Hockney / Van Gog : Joy of Nature March 1 - May 26, 2019
Unable to travel to Amsterdam to the Van Gogh Museum? Not to worry, the buzz has skipped the pond and you can find out about the exhibit using links to the museum to experience the remarkable pairing of two greats, Van Gogh and Hockney. The must see Hockney - Van Gogh exhibit, exploded with a new way of seeing both artists. The exhibit places works of the Post-Impressionist painter, Vincent Van Gogh (1853 - 1890) alongside contemporary British painter, David Hockney (1937 -). An inspired short film "Joy of Nature," (you can click to watch below), shares the great influence and reverence Hockney has for Van Gogh. He breaks the myth of the troubled, neurotic, lonely painter to one who shows joy and delight in his paintings. Kindred spirits separated by only 47 years, two world wars, along with social and global cultural changes. Hockney even comments that if Van Gogh had lived but a few more years he could have become a very rich man.
Hockney - Van Gogh
As Hockney's and Van Gog's celebrated works stand on their own merit, together we become witness to a unique conversation between two artists. Paintings from each are placed side-by-side showing the richly textured colors and paint applied to a pastoral scene.
When I was venturing off to art school in the 1970s in search of how the great Masters constructed their paintings I never paid much attention to either Hockney or Van Gogh. Most of us, myself included, reacted to Van Gogh as the lonely, mentally ill artist. We found his brush strokes to be as lush as cupcake frosting knowing Vincent probably, accidentally dined on a few pigments. In his day the lead white and sulfur based yellows and greens and carbon decomposing browns were toxic.
As a student I came across the Letters From Provence in a book shop and became enamored by the struggling artist life, one I hoped to avoid. These letters written to his brother Theo express his own desire to capture what he so carefully observes in nature. Several quotes from his letters are shown to David Hockney throughout the short film "Joy of Nature". Hockney reacts candidly to Van Gog's words and interprets for us what an artist truly sees.
For me, what makes this coming together of two great artists is the chance to gain a new appreciation of them both. As Hockney explains (2018) "how [nature] at it's height it looks as though champagne has been poured over the bushes and it is all foaming up and it looks marvelous." The book Hockney / Van Gog : Joy of Nature (May 7, 2019), is a catalog of the Amsterdam exhibit. A copy will be on our shelves for check out and it is sure to inspire another generation of great artists.
Whitney Biennial May 17 - September 22, 2019
The Whitney Museum of American Art, located in our back yard, is a cultural experience not only for its dynamic collection of Contemporary American Art but for it's location. The museum recently moved in 2015 from its founding 1966 location on Museum Row's Upper East Side, to the new hip High Line and Hudson Yards location of Lower Manhattan. There are terraced balconies to take in the Hudson River views, even the Statue of Liberty and scenes of meandering through Chelsea and what remains of the old Meat Packing District. I loved the original Whitney building on 75th street. I enjoyed the soft granite monolith with it's upside down windows facing Madison Avenue. The exhibit rooms felt intimate and less interrupted by cafe stations and outdoor balconies.
Today, the old Up Town Whitney, is known as the MET Breuer for the architect Marcel Breuer, and is leased from the Whitney and serviced by exhibits and educational venues sponsored by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The original Whitney, named after its founder Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney who was a sought after sculptor in her own right, just happened to be one of the wealthiest women of her time. She was Gloria Vanderbilt's Aunt and Legal Guardian and Great Aunt to Gloria's son News Anchor, Anderson Cooper. Being fortunate to have come from the wealthy Vanderbilt family and then married into the Whitney's Standard Oil wealth, Gertrude was able to buy hundreds of contemporary American pieces of art. Neither the Metropolitan Museum of Art or at the time, the new Museum of Modern Art wanted her collection, so she simply built her own museum.
Today, one of the most important contributions to the art world made by the museum is the Whitney Biennial. An exhibit of up and coming artists who are invited to participate in a group show. At the beginning in 1932, the idea was to host an annual exhibit of unknown American artists. Many artists and curators had their careers launched because of the Whitney's dedication to emerging talent. Now the exhibit is held every other year and features all media types and artists from painters and sculptors, tp video and installation artists. Often Biennial exhibits are surrounded by political controversy and protests against or for the displayed art. Many Biennial years have become seminal markers in the art history world for their striking inclusion or neglect of women artists, minority groups or the types of political and sexual orientation represented. Two years ago, the painting of slain teen Emmett Till entitled: Open Casket by Dana Schutz caused public outrage and a petition to have the painting removed from the museum. The 2019 Whitney Biennial adds to the longest running exhibit collection in American Art. On view from May 17 through September 22, 2019. Just know that while not all the work may be your cup of tea, the collection itself does add to the collective conversation and aesthetical narrative.