Jean Dubuffet far from ordinary

 

jean dubuffet

A Jean Dubuffet sculpture with his paintings in the background at Sotheby’s, NY,NY. (Nicosia Smith photo)

By Nicosia Smith

Jean Dubuffet.

He is far from conventional or traditional, this French painter and sculptor.

Forty-four of his works are on display at Sotheby’s, Jean Dubuffet – A Fine Line.

This selling exhibit runs through June 13 and gives a very colourful depiction of Dubuffet’s (1901-1985) works.

His paintings carry a lot of wide-eyed ghost-like reflections and is a theme throughout the display.

It is hard to say what the images, which are spread out across the paintings, are trying tell us. At times they are still, drifting or just there.

It’s an exhibit that will certainly make you stop and ponder.

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Sotheby’s abuzz with British Guiana stamp

stamp

The 1856 One-Cent Black-on-Magenta on display at Sotheby’s York Avenue, NY, NY. (Sotheby’s image)

 

By Nicosia Smith

There is a buzz in the world of stamp collectors.

And this is why.

The British Guiana 1856 One-Cent Black-on-Magenta will soon go on sale.

And it is estimated to be sold for between $10M to $20M when it goes on auction June 17  at Sotheby’s (On display until Friday).

All by itself, the stamp takes center stage on Sotheby’s first floor, far right corner.

A very wired guard at the entrance of the exhibit keeps a keen eye, before you reach the descending few stairs to the stamp.

The significance of the occasion rests on you.

stamp

The verso of the British Guiana one-cent magenta stamp showing the initials and marks of some previous owners. (Sotheby’s image)

In a darkly lit room, there it was, a small florence-like beam shining on it.

While a very knowledgeable attendant nearby gives you a history of the very famous and rarest stamp in circulation.

Such a small object, but holding so much significant history. I took a moment.

According to Sotheby’s, in July 1850 British Guiana form an inland postal service.

And in 1852, British Guiana began receiving regular postage stamps, manufactured in England by Waterlow & Sons.

But in 1856, a shipment of stamps from England was delayed and threatened a disruption of postal service throughout British Guiana.

Colonial postmaster, E.T.E. Dalton, got local printers Joseph Baum and William Dallas, to print a contingency supply of postage stamps

Baum and Dallas were publishers of the Royal Gazette newspaper in Georgetown, British Guiana at the time.

They attempted to mimic the appearance of the Waterlow stamps and produced a series of three definitive stamps for the colony: the One-cent Magenta, a four-cent magenta, and a four-cent blue.

The one-cent magenta stamp is the sole survivor from its series.

I was told that the printing press for the one-cent magenta still survives in now Guyana, formerly British Guiana.

Tilton Gallery challenges you to find the joke

Egan Frantz, Sicca Purgiato Sublime, 2014 (Nicosia Smith photo)

Egan Frantz, Sicca Purgiato Sublime, 2014 (Nicosia Smith photo)

By Nicosia Smith

So how do you get an audience to take new contemporary works seriously.

You give it a serious title like, “but that joke isn’t funny anymore….”

Seriously.

This is the name of the exhibit at Tilton Gallery, 8 East 76 Street, for a group of 12 titled and untitled contemporary pieces.

I must admit that my initial thought was, I was going to get a good laugh. Simply put, that was not the case.

Luca Dellaverson, Untitled, 2014, (Nicosia Smith photo)

Luca Dellaverson, Untitled, 2014, (Nicosia Smith photo)

JPW 3, HIVE CITRONE 2014, 2014 (Nicosia Smith photo)

JPW 3, HIVE CITRONE 2014, 2014 (Nicosia Smith photo)

 

I found my self in a very intense engagement with the works of the eight contemporary artists on display.

The untitled 2014 work of Luca Dellaverson, had me staring partially at the red coat I was wearing, in this Epoxy resin and mirrored glass with wood support.

This work on the second floor of the two-floor exhibit, had my imagination running wild.

I kept thinking how did Dellaverson got the smashed glass to remain so intact.

And how this smashed effect made light move through the work, even as most of the piece remain black.

At the same time allowing me to see my red coat.

Artist JPW 3, HIVE CITRONE, 2014, an offset ink transfer in citronella, peach, and paraffin wax on canvas, was also nothing to laugh about.

Simone Leigh, Untitled 2014 (Nicosia Smith photo)

Simone Leigh, Untitled 2014 (Nicosia Smith photo)

While looking at this work I tried to understand what JPW 3 wanted us to know about the separation of wax from ink. I kept staring at the piece to see if there was some encryption in it that I should see or a pattern of some sort. I saw nothing to decipher.

Simone Leigh, untitled, 2014, Terra cotta and porcelain stood alone, being the only sculpted piece.

That is, if you consider the Sicca Purgiato sublime, 2014, (above) aluminum, rebonded foam, laser-etched acrylic, and hardware, by Egan Frantz.

Nine of the 12 pieces were made this year, two from 2010 and one from 2013 and are on exhibit through June 7.

All mainly new works, proving that there was nothing to laugh about.

It is just too cold to be Spring

(Google Image)

 

By Nicosia smith

Spring arrived weeks ago, but walking the streets of New York City you would think otherwise.

It is a frigid Spring.

Just when I thought it was ok for the extra layers to go. I find my self debating whether I need that extra jacket or tights.

And sling back slippers will have to wait awhile longer, as my socks do overtime.

That aside, you still have to get out there and be on the move.

So if it’s still too cold outside for you as it is for me, warm up at this indoor event.

Spring Masters New York, a Park Avenue Armory Fair staged by Architect Rafael Vinoly opening April 30 at the Armory.

And open to the public between May 1-4.

This international show will showcase art and antiquities from galleries across the US and is sure to pique your appetite.

Contemporary furniture, art, bronze and metal sculptures, paintings and jewellery.

And check out the Tribeca Film Festival as well ending April 27, if you can get tickets.

And you may still be able to, with its slogan of ‘never say sold out’.

Certainly, a mixture of international and local films will keep things interested.

 

Art for Depression

Painting by Else Blankenhorn (1873-1920).

Else Blankenhorn 1873-1920 (Spiegel Online International Photo)

 

By Nicosia Smith

Immersing your self into thoughts and feelings apart from your own is a helpful tool to free the mind.

When you step into a gallery or museum or observe a painter at work,  you are agreeing to a journey.

Out from where you are at the moment, to another place. And at that place you are the manager in charge and the judge in the court.

Your opinions and suggestions are all your own and largely block to anyone else.

Although, the creative mind behind the piece on display, will likely explain what the art is saying or means in brief.

This is open-ended. It is not written in stone, as they say.

Or except of course, you become an influential art critic, and even so, art lovers are not easily dissuaded by critics.

Because art is all about going against the grain, so to speak.

But back to art as therapy.

Last week and this week several artistic associations celebrated the healing power of art.

One such institution was the Jamaica Hospital Medical Center.

More than 30 folk art works by psychiatric patients were displayed in the hospital’s lobby.

All part of a celebration of Creative Arts Therapy Week. Yes, that’s right.

Creativity is not only for economic gain but it provides fulfillment for the mind.

As these and other psychiatric patients have shown us.

That is, expressing one’s self through art is also a powerful form of treatment, together with traditional treatment.

As someone who loves the escape that art and other things cultural provide, I will continue moving towards the art epicenters.

A Facebook post or Wall Art?

What is your social media wall saying about you?

Is it a chart of how you are to be remembered?

And there is no shame in thinking about it while you post on Twitter or Facebook.

And look at it this way – you may not be consciously pondering it, but you are posting it.

Think about it.

All those dinner outings, evening sessions, birthday parties, vacations and upset moments posted for all.

A memento in your online album. Of your feelings and thoughts to be liked or disliked.

All saying these are things to remember me by.  A very interactive way.

If you happen to get famous over night, yes that too can happen. The first place the media is likely to look for information about you is on social media.

And all of your post and bantering becomes who you are. Even that one post you hope would disappear over time.

No they do not.

But for those of us looking for a more subdued  and less interactive way.

Well, there is always the services of a painter. That is one that can paint a portrait.

The artist can make you look the part whatever part that is.

Fit for a fireplace mantle or for a living room wall.

So while your post will be a little more off the wall or unpredictable, your portrait is not expected to be.

Unless the artist is told otherwise.

Curators are always preoccupied with this question, because it is a part of their jobs.

That is, how to best present a subject or someone.

So as you come across your next post-able moment, remember, that’s your art on the wall.

Dressed for the Ball – NY Gilded Age

By Nicosia Smith

New York City today is known for its excesses.

A glimpse of the New York Times or Wall Street Journal will attest to this.

New York’s grand lifestyles are by no means recent.

Since, for centuries those with wealth have flaunted it. Whether in Europe, Asia, Africa or the Middle East.

But whenever you are confronted with these over the top lifestyles, it has a shock value.

Remember New York’s Gilded Age. Or should I say, have you heard about the Gilded Age.

The Museum of the City of  New York has decided to jug our memories.

Exhibiting objects from the mid 1870’s to the early 20th Century of New York’s rich.

It was the perfect way to open the museum’s Tiffany and Co. Foundation Gallery. That is, what better inaugural show, for a gallery sponsored by Tiffany, right.

The Gilded Age, was a time of excesses so grand, that even publications frown on it.

This was so, I imagine, because as wealthy families flirted and splurged at grand balls, New York struggled with a large poor population.

This exhibit is a bold display of costumes, jewelry, portraits, decorative plates, vases and fine china.

Immaculate clothing with sapphires, platinum, turquoise, ruby and fine silk. And painted silk feathers, mother-of-pearl folding fans.

A bejewelled breath freshener case and perfume bottles engraved with gold are also among the trinkets.

And the love of jewellery is seen in the self portraits of the rich.

Like the exhibit at the New York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, Beauty’s Legacy: Gilded Age Portraits in America, vouches to this.

In addition – a slide show outside the Tiffany gallery, shows images from extravagant parties. Like the Alva and William K. Vanderbilt Ball of 1883 at their 5th Avenue Mansion, Bradley Martin Ball of 1897 and others.

They dressed as kings and queens from Europe and as an Egyptian princess or Indian chief. Posing for photos in courtyards and gardens, fashioned after Versailles. These exhibits are a great way to learn about this era, in person. And there is still time.

While the New York Historical Society exhibit ends March 9, this City Museum exhibit goes until November.

So go, take a look.

The beauty of a black and white drawing

A portrait by Morgan Sparks Smith (Image of his brother Marvin according to Swann Auction Galleries records.)

A portrait by Morgan Sparks Smith (Image of his brother Marvin according to Swann Auction Galleries records.)

“The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper from a passing shape, ” P. Picasso

By Nicosia Smith

A seemingly simple art form, yet exquisite in its detail, form and simplicity.

It’s always an amazement how equally griping black and white images are. That is, when we take a break from color paintings.

So I considered it a good contrast when Swann Auction Galleries,

104 East 25th St, this month featured the black and white images

along side full color paintings.

In Swann’s, Shadows Uplifted: The Rise of African-American Fine Art, noted black and whites included:

  •  Charles White (1918-1979) Pensive Lass, Charcoal on illustration board, 1936
  •  Allan Rohan Crite (1910-2007) The Last Super
  •  Aaron Douglas (1888-1979) Snow Storm, Charcoal on woven paper, circa 1950-1955
  •  Morgan Sparks Smith (1910-1993) Portrait, Charcoal on thin laid paper, 1934

In Douglas’s, Snow Storm, the light and soft strokes beautifully depicted a snow storm, as the wind churned the snow toward the nearby trees and homes.

And even from the lone visible figure in the image, one can see the distress, as they battle the strong winds.

As I confront the current brutal winter in NYC, I have a greater appreciation for this piece.

There is just something about a natural clear image, laid bare with raw emotions. Truly a pleasure.

The self portraits are a beautiful example of this. So one and all, bring on the black and white selfies, as well.

Charles White, Pensive Lass (Head of a Woman)

Charles White, Pensive Lass (Head of a Woman)

Now, the exhibit had other noted big hitters in African-American contemporary art. Whose works include bronze sculptures, oil on masonite board and watercolors like :

  •  Claude Clerk (1915-2001)
  •  William H. Johnson (1901-1970)
  •  Augusta Savage (1892-1962)
  •  William A. Harper (1873-1910)
  •  Hale Woodruff (1900-1980)
  •  William Edouard Scott (1884-1964)
  •  Hughie Lee-Smith (1915-1999)
  •  William E. Artis (1914-1977)

It’s sometimes good to enjoy the simple and uncomplicated, just a thought.

Remembering Brooklyn Abolitionist Ties

Frank Decker (Nicosia Smith photo)

Frank Decker (Nicosia Smith photo)

By Nicosia Smith

Black history month is here and with it a long list of programs and events.

So, of course, I am not going to miss out.

My first event was the Brooklyn Abolitionists/In Pursuit of Freedom discussion at the Brooklyn Historical Society.

Frank Decker, Author of “Brooklyn Plymouth Church in the Civil War Era: A Ministry of Freedom,” and Lois Rosebrooks, who assisted Decker, spoke on the book.

At 75 Hicks Street, Brooklyn, stands Plymouth Church at its original location from 1847.

Decker explained how Plymouth Church under the leadership of Henry Ward Beecher, stood behind abolitionist and the abolition movement.

Plymouth had major support from its congregation, like Member Harriet Beecher Stowe author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

This breakthrough novel on slavery explain the conditions of the enslaved and helped to garner support.

The church’s involvement in the underground railroad, gain Plymouth the name, “Grand Central Depot.”

Escaped slaves went to Canada (where it was illegal to return salves) and to Northern states like New York, and to Brooklyn.

Between 1860-1865, Brooklyn was the third largest city in the US.

Plymouth Church basement hid many fugitives (escaped slaves).

Not to say that slavery sympathizers did not have their way as well. Escaped slaves risk being kidnapped in the North.

So all was not well in Brooklyn or the rest of the North. (As seen in the picture below.) As the popular film 12 Years a Slave testifies to.

The 1850 Fugitive Slave Act allowed federal marshals to cross state lines and arrest suspected fugitives. Exhibit at the Brooklyn Historical Society (Nicosia Smith photo)

The 1850 Fugitive Slave Act allowed federal marshals to cross state lines and arrest suspected fugitives. Exhibit at the Brooklyn Historical Society (Nicosia Smith photo)

Brooklyn’s diverse population also brought its own problems. As the civil war raged, tension grew between the marginalized groups in Brooklyn,

That is, the Irish and Africans.

The tensions lead to violence, like the Tobacco Factory Riots in Brooklyn in August 1862 and the Draft Riots in Manhattan in July 1863.

Then Union victory came in 1865 and the Thirteenth Amendment ending slavery, followed by the reconstruction period.

There is much to learn about that period, and to what I like to say, deconstruct how it all went down.

The Historical Society throughout February will host an exhibit and review short films on civil rights and slavery, in an attempt to do just that.

So if you can try to attend a few.

Origins of Tribal Artifacts questioned

By Nicosia Smith

Whenever I visit an African tribal art exhibit I always leave with a lot of questions. And almost always these questions are about the acquisition of the pieces on display. I cannot help wondering how these pieces were acquired, that is, the circumstances of the original acquisition.

Whether it came from a cave, grave, tribal village or family; and how?

Pillage always comes to mind. The pieces on display in this age one can argue, has changed many hands. And some may have even been in an attic and passed from generations to generations with the owner now discovering its value. But before it reached to being traded at fair value, I cannot help but wonder if originally, a fair price was offered or any at all.

(African Tribal Mask)

I have also questioned the issue of value, whenever I see metal pins and beads on tribal pieces made during the colonial era. I know the colonial traders received gold, diamond and other precious stones for the pins, beads and dyes used on the tribal pieces. And one can argue, a far greater exchange for them.

One recent New York Times article raise another, more pertinent question about this, the spirituality of the art. These tribal art pieces, as it is called, were functional and used at different spiritual and tribal functions.

This fact is never lost to you, whenever you visit tribal art exhibits. For example, on artifacts used at divination ceremonies, remnants of feathers and gifts of cloth and bottles bought by those seeking favors are still visible.

Another example, are the popular fertility dolls, given back then to expecting mothers. Seen as decorative pieces; these dolls represented what the young woman and her family wanted in the unborn child. They were cared for like the child would be cared for and kept long after the children grew up. They even became family heirlooms, being passed from one generation to the next.

When one considers the functions of many of the pieces. Some used during sacrifices and other ceremonial and traditional events, I for one will pass on ownership. But the questions about its acquisition lingers, even though an answer may never be found.