Visiting the Wexner Center for the Arts Tuesday, Nov 18 2014 

For Veterans Day last week, PJ and I drove up to Columbus and visited the Wexner Center for the Arts, which is exhibiting “Transfigurations: Modern Masters from the Wexner Family Collection.” It’s a well designed show, and we really enjoyed seeing these works. As the title suggests, the exhibit is a collection of paintings, drawing, and sculptures from the private collection owned by the Wexner family, who are major donors to the center. The artists in the exhibit are Edgar Degas, Pablo Picasso, Jean Dubuffet, Alberto Giacometti, Willem de Kooning, and Susan Rothenberg.

C_Dhotel-500x653 I especially enjoyed seeing the work of Dubuffet (1901-1985), with whom I was previously unfamiliar. Dubuffet was born in France and, according to Wikipedia, “His idealistic approach to aesthetics embraced so called “low art” and eschewed traditional standards of beauty in favor of what he believed to be a more authentic and humanistic approach to image-making” (source).

This is an image of “Dhôtel” from the Wexner exhibit was my favorite one. It is oil paint and sand on canvas and was produced in 1947. As the Wexner website explains, “his portraits act more as caricatures, in which one or two defining features serve as the only connection to the subject. For Dubuffet’s depiction of the novelist André Dhôtel, his likeness is boiled down to exaggerated versions of the subject’s glasses, three shocks of hair, and the creases of his forehead” (source). What stands out to me about this work is its emphasis on the figure’s skull. It thus becomes a kind of memento mori, an increasing contrast between the infinite lifespan of art and the morality of the artist. I think it’s an amazing piece.

I also enjoyed seeing the work of Rothenburg (b. 1945). A major subject of her work is horses that often seem to represent power and vitality for her.

As usual, there is also a lot of educational materials in this exhibit. Those, along with the collection’s website, make this an excellent opportunity to see great art and learn about the artists who created it. I highly recommend it.

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2013 in Review: Art Friday, Jan 3 2014 

Although PJ and I saw fewer plays last year than we’d like, we went to more museums that I think is typical. As part of my 2013 round-up, I’d thought I briefly write about the five works of art that I most enjoyed seeing in 2013.

Herrin Massacre, 1940 by Paul Cadmus 

The top work on my list is a rather serious work by Paul Cadmus about the massacre of strike breakers in June 1922 in Herrin, Illinois, which I saw at the Columbus Museum of Art.

The painting was originally part of a commission by Life, but it was ultimately not published in the magazine since its editors did not want to offend pro-labor groups.

I tend to think of Cadmus’s work as mostly comic and (homo)sexual rather than gritty and political. He always seems to emphasize the male body in one way or another. Here, I think his way of depicting their bodies adds to the pathos of the massacre: we see these men as living men who are being brutally murdered. It’s beautiful, shocking, and political. I really admire it.

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Favorite Men of 2012 Monday, Apr 15 2013 

Earlier this year, I posted a few of my favorites of 2012  lists: favorite albums, favorite movies, favorite songs. One more that I’ve been meaning to post is a list of the men I started following online in 2012. Some of these have pages on Facebook that I liked. Others have YouTube Channels or Twitter feeds that I follow. And one or two are just men I now Google frequently!

In no particular order, my favorite men of 2012 were:

Andy Murray 

2012 was a breakout year for the Scotsman Andy Murray. He made it to his first Wimbledon final, won the Olympics, and then won his first grand slam tournament at the U.S. Open. I’ve liked Murray for a long time, but I LOVE Rafael Nadal, so I have to agree with tennis commentators who suggest that some of Murray’s success is due to Rafa’s absence. But when you get right down to it, Murray worked hard for his success and deserves all of the victories he scored last year. I just hope he’s able to keep it up and doesn’t fall back down to #4 by the end of summer. Tennis benefits when all four of the top players have a real shot at winning each tournament.

PJ and I got to see Murray play Federer in the semis of the 2009 Southern & Western in Cincinnati. Murray takes some heat from gay viewers, but I think he’s hot! He’s got the best legs in men’s tennis, and he’s competitive with Federer for best chest.

But more importantly than looks, he’s a great competitor on the court, and he’s fun to watch. I really do hope that 2013 brings him a lot of success (except for when he plays Rafa!).

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Visiting the Nasher Sculpture Center Monday, Mar 26 2012 

While I was in Dallas last week for work, I visited the Nasher Sculpture Center. PJ and I had visited it a few years ago, and I’m not really all that much into sculpture, but I had time between meetings and was in the neighborhood, so I decided to stop in and see what’s on exhibit.

Most of the collection is the same as the last time we were there, but I very much enjoyed the special exhibit, the touring exhibit of Elliott Hundley’s The Bacchae. As the Nasher website describes,

Over the past decade, Hundley has developed a multifaceted, intricate art using paint, photographs, and organic and found materials ranging from bamboo, goat hooves, and pine cones to pins, magnifying lenses, and gold leaf. The mythic world of ancient Greek tragedy becomes vividly contemporary as Hundley reimagines Euripides’s last play, The Bacchae, in twelve works presented in one of the Nasher’s street-level galleries.

Here’s a picture I found online of my favorite work in this collection, Hundley’s Pentheus:

Wikipedia explains who Pentheus was in Greek mythology:

The king of Thebes, Cadmus, abdicated in favor of his grandson, Pentheus, due to his old age. Pentheus soon banned the worship of the god Dionysus, who was the son of his aunt Semele, and did not allow the women of Cadmeia to join in his rites.

An angered Dionysus caused Pentheus’ mother Agave and his aunts, Ino and Autonoë, along with all the other women of Thebes, to rush to Mount Cithaeron in a Bacchic frenzy. Because of this, Pentheus imprisoned Dionysus, but his chains fell off and the jail doors opened for him.

Dionysus then lured Pentheus out to spy on the Bacchic rites. The daughters of Cadmus saw him in a tree and thought him to be a wild animal. Pentheus was pulled down and torn limb from limb by them (as part of a ritual known as the sparagmos), causing them to be exiled from Thebes. Some say that his own mother tore off his head, and that she was the first to attack him, tearing his arm off.

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The Tree of Life: A (Very) Brief Review Monday, Feb 6 2012 

PJ and I recently saw The Tree of Life, directed by Terrence Malick and starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, and Jessica Chastain. It started a bit slow, I thought, but the more I watched the more I got into it. It’s a movie that you have to let wash over you — just sit back and experience it rather than follow a plot or try to figure everything out.

By the end, I was convinced that this is a beautiful, amazing film that is one of the most interesting movies of recent years. It’s clearly auspicious in its imagination — a work of art more than a typical movie. Even though I don’t understand much of it, I loved it! It’s certainly one of the year’s best films.

Visiting the Columbus Museum of Art Monday, Dec 5 2011 

PJ and I visited the Columbus Museum of Art this past Friday. I was in Columbus for a meeting, and PJ come along to do a little site seeing and shopping. We both wanted to see the new Caravaggio exhibit, so I met him at the museum as soon as my meeting was over.

We’ve visited the CMA before. It’s a little larger than I remember it being, and it has an excellent collection of modern art. The Sirak Collection, which contains “78 works by masters such as Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste-Renoir, Paul Cézanne, Paul Klee, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Chaim Soutine, and Henri Matisse among others,” is especially good.

I was also fascinated by a new work on display, Gregory Scott’s Structure, 2011. Here’s a video I found of it:

It’s especially interesting in person — even once I knew what was happening, I was constantly surprised by the changing images. It repeatedly tricks you into thinking you know what you’re seeing only to change it in surprising ways. I loved it.

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J.C. Leyendecker: A Book Review Sunday, Nov 6 2011 

After reading Hide/Seek, I became interested in illustrator J. C. (Joseph Christian) Leyendecker, so I looked around for a good book to read about him. Eventually, I settled on J.C. Leyendecker (2008) by Laurence S. Cutler, Judy Goffman Cutler, and the National Museum of American Illustration. This book is a wonderful collection of Leyendecker’s illustrations accompanied by excellent essays about the Golden Age of American Illustration, Leyendecker’s life, and Leyendecker’s distinctive work. I enjoyed reading (and looking at) it!

Leyendecker’s importance in the history of early twentieth-century American illustration can’t be overstated. He produced over 300 covers for The Saturday Evening Post and was one of, if not the, most popular advertising illustrators of the 1920s and 30s. His images became iconographic representations of sophisticated, urban American chic.

Leyendecker was also gay, and his illustrations often incorporate homoerotic imagery. I find the way this book discusses this element of his art to be very interesting:

Knowing that revealing his secret would threaten his popularity and success, Joe never came out of the closet…. He also attempted to conceal his sexual orientation in his work, which was often characterized by heterosexual female adoration for handsome males depicted in overtly erotic poses. Yet, ironically, he was the most manifest homosexual artist of the early twentieth century–a virtual hero–as his work clearly demonstrates to today’s enlightened audience.

To create such delicious illustrations, he smoothed oils on models’ muscles, enhancing the light reflecting on male surfaces he admired most: one model said that Joe always painted him in a darkened studio, with only candlelight highlighting the erotic qualities of his gleaming form. The gay subculture saw the irony in his work and appreciated the erotic images he lavished upon the world.

These homoerotic images appealed to heterosexual viewers as well, however. In a subtle subversion of heterosexual mores, unattractive men turned to them in their quest to be more appealing through the products being advertised. Sportsmen never saw the football players’ images as anything but manly, for they reveled in the enthusiasm created among the fans. College men, particularly Ivy Leaguers and prep school chums, were proud that their alma maters were highlighted. And most of all, women were drawn to Joe’s images, dreaming of intimacies with men who possessed “The Leyendecker Look.”

While Leyendecker was not publicly out, he did have a partner, Charles A. Beach (1886-1952), whose image is sometimes featured in Leyendecker’s work, as in this illustration, which is included in the Hide/Seek exhibit:

Beach is on the left. Beach is also the model featured in the book’s cover illustration.

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Hide/Seek: A Book Review Sunday, Oct 30 2011 

PJ and I missed the Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery earlier this year, so PJ ordered a copy of the catalogue. We’re going to have a chance to see the exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum of Art in December, so I started reading the catalogue, which was edited by Jonathan D. Katz and David C. Ward.

This is the first time that I’ve read a book about an exhibit before seeing the exhibit. The book version of Hide/Seek is a great read, whether one ever sees the actual exhibit or not. In particular, Katz’s opening essay describing the exhibit and providing historical context for the works in it is a particularly fine essay.

For a couple of decades now, scholars have argued that before modern notions of sexuality became prevalent, “homosexuality” was coded as being effeminate and the penetrated partner in any sexual activity. Thus, a “heterosexual” man could have sex with a “homosexual” one without impugning his reputation as a straight man, provided he performed the masculine role of penetrating the gay man. Katz’s explanation of this theory is one of the best I’ve ever read.

Katz explains this concept in order to interpret George Bellows’s The Shower-Bath (1917):

He reads this image to explain why, even though it depicts an “obvious” homosexual in the foreground, it was an extremely popular. His reading is convincing, and it made me think about this period of American cultural history differently. This print is nearly contemporaneous with one of my favorite novels, Henry Blake Fuller’s 1919 Bertram Cope’s Year. Thinking about this novel in terms of Katz’s argument would be a very interesting way to approach the book.

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Visiting the Smithsonian: Part 3 Wednesday, Aug 3 2011 

This post is the last in my three-part summary of my visit to some of the Smithsonian institutions in Washington, D.C. This one will cover my visits to the Natural History Museum, the Renwick Gallery, and the Sackler Gallery.

Natural History Museum

The taxodermied elephant in the lobby of the Natural History Museum.

I’ve been to the Natural History Museum before. In general,  I tend to like natural history museums. I arrived early — almost as soon as the museum opened — which was great: no swarms of kids everywhere!

I started by buying a ticket for an IMAX movie. The tickets seemed fairly cheap, and I figured it was a good way to get out of the heat. Then I started wondering around the museum to kill the hour or so until my movie started.

I began upstairs by looking at the Hope Diamond, which has never really interested me. This time was no exception. But I enjoy looking at the other jewels in the Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems, and Minerals. I especially liked the Elbaite gemstones:

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Visiting the Smithsonian: Part 2 Monday, Aug 1 2011 

This post continues my series describing my visit to Washington D.C. and various institutions in the Smithsonian last week. This one will cover my visits to the American Indian Museum, the Freer Gallery of Art, and the National Zoo.

American Indian Museum

I visited the American Indian Museum for the first time just a few months ago, so I was a little hesitant about going back so soon. However, I really loved it when I visited in April, so when I had a little time and was in the area I decided to go back.

I’m delighted to say that the museum holds up even when visiting again so soon. It presents a lot of information for visitors, so in many ways it promotes repeat visits. I don’t think you can soak it all in one (or even two) visits.

This time I really liked the wealth of information the museums presents as well as the ways in which that information is presented. During my first visit in April, I was drawn to the cultural exhibits on specific tribes in North, Central, and South American. I enjoyed those again this time too, but I was especially drawn to much of the art featured in the museum this time. A couple of pieces that caught my eye were these:

Part of series of decorations by the Yup'ik people.

Another figure from the American Indian Museum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The one on the left is part of one of the exhibits in the Our Universes section of the museum. This section provides a lot of information about both similarities and differences in various native peoples’ belief systems. The figure on the right is one of many native works featured in the Our Peoples exhibit, which is largely focused on history.

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