culture Grrl and Deborah Solomon on New York's WNYC.  Discotheque wedding cakes, anyone?

Shine on,
Beth New York

aka Beth S. Gersh-Nesic, Ph.D.
New York Arts Exchange

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Remembering Michael Richards on September 11th; Todd Stone Paints the WTC Site in 2012

It is that day again when our hearts are heavy remembering all who perished on that sun-filled September morning in 2001.  These last few weeks, I have worked with Rosalind Solomon to present her latest show in New York and all the time I have thought about working with Michael Richards on her show at the Grey Art Gallery, 25 years ago - so many lifetimes ago in a world transformed by the attack on the World Trade Center.

Sculptor Michael Rolando Richards died in the attack on September 11, 2001. At the time, he was enjoying a fellowship with World Views, an artist-in-residence program sponsored by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. He had been hard at work on his project, The Tuskegee Airmen, dedicated to the memory of the African-American air force who were segregated during World War II.

Michael Richards, Untitled, 1997. Tuskegee Airmen series.
Michael Richards (American, 1963-2001). Untitled, 1997.
 Fiberglass and resin with iron oxide. 72 x 24 x 19 in. (182.9 x 61 x 48.3 cm). 
Contemporary Art. Anonymous gift in honor of Michael Richards. 
Image courtesy Brooklyn Museum
Michael had attended an opening at the Grey Art Gallery on September 10, 2001 and then decided to head for his WTC studio on the 92nd floor in Manhattan to work.  Living in Rosedale, Queens at the time, he skipped the long commute home in favor of staying overnight in order to continue working into the wee hours of the morning. When the planes struck at 8:45 a.m., he might have been getting ready to go to work at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, where he was a freelance preparator.
That Richards was killed by an airplane piercing the body of a tall, trim tower seems eerily coincidental and almost mystical. Richards' well-known sculpture Tar Baby vs. St. Sebastian,1999, features the artist's own tall, trim body as the full-length male figure standing straight and lifted off the floor by a slender pole. The gold resin body, clad in a military uniform, bears numerous small airplanes driven into the torso, their noses piercing the surface like the arrows buried into St. Sebastian's flesh as he became a martyr to his Christian faith.
The Tar Baby vs. St. Sebastian, 1999
Michael Richards' faith was in humankind. He truly believed that our better angels would prevail - even in the face of political turmoil, bigotry, racism and injustice.  Curator Jorge Daniel Veneciano, who organized Richards' exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 1996, pointed out that the artist's reference to flight worked on two levels: the flight away from repression and the flight toward redemption.
In a 1997 untitled sculpture of a male figure carrying a parachute pack on his back, the artist seems to speak of that dual experience. Here a Tuskegee Airman prepares for flight, focused on the mission and his survival. He willingly accepts the risk while he relies on his experience, skill and a parachute (a metaphor for community of support?) to see him through.  And yet, there is exhaustion in these faces and bodies.  Their patriotism may take them physically into the skies, but their souls remain grounded in despair. When will tolerance replace hatred and war?
Michael Richards, Are You Down?, Franconia Sculpture Park, 2000

Richards' life hardly touched Tuskegee, Alabama. Born in Brooklyn on August 2, 1963 to a Costa Rican mother and Jamaican father, Michael Richards lived in Kingston, Jamaica during his childhood. He graduated with honors from Excelsior High School and then returned to New York to pursue his undergraduate degree at Queens College, which he completed with distinction in 1985. He went on to earn a Master's Degree in Arts from New York University in 1991. While at NYU, Richards worked as a preparator at the university's Grey Art Gallery.
In 1993, Richards participated in the highly-coveted Whitney Museum Independent Study Program, followed by an Artists-in-the-Marketplace Program at the Bronx Museum of the Arts in 1994.
From 1995 to 1996, he participated in the Artist-in-Residence program at the Studio Museum of Harlem and The Space Program, run by The Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
In 2000, Richards received the Franconia Sculpture Park/Jerome Fellowship. Today, his project for the part Are You Down? is on display in this Minnesota park and has become the Michael Richards Memorial. It consists of three airmen (cast from Richards' body) sitting in a circle surrounding a target, facing outward. Originally created in fiberglass, Franconia hopes to raise enough money to cast the work in bronze in order to preserve the work in perpetuity.  A film about the project can be found here
The Tuskegee Airmen series highlights a squadron of African-American pilots in World War II--formally called the 332nd Fighter Group in the U.S. Army Air Corps--who were segregated from the other Army units. Despite this racist slight, the squadron excelled in its service to this country. Some sources have said that no airmen lost their lives on a mission during the war. This assertion has been challenged since 2006. However, in Richards' day, the reputation of the Tuskegee Airmen remained almost mythic--as Richards' works tend to be.
The name Tuskegee also brings up the association with the notorious syphilis experiment conducted by the U.S. Public Health Service from 1932 to 1972. Infecting African-American sharecroppers, the scientists wanted to observe this horribly destructive disease. Another example of racism in the United States, this experiment withheld penicillin (which became available in 1929) from its subjects. During the course of this experiment the wives and children of the subjects were infected, too.
Clearly, Tuskegee resonated with Michael Richards for a number reasons.
At the time of his death, Richards was working on Fallen Angel, a life-size piece based on his own torso that was meant to be positioned on the floor. Wings were attached to the back with one wing broken off and left on the floor. Today it serves as a metaphor for the artist’s life and death.
Executive Director of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council in 2001, Liz Thompson noted that "He was so promising. He was on a tear." So true.
Today, we remember him for all that he was and all that he was meant to be. And we mourn the loss of a great artist and equally wonderful friend. A memorial was held at the Studio Museum of Harlem on September 23, 2001.

Known Extant Works:

  • Untitled (from Tuskegee Airmen), 1997, Booklyn Museum, NY
  • Tar Baby vs. St. Sebastian, 1999.
  • Are You Down?, 2000, Franconia Sculpture Park, MN
  • Grey Art Gallery, New York University , New York
  • Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
  • Aldrich Contemporary Museum, Ridgefield, CT
  • Studio Museum of Harlem, New York
  • Bronx Museum of Arts, New York
  • Miami Art Center, Miami, Florida
  • Franconia Sculpture Park, Franconia, Minnesota
  • Socrates Sculpture Park, Long Island City, New York
  • North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC
  • Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, IL
  • The Debeyard Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • Artists' Space, New York
We still miss you, Michael.

Artist Todd Stone Remembers:

Todd Stone, 4 Raising, 2012

How can we adequate commemorate in art over 3,000 people who perished on September 11, 2001 in the World Trade Center towers, Shanksville, Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon, plus those who died or live with chronic ailments because they worked at Ground Zero?   Todd Stone answered this question 11 years ago as he witnessed the attacks on the WTC towers from his studio in Lower Manhattan.  He recorded what he saw and he continues to record the rebirth of the site.   Recently he sent me a new image, 4 Raising, which interprets the shiny resilient surface and spirit of this new building at 150 Greenwich Street. 

Upon completion, the buildings at the former WTC should look like this:
A digital illustration of 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7 WTC

To learn more about Todd Stone's September 11th series Witness and Downtown Rising, please visit his website: and read my review of his 2011 exhibition at 7 World Trade Center, which included poetry readings and other commemorative events.  A film of the events on August 27, 2011 entitled Witness Downtown Rising Renga premiered in March 2012.  

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Diane Radycki to sign her Paula Modersohn-Becker monograph on Tuesday, September 10th in Rizzoli's on 57th St, 5:30 - 7 pm

Please celebrate the publication of Paula Modernsohn-Becker: The First Modern Women Artist with its author Diane Radycki, director of the Payne Gallery and Associate Professor of Art History at Moravian College, on Tuesday, September 10th.  Professor Radycki will sign her fabulous book at Rizzoli Bookstore, 31 West 57th Street, from 5:30 pm to 7 pm.  (Click on this link to watch Professor Radycki lecture on Paula Modersohn-Becker's work.)

This new monograph is Radcyki's second book Modersohn-Becker.  Her first was the translation and annotation of PMB's letters. Four years ago Radycki published an article "Pictures of Flesh: Paula Modersohn-Becker and the Nude," in Women's Art Journal (Fall/Winter 2009), which now seems to be a preview of things to come.

Born on February 9, 1876 in Dresden, Paula Modersohn-Becker was the third child of seven born to the son of a university professor and the daughter of aristocrats. Her father worked for the railroad. In 1888, she moved with her family to Bremen, and in 1892, she took her first art lessons while visiting with an aunt in London.
After her trip to London, she completed her teacher-training studies and kept up with her art through private lessons (1893 to 1895). In 1896, she joined the Union of Berlin Women Artists. Two years later her life changed significantly. She moved in with a group of artists who resided in Worpswede, an artists' colony outside of Bremen. There she socialized with Fritz Mackensen (1866-1953), Henrich Vogeler (1872-1942) and Otto Modersohn (1865-1943). The sculptor Clara Westhoff (1875-1954) joined the group in 1899, and the poet Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) joined in 1900.
Paula and Clara became close friends. In 1900 they spent the first six months of the year together in Paris. Modersohn-Becker studied art at the Académie Colarossi and anatomy at the École des Beaux-Art. Westhoff studied sculpture with the great master Auguste Rodin (1840-1917). Then they spent the summer together in Berlin.
Clara married Rainer on April 29, 1901; Paula married Otto on May 25, 1901. The Rilkes' only child, Ruth, was born in December 1901.
After a short period of estrangement, Paula and Clara reconciled in 1903, perhaps when Modernsohn-Becker spent February and March in Paris. Paula returned to Paris in 1905, again in February and March, and studied at the Académie Julian.
Paula Modersohn-Becker, Self-Portrait with Amber Necklace, 1906
oil on canvas, 24 x 18 inches
Paula Modersohn-Becker Museum, Bremen, Germany
In February 1906, Modersohn-Becker packed her bags in Worpsweder and stole out of the house, much like Nora Helmer in Ibsen's A Doll's House (1879), to start her new life outside of her nuclear family.  Filled with ambition (rather than Nora's shame), Paula wanted to establish her own identity. Her Self-Portrait with Amber Necklace (1906) is among the few nude self-portraits that would set her apart from her female contemporaries. Painting the self nude was unusual among male artists, but among women artists almost unheard of (even though the female nude dominated art from the Renaissance forward).  
Paula Modersohn-Becker, Otto Modersohn Sleeping, 1906.
Diane Radycki writes that the sexual relationship between Modersohn-Becker and her husband was not consummated until five years after their wedding day - just before Modersohn-Becker took off for Paris. The marriage might be considered one of convenience for Otto Modersohn, who had become a widow shortly after the birth of his daughter Elsbeth.  Once married to Paula, Otto would have a mother for his child and a wife to serve his needs.  Eventually, Paula wanted out.
In June 1906, Otto Modersohn spends a week in Paris to plead for his wife's return to Worpswede. They lived together in Paris in September, in October  and the winter of 1907.  In March Paula knew she was pregnant. In April she was back in Worpswede. Paula Modersohn-Becker gave birth to her daughter Matilde on November 2.  Eighteen days later, the artist died of an embolism.  She was 31 years old.

Rainer Maria Rilke's poem "Requiem for a Friend," written one year after Modersohn-Becker's death, expresses his grief. Perhaps Rilke was in love with Modersohn-Becker and his wife Clara Westhoff.
Modersohn-Becker's daughter Matilde (Tillie) established the Paula Modersohn-Becker Foundation in 1978.  Matilde passed away twenty years later. The Paula Modersohn-Becker Museum was opened in Bremen in 1927. In May 2005, Jenny Holzer (b. 1950) installed For Paula Modersohn-Becker in the museum. The Otto Modersohn Museum is located in Fischerhude.

Radycki's book Paula Modersohn-Becker: The First Woman Artist is breathtakingly beautiful from cover to cover, enhanced by this art historian's engaging prose which draws us into the world of modern art at the turn of the twentieth century.  Radycki speculates that Modersohn-Becker might have met Picasso at the artist Ignacio Zuloaga's studio at a party in late April 1906 (p. 144). We imagine PMB in Montmartre and Montparnasse, at the avant-garde salons and among her friends in rural Germany - bristling with radical notions of the "new art."

I cannot imagine that this heartbreaking story will bypass Hollywood.  With the right actress and screenplay, PMB's star will most certainly rise again - and soon.

Best wishes for the new year - l'chaim,
Beth New York

aka Beth S. Gersh-Nesic, Ph.D.
New York Arts Exchange