Friday, May 22, 2015

Millennial Baroque: Hector Bitar at Longhouse Projects through May 31

 Light in the Absence of Light I, 2014
Mixed media on wood, 
35 1/2  x 23 1/2 x 11 3/4 inches *

Mexican architect turned full-time artist  Héctor Bitar is a find.  And that says a lot in a city teaming with artists from all over the world.  Yet, located in the far-reaches of West Soho (aka Hudson Square), this new talent has emerged amid our tumultuous crowd with heaps of industrially-made and natural materials fashioned into elegant bas-reliefs. The results are literally stunning - arresting in their richness and complexity.  Flamboyant, gigantic and boldly charged with content, one can only call this work "baroque." 
Lilac and Gold, 2015
Mixed media on wood
44 3/4 x 29 x 12 inches*

Moreover, the installation is very well considered.  Bitar's black works, grouped together in the first galleries, create a serious, brooding mood.  As we walk through the space, we discover a doorway that frames the gold pieces in another room.  This contrast is surprising after such a lugubrious introduction. Moving from darkness (the black series Light in the Absence of Light) to full-tilt iridescence, this glittering light seems strategically ominous in its deliberate preciousness.  

Light in the Absence of Light III, 2014
Mixed media on wood
55 x 55 x 14 inches*

Seduced by darkness or light, we easily recognize that these works exploit and explore the detritus of our age.  For here are thickly layered fabrics, cords, bubble wrap and tubing embedded on a flat plane, united by a monochrome: black or gold paint. The dark works remind me of  Robert Morris' "Apocalypse" collages of the 1980s and Auguste Rodin's churning figures in the Gates of Hell (begun in 1880 and never finished); the gold reliefs shine like gilded Louis XIV furniture.

Grey and Gold, 2015
Mixed media on wood and plexiglas cover
44 3/4 x 29 x 8 1/2 inches*

These jammed-packed "sculptures" need long-looking and deep-thinking. What does this all mean juxtaposed on one surface?  Is the artist criticizing our abundance of products and waste? Or is this a millennial Abstract Expressionism fit for our excessive dependency on things - in particular, these things?

Light in the Absence of Light V, 2014
Mixed media on wood panel
63 x 47 x 9 3/4 inches*

It may well be that Héctor Bitar is not campaigning for environmental justice. Rather, his work comes from emotional engagement disciplined by years of studying and designing architecture. The artist writes on his website: "My pieces emerge at the confluence of two distinct efforts - a defiance of my background in architecture and the quest to depict an expression of emotion rather than an illustration of it. At the locus of these two trajectories, these large-scale [relief-like] works emerge. [... They] fundamentally engage like sculptures, as one is drawn in by the sheer voluptuous density of material, which reveal a tension between the rational mind and emotional release in the act of creation."  

So be it.  But no one can spend time with Bitar's works and not think about how much of this stuff ends up in the garbage once we exhaust it usefulness. And yet, these works are not about recycling either. They are simply beautiful. Twentieth-first century Baroque beautiful and far more rewarding to study in person than in these digital images.
Cherry and Gold, 2015
Mixed media on wood and plexiglas cover
37 x 25 x 9 3/4 inches*

Héctor Bitar lives in Mexico City and New York. He was born in 1970 in Mexico City, studied business administration at the Universidad Iberoamericana and then pursued a degree in architecture at the Universidad Anahuac del Norte. He founded Bitar Architects Firm in 2011, wherein he combined his architectural practice with his artistic bent. Today he concentrates exclusively on his art. His work belongs to public and private collections in Mexico, North America, Europe and the Middle East.

Héctor Bitar: Light in the Absence of Light closes next Sunday, May 31st. Longhouse Projects is located at 285 Spring Street, between Varick and Hudson Streets.   *All images courtesy of Longhouse Projects

Best wishes for the Memorial Day Weekend,
Beth New York

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

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Gary Komarin: Paintings and Works on Paper at Madelyn Jordon, through June 20th

 Cake 6, ca. 2010 -2014 
Mixed media on paper 50 x 23 inches

Get out your calendars and let the summer scheduling begin!  Starting with an excursion to Scarsdale to see Gary Komarin: Paintings and Works on Paper at Madelyn Jordon Fine Art.  A picture perfect confection, Ms Jordon serves up the best of summer's sybaritic splendors styled in Komarin's "provisional painting": sugary-sweet wedding cakes and lazy idylls at the beach.

A Suite of Blue Sea Georgica, 2012 
Mixed media on panel 48 x 44 inches 

Or the call of a transatlantic exploration: Paris when it sizzles in hot pulsating reds, pinks, orange and yellow.

Rue Madame in Red, 2014 
Mixed media on canvas 48 x 46 inches

Gary Komarin, a native New Yorker, studied with Philip Guston at Boston University in the 1970s. His work harks back to Guston's lyrical colors during his AbEx period - all in an artistic personality of his own.  For, Komarin renders in thick, hefty lines the joys and quirks of modern living now and many years ago.

The French Wig 7, ca. 2010-2014, 
Mixed media on canvas, 16 x 12 in

Here is his series of French Wigs, we remember our early 60s infatuation with Jackie Kennedy's iconic flip hairdo, reiterated in Warhol dayglo-ish variations.

So - come up and see us sometime.  Gary Komarin closes June 20, 2015.

(Madelyn Jordon Fine Art can be found within walking distance from Scarsdale Station, Harlem Line, Metro North.  Just aim for the delicious Martine's bakery across the street, turn right toward Popham Road and then turn left on Popham.  The gallery is about 2  minutes away, unless you stop at Martine's for their incomparable pastries.)

More summer fare on the way . . .
Beth New York

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

Friday, May 15, 2015

Frieze Art Fair, Etc. - Another Big Art Weekend

Frieze Art Fair on Randall's Island

Another gigunda art fair weekend has already arrived in the Big Apple and those who survived the Armory Art Fair weekend in March know that this will take stamina to get through.

I have no advice - none.  It's either run around to stuff in as much art as possible within three days.
Or, pick and choose, preferring to see less in a more meaningful way.

It's up to you.
Here is the lineup courtesy of Hyperallergic:

Please keep in touch - let  me know which works you especially enjoyed (or hated).

Looking forward to receiving your thoughts, (Comments on the New York Arts Exchange blog or send me an email:   Comment on Facebook: New York Arts Exchange - or tweet!
Beth  New York

aka Beth S. Gersh-Nesic, Ph.D.
Director, New York Arts Exchange
Twitter: @BethNewYork

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Portraits of Artists' Mothers

Mary Cassatt, Reading the Figaro (Portrait of the Artist's Mother), 1878
Katherine Kelson Johnston

Louisine Havermeyer wrote in her memoirs Sixteen to Sixty: Memoirs of a Collector (Ursus Press, 1993): "Anyone who had the privilege of knowing Mary Cassatt's mother would know at once that it was from her and her alone that [Mary] inherited her ability."

Here are other artists' mothers who have gave us their talents through their children:

James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 1  
(The Artist's Mother), 1871
Anna McNeill

Paul Cézanne, Portrait of the Artist's Mother, 1867
Anne Elisabeth Honorine Aubert

Berthe Morisot, Portrait of the Artist's Mother and Sister, 1869-70
 Marie-Joséphine-Cornélie Thomas

Pablo Picasso, Portrait of the Artist's Mother, 1896
Marie Picasso y Lopez

Henry Ossawa Tanner, Portrait of the Artist's Mother, 1897
Anna Tanner

Arshile Gorky, The Artist and His Mother, 1926-36
Gorky's mother died of starvation in 1919 
The portrait is based on a 1912 photo

Happy Mother's Day,
Beth New York

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

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Last Weekly Tour on Wednesday, May 6: Triennial at the New Museum

The New York Arts Exchange's last weekly tour - the end of offering weekly tours - will take place at the New Museum on Wednesday, May 6th. We will meet at 2 pm and end at 4 pm.

Triennial: Surround Audience at the New Museum focuses on the self and identity, the individual and the social, the present and the future. Surveillance, gender identity, popular culture, the environment and physical awareness are among the themes.  It's a curious show - "entertaining," one of my students offered in his critique. I'll take it: "entertaining."  But not exciting.  It's good, but not great.
So it goes. . . . .

Here are a few of the standouts:

Frank Benson, Juliana, 2015

Aleksandra Domanovic, SOHO (Substance of Human Origin, (2015)

Antoine Catala, Distant Feel (2015)

Nadim Abbas (born and lives in Hong Kong), Chamber 665 "Spielberg," 2014-15

To join the last tour, please make a reservation at
Price of tour: $60 per person.  
Triennial: Surround Audience, New Museum, closes on Sunday, May 24th. 

Best wishes and please keep in touch,
Beth New York
aka Beth S. Gersh-Nesic, Ph.D.
Director, New York Arts Exchange

Friday, May 1, 2015

Last Call: Self-Portraits at the National Academy through May 3rd

Kathleen Gilje, Self-Portrait as Bouguereau's The Assault, 2012
Courtesy of Francis Naumann Fine Art

One of the most exciting exhibitions of the Winter-Spring 2015 Art Season is Self: Portraits of Artists in Their Absence, at the National Academy Museum, closing this Sunday, May 3rd.  Curated by Maurizio Pellegrin, Creative Director; Diana Thompson, Curator of the Collection, and Filippo Fossati, Curator at Large, this show seems to reveal the artists' sense of self-identity far better than a passel of selfie instagrams - proof positive that the exceptionally creative mind defies limits, even in the face of unvarnished "truths." It is those "truths" that make this show so engaging, connecting us to the minds behind the objects. 

Above, Kathleen Gilje describes the joys and anxiety of  the artist's calling by selecting William Adolphe Bouguereau's The Assault as her metaphor. Surrounded by beguiling cherubs, these irresistible muses beseech, cuddle, counsel, insist, assist, flatter and cajole the artist into submission. This is the artist's agony and ecstasy: inspiration, hard work and the demands of the marketplace all attacking the mind and body at once. It's not a choice, and it can be a chore.

William-Adolphe Bouguereau, The Assault, 1898


Saul Fletcher, Self-Portrait, 1997
Courtesy of Anton Kern Gallery

British artist, Saul Fletcher, projects a darker side to an artist's sense of self. The black mask shields his face while the eyes still operate - looking directly at the viewer. Seeing, rather than being seen, is the preferred relationship. And note: he is indeed cornered and naked, perhaps victimized by Art's onslaught of demands made visible in Gilje's cherubic muses.

   Ivan Meštrović, Self-Portrait,  c. 1950?

Along with presenting so many well-known and lesser-known artists, surprises abound in the label's information.  For example, Ivan Meštrović (1883-1962), a Yugoslav sculptor who was born in today's Croatia, was the first living artist accorded a solo exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in January 1947.  He also began teaching at Syracuse University in September of that year. In 1953 he was awarded a gold metal by the American Academy of Art and Letters. In 1954, he became a United States citizen.

Self  certainly delivers more that one might expect from its publicity.  I lament the lack of images on the National Academy's website and the absence of a catalog for this endeavor.  So, please make an effort to visit this wonderful show. Contrary to most exhibitions in the 21st century, there is no virtual alternative to make up for missing the real thing.

Happy May Day!
Beth New York

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