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12505 - 20170521 - "Adios Utopia: Dreams and Deceptions in Cuban Art Since 1950" in Houston - 05.03.2017-21.05.2017


On March 5, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, debuted Adiós Utopia: Dreams and Deceptions in Cuban Art Since 1950. The landmark exhibition of Cuban art is a project conceived by the Cisneros Fontanals Fundación Para Las Artes (CIFO Europa) and The Cisneros Fontanals Arts Foundation, CIFO USA. The exhibition is organized in partnership with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. Featuring more than 100 of the most important works of painting, graphic design, photography, video, installation, and performance created by Cuban artists and designers over the past six decades, Adiós Utopia looks at how Cuba’s revolutionary aspirations for social utopia—and subsequent disillusionment—shaped nearly 60 years of Cuban art.

With Cuban art increasingly visible in the United States and abroad, Adiós Utopia provides an unprecedented context for understanding the recent surge of interest in the art of Cuba around improved US/Cuba relations. Rather than offer a historical survey, the exhibition presents a thematic narrative focused on Cuba’s utopian aspirations and failures. It focuses on the experiences of Cuban artists who lived and trained on the island, examining how they commented on and confronted the social and political programs set in motion by the Cuban Revolution through pivotal artistic movements from the 1960s to the 1990s. The narrative also provides access, in some cases for the first time, to the work of avant-garde pioneers of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s that continues to influence Cuban artists.

Conceived by CIFO Europa, the exhibition is curated by Cuban independent curators Gerardo Mosquera, René Francisco Rodríguez, and Elsa Vega. Museum advisors on the project are Olga Viso, executive director at the Walker Art Center; and Mari Carmen Ramírez, the Wortham Curator of Latin American Art at the MFAH, who organized the U.S. tour.

Abstraction: Universalism and Artistic Language
Adiós Utopia opens with an introduction to Cuba’s lesser-known “Concrete” art movement. Artists Sandú Darié, Loló Soldevilla, and others in the 1950s sought to establish an avant-garde art group to introduce a universal approach to art, following a spirit of modernization. These artists engaged with Constructivist counterparts abroad, abandoning representational art in favor of using line, color, and form as autonomous elements in their work. This is evident in Soldevilla’s geometric reliefs of the 1950s, Darié’s Pintura transformable [Transformable painting] (c.1950), and Mario Carreño’s Sin título [Untitled] (1954). More recent works—such as Yaima Carranza’s Malevich, de la serie Tutoriales de esmalte de uñas [Malevich, from the series Nail Polish Tutorials] (2010), which transposes 20th-century compositions by Russian artist Kazimir Malevich into nail-polish patterns—turn a critical eye towards the gaps between revolutionary ideals and reality.

Cult and Destruction of the Revolutionary Nation
The next section traces the development of Cuba’s revolutionary icons—including the Cuban flag, national leaders and rebel soldiers—from their origin in the 1960s to their various re-interpretations throughout the decades. Historical photographs by Alberto Korda, Raúl Corrales, and other major documentarians of the 1960s are brought into dialogue with monumental paintings, video, and sculpture, by key artists such as Servando Cabrera Moreno and his dramatizations of peasants and workers in his painting Rebeldes de la Sierra [Rebels of the Sierra] (1961) and Raúl Martínez with his serialized portraits of political leaders in the painting Rosas y Estrellas [Roses and Stars] (1972). Contemporary reinterpretations of national iconography include Tania Bruguera’s Estadística, de la serie Memoria de la postguerra [Statistics, from the series Memory of the Post-War Era] (1995–2000)—a Cuban flag made of bundles of hair sourced from her neighbors and friends—and Tomás Esson’s Bandera cubana [Cuban flag] (1990), which depicts the flag as a sinuous, physical body. Also on view in these galleries are key works from the 1980s generation of artists who pioneered a new, more conceptually focused Cuban art (Nuevo Arte Cubano), characterized by the successful merging of revolutionary imagery with references to highly personal topics based on their experience of Cuban social and political reality. Most notably, this includes Juan Francisco Elso’s For America (José Martí) (1986), a wooden sculpture that presents 19th-century revolutionary leader José Martí as a religious martyr.

Poster Art
One of the strongest visual elements of the Cuban Revolution remained its extensive use of posters to promote political ideals, cultural events, and solidarity with struggles for independence in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Not merely used as tools for propaganda, Cuban posters became international reference points for innovations in graphic design and political messaging. In this section, a selection of approximately 50 posters that defined the so-called “Golden Age” of Cuban poster design (from 1960 to 1972) are represented, with subject matter ranging from political figures to cultural events involving music, literature, and cinema. Well-known posters designed by Olivio Martínez, Antonio Fernández Reboiro, and Alfredo Gonzaléz Rostgaard, among others, are included.

The Imposition of Words: Discourse, Rhetoric, and Media Controls
This group of works focuses on the role of speech and discourse in shaping revolutionary ideology, as well as themes of censorship and media controls. Opus (2005), a video installation by José Ángel Toirac featuring sound clips of Fidel Castro delivering elaborate statistics, opens this section. Other large installations, including Glexis Novoa’s Sin título (de la Etapa Práctica) [Untitled, from the Practical Stage] (1989), continue to explore the ways that rhetoric and language have defined Cuban art and national identity. Iconic works like Él hace puf [He goes puf] (1967) and Tú haces plaff [You go plaf] (1967) by Umberto Peña and La Bola o el Discurso (1989) by Tomás Esson use the mouth and tongue as metaphors for addressing the limits on social customs in Cuban society. This section also focuses on the influential work of Santiago “Chago” Armada, a political cartoonist of the 1960s whose work was intermittently censored on several occasions by the Cuban government.

Sea, Borders, Exile
From 1959 onward, the waters surrounding Cuba acted as both a gateway to the rest of the world and as a barrier to insulate the country from external influences. This section of the exhibition focuses on territorial tensions—specifically between Cuba and the United States—and mass migrations as represented by the sea. Many of the works included relate to the humanitarian crises in the 1990s, when the collapse of the Soviet Union left the island without its key trade partner. Tonel’s well-known installation El bloqueo [The blockade] (1989) sets the tone for this gallery, featuring a set of cinder blocks set in the shape of Cuba, the layout giving the impression of an island at risk of sinking. Photographs by Manuel Piña and José Figueroa round out the presentation, providing dramatic documentation of Cubans as they sought to escape the island.

Lost Illusions and Inverted Utopia
Though the Cuban Revolution sought to create a new, utopian social order, reality was often characterized by paradox, strife, and disillusionment. The final section of Adiós Utopia presents works created over the past 40 years that chart the unraveling of the utopian dream. In Jeanette Chavez’s video performance Autocensura [Self-censorship] (2006), the artist methodically ties knots of string tightly around her own tongue. Photographic works from Ricardo Elías’s Oro Seco [Dry Gold] series (2005–09) document the decay of the factories and transportation systems that upheld Cuba’s once profitable sugar industry, ,while Yoan Capote’s Stress (in memoriam) (2004–12) sandwiches hundreds of human teeth between two concrete blocks to suggest the teeth-gritting stress of everyday life in Cuba. In the final gallery of the exhibition, visitors experience two haunting works, both created by the artist collective Los Carpinteros. Conga irreversible [Irreversible conga] (2012), a video of a performance piece staged during the 2012 Havana Bienal, shows a traditional Cuban street procession performed in reverse; the marchers and the crowds who blindly follow are a metaphor for the uncertainty of the country’s future. The collective’s sculptural piece, Faro tumblado [Felled lighthouse] 2006), recalls the iconic lighthouse of the Morro Castle in Havana, a prominent feature of the cityscape and a national monument. Here, the icon is laid on its side, questioning its function as a guiding light.


12504 - 20170402 - Artworks examine a dramatic shift in how women artists in the 1990s redefined the 'self' in their art practices- Newport Beach, CA - 07.01.2017-02.04.2017

Rachel Lachowicz, Homage to Carl Andre (After Carl Andre's "Magnesium and Zinc," 1969) 1991. Lipstick and wax, 3/8 x 72 x 72 inches. Collection Orange County Museum of Art, Museum purchase with additional funds provided by Eileen and Peter Norton
The last decade of the twentieth century marked a brief, but significant moment of intense, rapid sociopolitical, economic and cultural transformation, particularly for women. Forms of Identity: Women Artists in the 90s on view at the Orange County Museum of Art presents a selection of artworks from the museum’s permanent collection created by sixteen significant women artists working in this time period whose artistic practice shifted from the political to personal. The exhibition is on view through April 2, 2017.

Whereas feminist movements prior to the 90s primarily addressed issues between the two genders, postmodernism and women artists in the 90s expanded the critique of being ‘the other’ within womanhood, examining race, age, and gender politics. Women artists began to shift from more radical direct approaches to more covert poetic gestures. The exhibition includes eighteen works, eight of which are recent donations to the permanent collection, including a recently acquired, room-size installation by Los Angeles artist Liz Craft.

Artists featured: China Adams, Laura Aguilar, Polly Apfelbaum, Leslie Brack, Jessica Bronson, Liz Craft, Meg Cranston, Jacci Den Hartog, Dawn Fryling, Diane Gamboa, Rachel Lachowicz, Helen Pashgian, Erika Rothenberg, Alexis Smith, Linda Stark, and Millie Wilson.

The artists in this exhibition all worked in the 1990s and addressed topics surrounding the self. Disassociated from the politics of feminism, artists Jacci Den Hartog, Dawn Fryling, Helen Pashgian, and Linda Stark asserted their individuality by creating works with unconventional materials, deliberately emphasizing the art object’s formal properties. China Adams, Polly Apfelbaum, Liz Craft, and Meg Cranston explored their own personal, interior worlds of thought, place and memory. At the same time, Laura Aguilar, Jessica Bronson, and Diane Gamboa directly addressed culture, race, and gender identity politics, and Leslie Brack, Rachel Lachowicz, Erika Rothenberg, Alexis Smith, and Millie Wilson investigated female identities within the context of popular culture and the art world.

Women artists working in the last decade of the twentieth century owe a debt to earlier feminist activism. Feminist Revolution activists in the 1960s and direct action artist groups like WAC (Women’s Action Coalition), through protest and performance, publicly confronted barriers to women’s rights in a male-dominated art market. By the 90s, feminists expanded their critique to subcategories of marginalization within womanhood. Building on early efforts by these politically active feminist groups, women artists gained new freedom to create art through a more familiar and personal shape: their own identity.


12503 - 20170722 - Chinese ceramics from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on view at the Vincent Price Art Museum - Los Angeles - 24.01.2017-22.07.2017


Tea Bowl (Chawan) with Hare's Fur Pattern, Southern Song dynasty, 1127-1279, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Mr. and Mrs. Allan C. Balch Collection (M.51.2.1). Photo © Museum Associates/LACMA
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art announced today that works from the museum's Chinese art collection will be on view at the Vincent Price Art Museum in a special exhibition. Chinese Ceramics from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, on view January 24–July 22, 2017, will present 50 ceramic masterpieces with examples from the Neolithic period to the 19th century that exhibit a variety of styles and techniques, including works made of low-fired earthenware and high-fired stoneware and porcelain. This exhibition is part of a new LACMA initiative that launched in summer 2016 called On-Site: Neighborhood Partnerships with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Supported by a grant from The James Irvine Foundation, On-Site is an example of LACMA’s commitment to making its collection and programs accessible to the communities of Los Angeles County, in the hopes of broadening participation in cultural experiences. By building on existing partnerships, establishing new relationships, and seeking community input, LACMA aims to create educational and shared experiences that resonate with community members.

"This collaboration with the Vincent Price Art Museum and East Los Angeles College is the first time LACMA has presented an exhibition dedicated to Chinese ceramics from its permanent collection in another part of Los Angeles,” said Michael Govan, LACMA CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director. “This is an important component of our On-Site program—sharing the transformational power of art with the local community.”

Pilar Tompkins Rivas, director of the Vincent Price Art Museum, said, "We are thrilled to partner with LACMA to showcase these important works of Chinese ceramics at the Vincent Price Art Museum. We are embedded within an important and thriving Asian American cultural center in Los Angeles County, and we believe this exhibition will have deep resonance for our local community and for the diverse student populations that we serve at East Los Angeles College. This is an exciting opportunity to share these masterworks through the exhibition and its related educational programs.”

"This is the first opportunity in over a decade to view a superb selection of LACMA’s Chinese ceramics ranging in date from the Neolithic period (c. 2500 BC) to the late Qing dynasty (1644–1911),” said exhibition curator Stephen Little, Florence and Harry Sloan Curator of Chinese Art and Department Head, Chinese & Korean Art at LACMA. “The ceramics on show include some of the first examples of Chinese art to enter LACMA’s collection in the 1920s and ’30s, presenting a chance to view some of the most important styles and techniques in Chinese ceramic history, a wide range of symbols commonly found in Chinese art, and a fine selection of ceramics designed to be exported to countries outside of China.”

This exhibition, comprising works from LACMA’s permanent collection, presents an introduction to Chinese ceramics, with examples from c. 2500 BC (Neolithic period) to the 19th century, and is curated by Stephen Little, Florence and Harry Sloan Curator of Chinese Art and Department Head, Chinese & Korean Art.

Chinese Ceramics from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is divided into three sections: The first provides a survey of the technical development of Chinese ceramics, including the three basic types of clay—earthenware, stoneware, and porcelain—and decorative techniques, such as glazing. The second section focuses on some of the symbols and narratives embedded in the decoration of Chinese ceramics, including designs key to understanding Chinese cosmology, religion, history, and society. The exportation of Chinese ceramics to other parts of Asia began as early as the seventh and eighth centuries, and to Europe in the 16th century. The third section presents ceramics exported to Japan, Southeast Asia, the Near East, Europe, and the Americas between the 14th and 19th centuries.


12502 - 20170709 - The Davis Museum presents first U.S. retrospective of the works of Carlo Dolci - Wellesley, MASS - 10.02.2017-09.07.2017

Carlo Dolci, St. Matthew Writing His Gospel, 1640s. Oil on canvas, 52 5/8 × 44 3/4 in. (133.7 × 113.7 cm). Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum, inv. no. 69.PA.29. Digital image courtesy of the Getty's Open Content Program.
The Davis Museum at Wellesley College will present The Medici’s Painter: Carlo Dolci and 17th-Century Florence, the first-ever exhibition in America devoted to the luminous and meticulously rendered paintings and drawings of 17th-century Italian artist Carlo Dolci (1616–1687), and the Davis Museum’s most ambitious Old Master project to date. Dolci was arguably the most important artist in Florence during the 17th-century and the exhibition brings together for the first time in the U.S. the artist's sophisticated devotional work, pictures and drawings of the highest pictorial, technical, and spiritual qualities. On view in the Camilla Chandler and Dorothy Buffum Chandler Gallery and the Marjorie and Gerald Bronfman Gallery, The Medici’s Painter will open on February 10, and run through July 9, 2017.

The exhibition includes more than 50 paintings and drawings, on loan from the most important public and private collections in the U.S. and abroad, and from otherwise inaccessible private collections. Works will travel from the Uffizi Gallery and Pitta Palace in Florence, the Louvre Museum in Paris, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, among others. The exhibition will travel for presentation at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University in August 2017.

The Medici’s Painter is organized by Dr. Eve Straussman-Pflanzer, Head of European Art Department & Elizabeth and Allan Shelden Curator of European Paintings at the Detroit Institute of Arts, with Dr. Francesca Baldassari. Straussman-Pflanzer was previously the Assistant Director of Curatorial Affairs and Senior Curator of Collections at the Davis Museum.

“The exhibition will consider Dolci’s art in depth as well as consider art as a critical diplomatic, political, and cultural tool from the early modern period to the present,” said Straussman-Pflanzer. “It provides the first opportunity in the United States to study the life and oeuvre of the most important artist in 17th-century Florence.”

Best known for his half-length and single-figure devotional pictures, Dolci was also a gifted painter of altarpieces and portraits as well as a highly accomplished draughtsman. He created his first works of art in the mid-1620s, after entering the studio of the Florentine painter Jacopo Vignali (1592–1664) in 1625. Among his first patrons were members of the Medici family and foreign nobility, who immediately recognized his reverence for detail, brilliant palette, and seemingly enameled surfaces.

New Scholarship
This exhibition moves beyond the notion of Dolci as a sentimental painter or an exclusively devotional one, and returns to an appreciation of the aesthetic merits, naturalistic underpinnings, and cultural context of the artist’s work.

Exhibiting Dolci’s oeuvre chronologically with attention to autograph works by the artist, the exhibition will exceed longstanding prejudices by presenting the artist’s exquisite surfaces and breathtaking palette alongside preparatory drawings. Such juxtaposition will reveal the sheer technical virtuosity of the artist as well as the naturalistic vein that forms the foundation of his entire legacy.

An exhibition catalogue, published by the Davis Museum at Wellesley College and distributed by Yale University Press, will accompany the exhibition. The catalogue will be edited by Julia P. Henshaw with contributions by early modern scholars Francesca Baldassari, Edward Goldberg, Scott Nethersole, Lisa Goldenberg Stoppato, and Eve Straussman-Pflanzer.


12501 - 20170529 - Laguna Art Museum presents spring exhibitions - Laguna Beach, CA - 19.02.2017-29.05.2017

Helen Lundeberg, Untitled, 1960. Acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20 inches. Gift of The Feitelson/Lundeberg Art Foundation. 2014.012.
Laguna Art Museum presents three new exhibitions: From Wendt to Thiebaud: Recent Gifts for the Permanent Collection; The Golden Decade: Photography at the California School of Fine Arts, 1945-55; and Stanton Macdonald-Wright: The Haiga Portfolio. The exhibitions close May 29, 2017.

From Wendt to Thiebaud: Recent Gifts for the Permanent Collection
The museum presents a selection of about eighty works of art that are recent gifts for the permanent collection, many of them displayed for the first time. Like most museums, Laguna Art Museum grows and strengthens its collection largely through works of art donated by collectors and artists. Over the past five years it has reaped the benefit of extraordinary generosity, adding museum-quality paintings, sculptures, photographs, drawings, and prints from all periods of the history of California art. The exhibition is a celebration of the museum’s progress as it approaches its centennial year of 2018 and an expression of gratitude toward the donors who have contributed through their gifts to Laguna Beach’s artistic legacy.

The Golden Decade: Photography at the California School of Fine Arts, 1945-55
Between 1945 and 1955, a fortunate group of students at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco studied under a faculty that included some of the great photographers of the age—Ansel Adams, Minor White, Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham, Dorothea Lange, and Lisette Model. Many of the students went on to distinguished photographic careers themselves. Accompanied by a beautiful and informative book, the exhibition showcases about sixty choice examples of the work of teachers and students active at the CSFA during this remarkable midcentury period.

Stanton Macdonald-Wright: The Haiga Portfolio
Following World War II, this distinguished figure of the American avant-garde became fascinated by Japanese art. In 1966-67 he spent a period in Kyoto and worked with a master of traditional Japanese woodblock techniques, Clifton Karhu, to create a portfolio of twenty haiga, or illustrations to haiku poems.


12500 - 20170529 - Metropolitan Museum exhibition focuses on Seurat's 'Circus Sideshow' - New York - 17.02.2017-29.05.2017

Georges Seurat (French, Paris 1859-1891 Paris), Pierrot and Colombine Ca. 1886–88. Conté crayon on paper, 9 3/4 x 12 3/8 in. (24.8 x 31.2 cm). Kasama Nichido Museum of Art.
Taking as its focus one of The Met’s most captivating masterpieces, this thematic exhibition affords a unique context for appreciating the heritage and allure of Circus Sideshow (Parade de cirque), painted in 1887–88, by Georges Seurat (1859–91). Anchored by a remarkable group of related works by Seurat that fully illuminates the lineage of the motif in his inimitable conté crayon drawings, the presentation explores the fascination the sideshow subject held for other artists in the 19th century, ranging from the great caricaturist Honoré Daumier at mid-century to the young Pablo Picasso at the fin de siècle. This rich visual narrative unfolds in a provocative display of more than 100 paintings, drawings, prints, period posters, and illustrated journals, supplemented by musical instruments and an array of documentary material intended to give a vivid sense of the seasonal fairs and traveling circuses of the day. Among the highlights is Fernand Pelez’s epic Grimaces and Misery—The Saltimbanques (Petit Palais, Paris), of exactly the same date as Seurat’s magisterial work and, with its life-size performers aligned in friezelike formation across a 20-foot stage, a match for his ambition. Seurat’s Circus Sideshow is on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, from February 17 to May 29, 2017.

Circus Sideshow is one of only a half-dozen major figure compositions that date to Seurat’s short career. More compact in scale and more evocative in expression than his other scenes of modern life—which he regarded as “toiles de lutte” (canvases of combat)—the painting effectively announced the Neo-Impressionist’s next line of attack on old guard turf, signaling a shift in focus away from the sunlit banks of the Seine to the heart of urban Paris. Circus Sideshow initiated a final trio of works devoted to popular entertainment and led the fray as the first to tackle a nighttime setting with the benefit of his innovative technique, alternatively called pointillism or divisionism (the former term emphasizing the dotted brushwork, the latter, the theory behind separating, or dividing, color into discrete touches that would retain their integrity and brilliance). It was his singular experiment in painting outdoor, artificial illumination. The result is disarming. In relying on his finely tuned approach to evoke the effects of ethereal, penumbral light in this evening fairground scene of the Corvi Circus troupe and their public at the Gingerbread Fair in Paris, Seurat produced his most mysterious painting. From the time it debuted at the Salon des Indépendants in Paris in 1888, it has unfailingly intrigued, perplexed, and mesmerized its viewers. Seurat’s closest associates, seemingly dumbstruck, largely confined their spare remarks to its novelty as a “nocturnal effect.” The laconic artist never mentioned the picture.

Circus Sideshow depicts the free, teaser entertainment set up outside the circus tent to entice passersby to purchase tickets—known in French as a parade and loosely translated as the “come-on” or sideshow. At far right, customers queue up on the stairs to the box office. On the makeshift stage, under the misty glow of nine twinkling gaslights, five musicians, a ringmaster, and clown play to the assembled crowd of onlookers whose assorted hats add a wry and rhythmic note to the foreground of this austere and rigorously geometric composition. As viewers, we observe the show—as if from the rear of the audience, a part of the crowd.

Seurat took a raucous spectacle that depended on direct appeal, the banter of barkers and rousing music, jostling crowds, and makeshift structures, and he silenced the noise, rendered the staging taut and ordered, hieratic and symmetrical, exquisitely measured and classically calm. Enveloped by the hazy gloom of night, the players and public are presented with the solemnity of an ancient ritual.

For all its uncommon beauty and striking invention, Circus Sideshow courts conventions and associations that were commonplace in representations of the parade. Throughout the 19th century it had been a stock motif in popular print culture, notably for social and political caricature, where it became an acute device for parodying politicians, who like saltimbanques, are trying to sell something. During the 1880s, the parade subject gained ground: it was given a contemporary edge by popular illustrators; it was painted with riveting descriptive detail by artists who sought success at the annual Paris Salon with works that had broad appeal; and it was mined, with spirited stylistic rivalry, by artists who jockeyed for position in the avant-garde. In the 1890s, the great era of the poster, the subject attracted a new wave of creative talents eager to establish their reputations through success in the commercial world. The poster was modern printing technology’s extension of the time-honored parade; both functioned to pull the public into the show. The presentation brings this rich illustrated history to bear on Seurat’s Circus Sideshow in a context designed to elucidate the genesis of his composition and to puzzle out the sources and parallels for his haunting and enigmatic work.

The exhibition is organized chronologically, with Circus Sideshow at center stage. It is being displayed in tandem with 17 works by Seurat that exceptionally reunite the painting with the conté crayon drawings most closely related to his conception, including preparatory studies, independent sheets that trace his exploration of the motif, and the glorious café-concert drawings that were shown alongside the picture at the Salon des Indépendants in 1888. The same venue featured Seurat’s Models (Poseuses), now in The Barnes Foundation (and precluded from travel), which is being represented in the exhibition by the gemlike small version (private collection). This core group of works is seen with relation to contemporaneous images of the Corvi Circus and the Gingerbread Fair, offering a keen sense of time and place.

As the exhibition highlights, through loans from nearly 50 public and private collections, Seurat’s choice of subject attracted a steady stream of artists in the 19th century—from caricaturists, popular illustrators, and poster designers to painters of like ambition—determined to make their mark on the Paris art scene. Daumier, who set a powerful precedent at mid-century, is handsomely represented by satirical lithographs, as well as pithy paintings and watercolors that chart the saga of itinerant circus performers dependent on the fickle whims of the public. His pace-setting imagery and initiatives find a recurrent echo throughout the exhibition, which is punctuated by a veritable encore performance in the cast of players showcased in graphic works by Henri-Gabriel Ibels dating to the early 1890s.

The appeal the parade motif held for Seurat’s Parisian contemporaries is seen to great effect. In addition to works by other vanguard artists, such as Louis Anquetin, Emile Bernard, Pierre Bonnard, Jules Chéret, Louis Hayet, Lucien Pissarro, and Paul Signac, or those on the cusp, such as Jean-Louis Forain and Jean-François Raffaëlli, the presentation features recently rediscovered pictures shown in the Paris Salons of 1884 and 1885, long lost from sight by artists little-known today, as well as the unprecedented showing in the United States of Fernand Pelez’s monumental Grimaces and Misery—The Saltimbanques (Petit Palais, Paris), which was on view at the Salon of 1888, the same spring as Seurat’s brooding masterpiece debuted at the Salon des Indépendants.

As a reminder that the “show goes on,” the exhibition ends with early works by two artists who continued to explore the parade and its timeless portrayal of the pathos of comic spectacle well into the 20th century: Picasso’s moody nighttime scene, Fairground Stall (Museu Picasso, Barcelona), painted on his first visit to Paris in 1900, and Georges Rouault’s bravura Sideshow (Parade) of ca. 1907-10 (Centre Pompidou, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris).

Seurat’s Circus Sideshow may be seen as the natural successor to exhibitions that have had as their focus other great paintings by the Neo-Impressionist artist: Seurat and The Bathers in 1997 at the National Gallery, London, and Seurat and the Making of La Grande Jatte at The Art Institute of Chicago in 2004. The scale and scope of The Met’s presentation have been tailored to vivify a painting that is smaller in size and highly evocative in subject. The current one-venue show may also be appreciated with relation to other recent projects, such as Cézanne’s Card Players (2011), Madame Cézanne (2014–15), and Van Gogh: Irises and Roses (2015) that have likewise furnished a fresh context for appreciating the heritage of best-known and loved 19th-century paintings in The Met’s collection.

Seurat’s Circus Sideshow is organized by Susan Alyson Stein, Engelhard Curator of Nineteenth-Century European Painting, Department of European Paintings, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and guest curator Richard Thomson, Watson Gordon Professor of Fine Art at the University of Edinburgh, with the assistance of Laura D. Corey, Research Assistant, Department of European Paintings, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.


12499 - 20170521 - 'Spectacle and Leisure in Paris: Degas to Mucha' at Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum - St. Louis, MO 10.02.2017-21.05.2017

Henri de Toulouse-­‐Lautrec (French, 1864–1901), La clownesse assise (Mademoiselle CHA-­‐U-­‐KA-­‐O) (The Seated Clown [Mademoiselle CHA-­‐U-­‐KA-­‐O]), from the portfolio Elles, 1896. Lithograph, 20 7/16 x 15 15/16". Saint Louis Art Museum, Given Anonymously, 34:1991.
A woman peers down through round opera glasses, scanning the stage or perhaps the audience. A stiff-collared companion glances at her sideways. We — the viewers — look up to scrutinize them both.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s “La loge au mascaron doré (The Box with the Gilded Mask)” (1893) is a witty masterpiece of triangulated gazes, blurring the line between observer and observed. For Parisians at the end of the 19th century, to attend the opera, the ballet or the Moulin Rouge — to wander the Tuileries Gardens, or to cheer the horses at Longchamp — was to see but also to be seen.

The Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum at Washington University in St. Louis is presenting “Spectacle and Leisure in Paris: Degas to Mucha.” Featuring a broad selection of prints, posters, photographs and film — many of which have rarely been on public view — the exhibition explores how visual artists at once documented, promoted and participated in the distinctive entertainment cultures that defined the Belle Époque.

In many ways, the stage was set decades before. In the 1850s, Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann, at the direction of Emperor Napoléon III, commenced a massive program of public works. Just as Republican politics promoted values of equality and economic progress, Haussmann’s vast network of Parisian parks, squares and broad boulevards encouraged circulation and emerged as important sites for the mixing of social classes.

Low rents and a raucous atmosphere drew many artists to the outlying region of Montmartre, which Paris annexed in 1860. Famed for its cabarets, dance halls, art galleries and drinking establishments, the district fostered a distinctive celebrity culture. Posters by Toulouse-Lautrec and Jules Chéret, among many others, hailed performers such as Loïe Fuller, Yvette Guilbert and, in his trademark red scarf, impresario Aristide Bruant. With her flaming hair, feathered hat and black leg-of-mutton sleeves, the woman in “La loge au mascaron doré” is identifiable as dancer Jane Avril, who also can be seen in a delicate pastel by Pablo Picasso — one that has not been publicly exhibited in the United States in more than 35 years.

If Montmartre represented the city’s working class and bohemian energies, venues in central Paris had long served the middle and upper classes. In “Chanteuse de café-concert (The Café-Concert Singer)” (1875–76), Edgar Degas captures a white-gloved Emélie Bécat at the Café aux Ambassadeurs, near the entrance to the Champs-Elysées. Édouard Manet’s “Lola de Valence” (1862–63) depicts the visiting Spanish dancer while Alphonse Mucha’s posters for “The Divine” Sarah Bernhardt immortalized the actress’s tenure at the Théâtre de la Renaissance.

Perhaps no performer understood the power of visual advertising — or personified the era’s investments in spectacle and celebrity — better than Bernhardt, whom the exhibition also represents through film and photography. Yet other works employ a different visual strategy. Rather than focusing on individual figures, Manet’s “Les courses (The Races)” (1884), Pierre Bonnard’s “Le canotage (Boating)” (1896-97) and Edouard Vuillard’s “Une galerie d’un Théâtre du Gymnase (A Balcony at the Théâtre du Gymnase)” (1900) capture the movement and energy of the crowd — and highlight our own participation as viewers. For Parisians of all classes, the city’s true character could only be glimpsed through the pulse and speed of public life