Conspicuous by its absence: “Ashcan” in the dustbin = mid-measure for ‘Stuart Davis In Full Swing’ Expo in San Francisco

Davis, StuartStuart Davis, “The Paris Bit,” 1959. Courtesy Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Text copyright 2017 Paul Ben-Itzak

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After having pilloried recent exhibitions at the Centre Pompidou for being too monographic — the everything but the kitchen sink Corbusier cavalcade was pretty crammed to the hilt for what was supposed to be an homage to a master of efficient space management, while the Paris institution’s Wilfredo Lam show should have turned off the spigot after 1950, when Lam’s tropical jungle canvasses started becoming monotonous — I’m aware it might seem contradictory to complain that the exhibition Stuart Davis, In Full Swing, on view at San Francisco’s de Young museum through August 6 before moving on to Arkansas’s Crystal Waters, omits a vital chapter in the Abstract Expressionist’s career. The omission is important, because unlike the apprentice paintings of Duchamp and Picasso, which only demonstrated that they’d mastered the basics of composition before deviating from them but were not significant for their intrinsic value, Davis’s contributions to the early 20th century fount that was the Ashcan School, starting when he was still a teenager, also prove that his social activism (notably as head of the Artists’ Union) wasn’t isolated from his painterly activity, but sprung from the same well.

Davis’s 1912 canvas “Chinatown,” for example, isn’t just a slice of Lower East Side topography, but a portrait of the desperation driving those women who weren’t going up in flames in locked factory fires into selling their bodies to survive. (The painting is part of the permanent collection of Fort Worth’s Amon Carter Museum of American Art, whose founders identified Davis as one of their core artists around whom they decided to build their stock.) The omission of work from the seminal part of his career that most directly responded to social conditions is particularly boggling given museum director Max Hollein’s declaration that the de Young “has always believed that artists have a duty to comment and critique our culture and we are pleased to show how one American artist responded to the tumultuous times he lived through.” Leaving aside that the ludicrous pretension of this statement is more a reflection of the social-message driven San Francisco aesthetic (and I’m a native) than a directive any artist worth his sourdough starter would take seriously, *having made such a profession of faith*, to then ignore the very work that meets this definition in the exhibition Hollein is putatively promoting is incomprehensible.

Perhaps deserving more leniency is the misapprehending of Davis’s later work by New Yorker critic Peter Schjeldahl, in his review of the exhibition’s tour at the Whitney last year, as “proto-Pop Art,” perhaps a mis-reading of curator Emma Acker’s statement that Davis’s “appropriation of images from consumer culture and advertising in the 1920s… predates 1960s Pop Art.” In fact, where Pop Art more often than not simply re-envisioned commercial icons as Icons — the only ingredient Andy Warhol added to Campbell’s Tomato Soup cans was his marquee name — Davis actually worked in the opposite sense. Rather than elevating pop “culture” into art, he inserted its ready symbols and recognizable images into his abstract and semi-abstract art to offer an anchor or key which would help viewers identify with the abstractions, perhaps his own manner of resurrecting the ubiquitous key in the medieval Unicorn tapestries on view at the Cloisters museum in New York, where Davis installed himself when he was just 15 years old.

 

Stuart Davis_For Internal Use Only_1944-45

Stuart Davis, “For Internal Use Only,” 1944-45. Courtesy Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Davis, Stuart

Stuart Davis, “House and Street,” 1931. Courtesy Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Stuart Davis_Odol_1924

Stuart Davis, “Odol,” 1924. Courtesy Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Stuart Davis_Egg Beater No 2_1963-64 smallStuart Davis, “Egg Beater No 2,” 1963-64. Courtesy Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Stuart Davis_Salt Shaker_1931

Stuart Davis, “Salt Shaker,” 1931. Courtesy Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Stuart Davis_The Mellow Pad_1945-51 smallStuart Davis, “The Mellow Pad,” 1945-51. Courtesy Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Stuart Davis_Blips and Ifs_1928

Stuart Davis, “Blips and Ifs,” 1928. Courtesy Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Davis, Stuart

Stuart Davis, “Owh! in San Pao,” 1951. Courtesy Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Stuart Davis_Rapt at Rappaports_1951-52

Stuart Davis, “Rapt at Rappaports,” 1951-52. Courtesy Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

132.51

Stuart Davis, “Lucky Strike,” 1921. Courtesy Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Stuart Davis_Visa_1951 small

Stuart Davis, “Visa,” 1951. Courtesy Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Stuart Davis in His Studio

Stuart Davis in his studio.

 

Want more? Click here to see examples of some of the Stuart Davis works in the Crystal Waters collection.

From the Archives: An American Panorama at the Amon Carter in Fort Worth, Texas

carter 1 hopperEdward Hopper (1882 – 1967), “Night Shadows, 1921.” Etching. Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, 1983.66.

By Paul Ben-Itzak  
Text copyright 2012, 2017 Paul Ben-Itzak

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FORT WORTH, Texas — Once upon a time a newspaper man named Amon Carter followed the recommendation of his friend Will Rogers, the great American humorist, philosopher, and actor, and spent about $5,000 on a couple of canvasses by the “cowboy artist” Charles M. Russell. He built his Russell (and Frederic Remington) collection until, by the time of his death, he was able to bequeath it to found the museum which for the past 51 years has born his name and which, by his decree, is always free, because Carter wanted children to have the advantages he didn’t. The museum did not rest on its rawhide laurels, but grew up to be the greatest museum of American art in the world, in both its curatorial savvy and collecting prescience. It chose Stuart Davis as the one artist it was important to represent in all phases of his career, which, following the trajectory of art in the 20th century, took him from the stark literalism of the “ashcan” school to the wildest reaches of abstraction, never losing sight of reality. And, unlike so many museums which follow collecting trends, the Amon Carter anticipated at least one. Starting in the 1960s, it built a photography collection which dwarfs even that of the Museum of Modern Art.

It’s been a while since we’ve caught up with the Amon Carter, so busy has the auction season been. So we’re taking advantage of a breather in art sales to continue your — and our — ongoing arts education, always with a view to making us all better informed art investors, to offer this update in images of current and upcoming exhibitions at my favorite museum. Herewith you’ll find images of work from the current exhibition “To see as artists see: American Art from the Phillips Collection,” on view through January 6; “Marie Cosindas: Instant Color,” running March 5 through May 26, 2013; “Big Pictures,” on view March 5 – April 21; “Romaire Bearden: A Black Odyssey,” May 18 – August 11; and “Larry Sultan’s Homeland,” closing January 13.

carter 1A cowboy

David Levinthal (b. 1949), “[Cowboy],” 1988. From the Five Trails West series. Dye diffusion transfer print. ©1988 David Levinthal. Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas P1988.9. From the upcoming exhibition “Big Pictures.”

carter 2 lawrence migrationJacob Lawrence (1917 – 2000), “The Migration Series, Panel no. 3: From every southern town migrants left by the hundreds to travel north,” 1940 – 41. Casein tempera on hardboard. ©2011 the Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Acquired 1942, The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. . From the exhibition “To see as artists see: American Art from the Phillips Collection.”

carter 3 train photoWilliam Henry Jackson (1843 – 1942), “Excursion Train. Lewiston Branch. N.Y.C. RR, 1890.” Albumen print.

carter 4 sloan trainJohn Sloan (1871 – 1951), “Six O’Clock, Winter, 1912.” Oil on canvas. ©2011 Delaware Art Museum / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Acquired 1922, The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. . From the exhibition “To see as artists see: American Art from the Phillips Collection.”

carter 5 plumes warholLeft: Walt Kuhn (1877-1949), “Plumes, 1931.” Oil on canvas. Acquired 1932, the Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.. From the exhibition “To see as artists see: American Art from the Phillips Collection,” on view through January 6. Right: Marie Cosindas (b. 1925), “Andy Warhol, 1966.” Dye diffusion transfer print. ©Marie Cosindas. Courtesy the artist. From the exhibition “Marie Cosindas: Instant Color,” on view March 5 – May 26, 2013. Both events at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, Texas.

carter 6 davisStuart Davis (1892-1964), “Blue Café,” 1928. Oil on canvas. ©Estate of Stuart Davis / licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Acquired 1930, The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Part of the exhibition “To see as artists see: American Art from the Phillips Collection.”

carter 7 corte maderaLarry Sultan (1946-2009), “Meander, Corte Madera, 2006.” Digital dye coupler print. Collection of Andrew Pilara. From the exhibitioin “Larry Sultan’s Homeland: American story,” on view through January 13. (It may not look like much, but I was born here!)

At Artcurial Photography Auction, Frontiers in a Reflecting Glass

photo-newton-smallHelmut Newton (1920 – 1984), “Veruschka on the Terrace of the Presidential Suite, Hotel Meridien, Nice,” 1975. Silver gelatin print, 7.48 x 11.42 inches. Signed, titled, and dated with artist’s stamp on back. Artcurial pre-sale estimate: 15,000 – 20,000 Euros. Image courtesy and copyright Artcurial.

One might think that scheduled as a curtain closer on the same evening as its monumental “From the Willy Ronis Inheritance” sale, which offers 163 lots starting with a 1926 self-portrait and finishing with a 1990 nude, book-ending no less than a photo-biography of a largely mid-20th century popular Paris, an auction entitled simply “Photography” might have trouble holding one’s attention. But if the scale is more modest, the scope of tonight’s second Artcurial auction is in a way more audacious than the Ronis sale, with one predominant — and timely — theme emerging: Frontiers. We’ve chosen to share a some samples, ranging from the intimate to the inter-galactic and finishing with a presidential epilogue, from, respectively, Helmut Newton, NASA, Ansel Adams, Andy Warhol, Man Ray, and Mark Seliger, whose portrait of a retreating Barack Obama is just begging to be Photo-shopped. – Paul Ben-Itzak
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The Chevalier de la Barre: Akerman and acolytes en prime in Paris; Amélie has two mommies, and they’re concerned (corrected and updated, 11-25, 16h00)

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Text copyright 2016 Paul Ben-Itzak

To the memory of Jill Johnston, my Chantal Akerman. And for Ingrid, her widow, in profound appreciation. And for Chris, roommate sublime. And for Ben, collaborator, friend, and twin. And for Mark Dendy, idol and vector. And for P., friend and counselor. And for Amandine and spouse, voisines parisiennes des jours du 49 rue de Paradis.

I wasn’t going to take this brazenly political approach to writing about the exhibition Chantal Akerman: “Maniac Shadows,” which opened last Saturday at the Ferme du Buisson outside Paris, where it continues through February 19, because much as viewing art in a political and social context has almost existential importance to me as a journalist and citizen — and is, I feel, an honorable way to promote art’s societal relevance and thus potentially garner it a larger audience — I’m hyper-aware that it’s also unfair to impose my worldview, or angle and prism for viewing the world, on the subject I’m writing about. What should prime is capturing, as best I can, his or her expression as he or she intended it. It also didn’t seem fair to enlist Akerman, ipso facto and post-mortem, in a cause some might perceive as narrowly and exclusively centered on the rights of gay people, given that (as far as I can observe — and I might be wrong, because I certainly haven’t seen everything) her work doesn’t seem to focus particularly on the facet of her identity related to her sexual orientation; like all complete artists worth the designation, she’s neither defined nor limited by her own particular identities. (Even though obviously they inform her work, particularly Akerman’s Jewish background, which includes being the child of a Holocaust survivor, a frequent source of inspiration. But so is having lived in Brussels, Paris, and New York….And Godard’s “Pierrot le fou.”) And as a foreigner in these brittle times, I’m not particularly comfortable commenting on local politics, a subject which might justly be seen as none of my onions and a pursuit which thus might seem ungracious.

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Democracy is coming to the U.S.A. par/by Leonard Cohen (1934 – 2016)

Leonard Cohen est morte; vivre Leonard Cohen. Et vivre la Democracie.

Lyrics/paroles ici/here. Et pour ceux et celles qui ont besoin de se protegé de la pluie / And for those who need to protect themselves from the rain, voici/here’s his/son “Famous Blue Raincoat.” Et pour vous protegé de vos pensées de 4h00 / And to protect you from your 4 a.m. anxieties, ecouté (et regardé!) /listen (and look at) this. (J’aime aussi / I also like le version de Jennifer Warnes.

“It’s coming to America first
The cradle of the best and the worse.”
— Leonard Cohen, 1932 – 2016

strasbourg nast.jpg

strasbourg-ungererThe exhibition “Oncle Sam, Thomas Nast et Tomi Ungerer: Une satire politique et sociale de l’Amérique,” prolonged through November 13 at the Musée Tomi Ungerer Centre international de l’Illustration, in Strasbourg, features more than 150 examples of the cartoons of Thomas Nast (1840-1902), one of the fathers of caricature in the United States, from the pages of Harper’s Weekly, including, top: “The sacred elephant. This animal is sure to win, if it…” Thomas Nast, Harper’s Weekly, 8.3.1884. Accompanying the Nast works are original drawings and posters by Ungerer, including, bottom: Tomi Ungerer, untitled, 1967. Lavis d’encre de Chine et d’encres de couleur sur papier blanc. Collection musée Tomi Ungerer – Centre international, Strasbourg © Diogenes Verlag AG Zürich \ Tomi Ungerer. Photo : Musées de la Ville de Strasbourg.

La canarie dans le mine de charbon: Pourquoi Trump a gagné, et comment la France peut evité un destin pareil

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2016 Paul Ben-Itzak

“The forgotten men and women will be forgotten no longer.” (Fini l’oublie des oubliées.)
— Donald Trump, president-elu des Etats-Unis, le 9 novembre

Je vous demande pardon tout d’abord pour mon francais, mais le contenu de mon message, meme s’il risque d’etre plein des fauts, est tellement importante, que pour une fois dans ses pages il faut que je vous parle dans la langue de ce pays adoptif qui m’est si chere — surtout a l’heure ou mon autre pays risque de tomber dans le neant car on n’as pas assez entendu le cri des ‘petites’ gens qui souffrent, ses delaissés de le mondialisation et le Capitalism néo-liberal.

Car oui, on les n’ont pas entendu.

Si les americains ont elu Barack Obama en 2008, ce n’etait pas parce que le racisme des certains segments de la population americaine a tout a coup fondu. C’est parce que les gens avaient peur. Ils avaient peur de se retrouver SDF, sans de quoi manger, sans futur sur a leguer a leurs enfants. Et comme le candidat Republican de l’epoque — assez moderé, d’ailleurs — n’a pas semblé maitraisé ou meme comprendre la crise economique, ils ont preferé a mettre leur confiance dans le jeune homme, diplomé de la prestigeuse Harvard University Law School, qui leur a semblé le mieux equipé et preparé pour fair face a le situation. Peu importe la couleure de sa peau.

Donc, si aujourd’hui ils ont choisi un homme aux mots racistes, misogynes, anti-immigrants, sans gout, et qui des qu’il se trouve devant un fait qui ne lui convient pas le nie, ce n’etait pas parce qu’ils sont (en majorité)  racistes ou betes. Bien sur que — et malheureusement — il  existe probablement parmi les soutiens de Trump un noyau de 30% (ca vous fait penser à quelq’un?) qui le suit dans ses prejudices. Mais les voteurs qui l’ont donné la marge de la victoire sont les delaissés de la mondialisation et de capitalism néo-liberal. (Je ne dis pas qu’ils avaient raison de penser que c’est un des pires exemplaires du capitalism, M. Trump, qui va les sauver!)

Né dans la Californie, j’ai passé le plupart de mes années adult Etats-Unisian la-bas et a New York. Mais avant de rentrer en France, j’avais vecu 3 années dans le Texas. Bien evidemment j’ai cotoyé pas mal des racistes la-bas (et des gens de bon coeur aussi), et des types plein de haine pour autrui (surtout quand il s’agit des freaks comme moi!). Mais un beau jour, j’ai rencontré un homme de mon age, c’est a dire 50 ans, en train de vendre ses affaires dans un vide maison. (Parmi lesquelles  une photo des soeurs tisseuses a Toulouse prise par un certain John Howard Griffin, autrefois auteur du fameux livre “Black Like Me,” edité pendant les années ’60, et qui raconte l’histoire d’un homme blanc qui a changé le couleur de sa peau en noir pour voir comment les gens le traitait.) C’etait en 2012. Et cet homme — qui autrefois a travailé dans la batiment — etait au chomage depuis 2008, et donc se trouvait forcé de vendre la maison de son pere.

A Paris, j’ai un ami de longue date, artisan-electrician, et qui tend une petite commerce, avec lui-meme comme seule salaire. Depuis des années, il me raconte que il devrais payé tant des impots — jusque presque 60 percent de ces revenues — que des fois c’est moins couteuse de prendre ses vacances que de travailé. Et pour l’assurance santé, c’est pas gagné. On a parlé aprés la vote pour le “Brexit.” Selon lui, c’etait comme (c’est mon phrase mais c’etait le sens de son commentaire) la canarie dans le mine de charbon. Des qu’il y a un commencement de manque d’air dans le mine, c’est la canarie qui tomber d’abord — c’est comme un signalement aux mineurs que ca vas pas dans le mine. Pour lui, la vote pour le Brexit donc n’etait pas forcement un rejet de l’immigration, mais des regulations (austerité, pour example) imposé par Bruxelles. Et il faut, selon lui, que l’EU prendre la vote pour le Brexit comme un avertissement que si on ne veut pas que les autres pays suive, ca devrais changé. Il faut qu’on ecoutet aux ‘petites’ gens. (Ce matin meme, suit aux resultats du scrutin americain, Dominique de Villepin a qualifié les Etats-Unis et la France comme ‘les freres jumeaux.’)

Donc — et comme aux Etats-Unis — soit si c’est les ‘petites’ retraits (comme mes voisins ici dans la Sud de France) qui arrivent a peine a leur fin de mois, soit si c’est les jeunes pour lesquelles souvent la seule embauche est un stage mal ou non-payé, soit si c’est les gens plus agé qui (comme votre serviteur) sont les rejets de la marché d’emploie — oui, les ‘petites’ gens ont peur. Et il faut les entendre.

Mais les bonne nouvelles — car oui, des bonnes nouvelles il y en est, si vous avez la chance de vivre et pouvoir voter en France — c’est que coté democracie, ici c’est pas comme aux Etats-Unis.

Aux Etats-Unis, sachez vous qu’on n’a pas que les Democrats et les Republicans? On a aussi les petites parties, voir les Verts et les Libertarians, mais — au contraire a la France — ils ont etaient exclu des debats televisés (qui sont controlé par les deux grandes parties), et de la media dit ‘mainstream’ en general. Et quand un Socialist atypiquement malin a reussi a entrer quand meme dans le course des primaires Democrats, l’appareil du partie (controlé par des proches à Clinton) a carrement favoré, voir travailé, pour l’election de Hilary… ca que, en fin de compte, n’as pas joué dans sa favour dans le scrutin general car des milliers des jeunes qui ont voté et travailé pour Bernie Sanders, se sentient disenfranchisé, n’ont pas voté.

Cette manque de vrais democracie n’est pas le cas en France.

Vous savez, la ou je vivre en ce moment — dans une petite village en Sud de France — j’ecouter beacoup la radio publique Francaise. Et la, dans cette period pre-presidential, tout les points de vu — tout les candidats et candidates, je veut dire — sont exposé et representé. Uniquement cette semaine sur France Inter et France Culture j’avais deja entendu le chef du parti communiste, Pierre Laurent, le candidat presidential d’Europe Ecologie Yannick Jadot, et Daniel Cohn-Bendit. (On entendre JAMAIS les Communists sans parle les Verts  sur les chaines dit mainstream aux Etats-Unis.) La semaine derniere c’etait Bruno Lemaire. Ce n’etait pas mon ‘rayon’ political ce derniere, *mais* lui, au moins, il a dit avec raison que le probleme centrale qui occupe les francaises c’est pas l’identité national mais le BOULOT. Et donc OUI, ici en France au moins, au contraire aux Etats-Unis on est exposé aux politicians  — et visions — des presque toutes rayons (ou au moins plus des rayons qu’aux Etats-Unis), et c’est bien.

Donc, voici la message — meme leçon, si j’ose dire — que je tienne a tiré et de transmis de la scrutin americain pour mes ami/es francaises:

Si vous ne voulais pas vous trouver encore une fois devant un 21 avril ou (maintainant) un 9 novembre a la francaise — ou, comme a dit Yogi Berra, le baseballer qui a produit autant de pearls de sagesse que home runs, un cas de ‘deja vu all over again’ — arrete de dire, s’il vous plait, “Ils sont tout pourri.”

Parce qu’il y a Benoit Hamon.

Il y a Yannick Jadot.

Il y a Clementine Autain.

Il y a Pierre Laurent.

Il y a Francois Bayrou.

Il y a Emmanuel Macron.

Il y a Bruno Lemaire.

Il y a NKM.

Il y a *meme* Francois Hollande.

Surtout, ne vous resigné pas a dire que si vos compatriots veulent voté pour la Marine, c’est car ils sont des xenophobes. *Montré leur qu’il y a un autre voie possible.* Avant qu’il sera trop tard.

Pour ecouter un radio de gauche Etats-Unisian — genre le La-bas si j’y suis de Daniel Mermet — cliquez ici.