Monday, April 27, 2015

Last Tours: Chelsea on April 30 and New Museum on May 6, 2015

Alma Thomas: Moving Heaven and Earth, Paintings and Works on Paper, 1958-78
Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, through May 16th

All good things must come to an end and the New York Arts Exchange's weekly tours will end this Spring on Wednesday, May 6th.

Therefore only 2 tours remain:

Wednesday, April 30: Alma Thomas at Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, Joyce Kozloff at DC Moore and other galleries in this part of Chelsea.

Joyce Kozloff, Revolver, 2008

And next Wednesday, May 6th: the New Museum's Triennial

Please join me for these glorious shows.  The Alma Thomas retrospective should not be missed!

As always - $60 per tour; we meet at 1 pm at Michael Rosenfeld Gallery on April 30th and at the New Museum on May 6th.

Please reserve your place at

Happy May Day!

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

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Ann Cefola Shares Her Book with Friends at the Hudson River Museum on April 26th

Please join me on Sunday, April 26th to celebrate Ann Cefola's new book of poetry Face Painting in the Dark (Dos Madres, 2014)  at the Hudson River Museum.
Event begins at 3:30 pm.

I look forward to seeing you there!

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

Monday, April 13, 2015

Picasso in Vermont - A Postmodern Look at the Demoiselles d'Avignon

Installation for Staring Back at the Fleming Museum

Staring Back: The Creation and Legacy of Picasso's Demoiselles d'Avignon is on view at the Fleming Museum of Art, University of Vermont, Burlington, through June 21st.  

Trust Picasso scholar Janie Cohen, director of the Fleming Museum of Art, to find a way to bring Pablo Picasso's huge Les Demoiselles d'Avignon to Burlington without incurring massive shipping costs and insurance: think virtual reality based on numerous digital expressions.  The result is excellent!   A smorgasbord of interactive and traditional visual experiences that inform as well as entertain.  

Moreover, this  brilliant curatorial concept reinvigorates investigations into a well-known classic through Cohen's own revelations about the influence of ethnographic photography at the turn-of-the 20th-century and contributions from  UVM faculty and former students.  (Hopefully, Cohen will continue in this vein - re-presenting masterpieces as an academic community effort -  and inspire other museums to follow suit.)  

Pictured above, you see a reproduction of Picasso's early study for the Demoiselles, which included a medical student and a sailor greeted by the ladies in a brothel's parlor.   Resting on the table are eight Kindles that contain all 700 plus sketches that Picasso drew as he worked through his ideas for the roughly 8 x 7 foot canvas.  A invaluable blend of technology and focused activity.

Sound Installation by Jenn Karson, UVM '93,
Artist, Lecturer, UVM College of Engineering
and Mathematical Sciences, and Founder, Vermont Makers, Burlington

Upon entering the exhibition, on the extreme left, Picasso poses in front of the famous "Bateau Lavoir," the nickname for a ramshackle building that housed studios and apartments in a slummy part of Montmartre.   This photo appears within a video loop of vintage and digitally engineered photos of the neighborhood. Adjacent to this, emanating from a ca. 1907 phonograph horn, is a collage of ambient sounds that aurally transport us back to Paris c. 1907.  According to the poet/artist Max Jacob, one of Picasso's closest friends, the Demoiselles was painted in the basement of this building during the first half that year.  In the exhibition, we see a projection of the painting and imagine the studio where Picasso slaved away in chilly winter and sweaty July, transforming five Iberian female faces into ferocious, intimidating gorgons.   

Content by Janie L. Cohen; digital installation by project collaborator, Coberlin Brownell, UVM '95,
Assistant Professor, Emergent Media Program, Champlain College, Burlington, VT

On the extreme right of the entry, we enter a Hall of History that educates on a number of important levels.  We learn about the painting's sources, its contemporaneous context and its art historical roots. Moreover, we are made aware of its fundamental significance in Picasso's oeuvre: the artist's presentation of the work's genealogy based on personal preferences: Egyptian, European, African and Oceanian art.   It was this confrontation with art history (Professor Jacqueline Gojard pointed out to me recently in our correspondence about the exhibition) that infused the work with such fury: hand-to-hand combat with the art gods to earn a place among the deities. (Think: Spanish Zeus slaying his international Titan fathers.)


The nifty interactive devices personalizes the journey through the information about the painting, as we control the timing and flow of images. In this respect there is ample opportunity to read the copious texts in various orders, according to our whims.  A good example of Millennial teaching style.

Janie L. Cohen, director of the Fleming Museum UVM, and curator of Staring Back

The history of Les Demoiselles d'Avignon aside, a tremendously satisfying portion of Staring Back comes from the study of the real paintings, sculptures, photographs and a print on display.  Each artist responds to Picasso's content and innuendos in provocative ways.   (I will post their work in another essay.)

For now - please view three videos that flesh out the Demoiselle's magnificent history and legacy:

Janie Cohen on ethnographic sources for the Demoiselles.
Beth Gersh-Nesic on an anecdotal history of the Demoiselles.

Staring Back: The Creation and Legacy of Picasso's Demoiselles d'Avignon is on view at the Fleming Museum of Art, University of Vermont, Burlington, through June 21st.   Please make this a destination to celebrate Spring 2015.  For more information, please visit the Fleming's website.

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

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Paschal Greetings 2015

Spring is here, or so we are told -  as snow, rain and sleet have been on the menu this past week.  Has there been a mix-up in the Vernal Equinox?  An unannounced delay?

Nevertheless, the spring holidays are definitely on the way, whether you wear Canada Goose or only an Easter bonnet for the festivities.

Nicole Eisenman, Seder, 2010

At the Jewish Museum, Nicole Eisenman's painting, Seder, is on view through August 9th.   This solemn image, based on Norman Rockwell's Freedom from Want, 1942-43, is a bit off-putting in its expressionist colors and emphasis on the red beet-flavored horseradish, an acquired a taste.  Perhaps, one acquires a taste for Eisenman's style in due time as well.  I'm working on it.

Mark Podwal, Spring, 2011

I much prefer Mark Podwal's Spring - and all its iconographic implications: growth, vitality and beauty flourishing from the illuminations of faith (here a menorah sprouts flowers where candles usually cast their glow).

Leonardo da Vici, The Last Supper, late 1490s.

Was the Last Supper a seder?  Questions remain unanswered in this inquiry. Several scholars doubt the occasion was a traditional seder.  Rather, it might have been a meal taken during the week of Passover, as declared in the Gospels of Mathew, Luke and specifically in Mark (14:12): "the first day of the unleavened bread."

Master of Perea, Last Supper, late 15th century, Spain

In Master of Perea's painting of the Last Supper, this anonymous Spanish artist seems to believe the gathering was indeed a seder, for he covers the table with ritual dishes circa 1492 (before or after the expulsion of the Jews?).   Historians often doubt that the seder performed during the life of Christ looked quite this way.  Others point out that the seder, as we know it, requires the Haggadah developed during the Middles Ages.  (The oldest fragments of a Haggadah date to 200 CE/AD and many medieval haggadot survive from the 13th through 15th centuries.)

Here are the sources I consulted:

The seder celebrates the Exodus from Egypt and freedom of all kinds.  We are commanded to recline, rather than sit, like the free people of ancient Greece and Rome - symposium-style.  For the seder is supposed to be like the symposium of yore.

Interestingly, in most paintings of the Last Supper, Jesus and his disciples sit at attention, rigidly arranged in isocephalic harmony to demonstrate the equality among these men.

Leonardo, however, gives us animation - they are responding to Jesus statement that one among them will betray him.  "Are you talking about me?" they gesture.  "Or him?" The tumult seems truly authentic.  Seders are very noisy.

More important to consider: What did this gathering of men eat in 33 CE/AD?  The answer may be in today's

Adi Nes, The Last Supper, 1999

From my perspective: the Paschal Week brings Christianity and Judaism together to savor the first days of the spring and the promise of renewal  - physically, mentally and spiritually.

Happy Passover and Happy Easter -
May you enjoy peace, love and art (Spring Tours begin next week: click on the website link below for our schedule),
Beth New York

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