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exhibitions

Eight Years B.C.: Bill Cunningham Exhibit Opens at NY Historical Society

Intrepid blue-smocked street photographer Bill Cunningham turned 85 yesterday, and the New York Historical Society marked the occasion with a press preview of an exhibit of his photographs. We dispatched writer Nancy Lazarus—via bicycle, of course—to take in the architectural riches and fashion history of New York through Cunningham’s lens. The show opens to the public today.

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(All photos courtesy New York Historical Society)

billWhile his images don’t depict biblical times, Bill Cunningham did delve back to the Civil War, Victorian era, and Gilded Age for his eight-year-long project, Facades. From 1968-1976, the New York Times photographer who documented social, architecture, and fashion trends collected over 500 outfits and shot more than 1,800 locations around New York City. Editta Sherman, his friend, neighbor and fellow photographer, served as project collaborator and frequent subject.

Cunningham donated 88 black-and-white images from his photo essay to the New York Historical Society in 1976, and 80 gelatin silver prints and enlarged images are on display through June 15. Valerie Paley, NYHS historian and vice president for scholarly programs, curated the exhibit, and she said assistant curator Lilly Tuttle, found the photos in the museum’s archives. “We have so many undiscovered treasures, and we’re delighted to rediscover them,” said Paley.

Although Cunningham wasn’t on hand for yesterday’s preview, Paley said he was enthusiastic about the exhibit and had pitched in to locate details of specific photos. Many of his quotes accompany the exhibit highlights. The display is arranged by historic era, and additional photos in the collection are projected onto the walls of the museum’s side entrance rotunda.
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City as Canvas: MCNY Explores Origins of Graffiti Art

Once upon a time, before Banksy murals were making the covers of auction catalogues, what many today know as street art was viewed as urban blight. Martin Wong saw creativity ripe for collecting. A new exhibition brings together works from his trove and traces the evolution of the New York graffiti art movement. We tagged writer Nancy Lazarus to take a sneak peek.

Untitled by Zephyr, 1984, MCNY
Pictured above, an untitled 1984 work by Zephyr, a key figure in the transition of the writing movement from trains to canvas. The below portrait of artist and collector Martin Wong was taken in 1985 by Peter Bellamy. (All images courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York)

Martin Wong by Peter Bellamy, 1985, MCNY“Street art has become the biggest art movement the world has seen,” said Sandra Fabara, the graffiti artist known as Lady Pink. She was one of the few female artists involved in the street scene of Manhattan’s Lower East Side during the 1970s and 1980s. That’s where Martin Wong, an avid collector, befriended and mentored a group of fellow graffiti artists.

“He was passionate, not just a patron,” said Christopher Ellis, aka Daze, one of many members of the group who paid tribute to the late Wong on Monday at the Museum of the City of New York (MCNY), which today opened an exhibition of works from Wong’s pioneering collection. On view through August 24, “City as Canvas: Graffiti from the Martin Wong Collection” consists of nearly half of the 300 mixed media pieces that Wong donated to the museum in 1994, five years before he died of AIDS. Sean Corcoran, MCNY’s curator of prints and photographs, curated the show, and the artists helped to identify many of the pieces in the exhibition.
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Friday Photo: In the Studio with Robert Rauschenberg

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François Halard, Robert Rauschenberg Portrait #2, 1998. (Image courtesy Demisch Danant)

The puckish Robert Rauschenberg at work and play in his studio in Captiva Island, Florida. Blurred geometry at Pierre Chareau’s Maison de Verre. The crumbling grandeur of the Villa Noailles. Pleated pottery arrayed in Cy Twombly’s bedroom. These are some of the dreamy spaces, people, and places captured over the past two decades by François Halard, the subject of a career-spanning exhibition that opens Saturday at New York’s Demisch Danant gallery. Many of the works in “François Halard: Architecture” have never before been published or exhibited—don’t miss the Polaroids, including the mind-blowing dolce vita view from Twombly’s studio in Southern Italy.

Mark Your Calendar: Art Spiegelman and Phillip Johnston’s Wordless!

wordlessTry as we might, we can never get enough of Art Spiegelman—in the unlikely event that you disagree, treat yourself to a copy of Co-Mix: A Retrospective of Comics, Graphics, and Scraps (Drawn and Quarterly). That illuminating and illuminated volume also functions as a catalogue of sorts for the Spiegelfest on view through March 23 at New York’s Jewish Museum. The outside-of-the-box comics/art fun moves from the page to the wall to the stage on Saturday, January 18, when BAM presents Wordless!. Billed as “an innovative hybrid of slides, talk, and musical performance,” the work was created by Spiegelman and jazz composer Phillip Johnston as a commission for the Sydney Opera House. Tickets are going fast. Prepare for the evening of multisensory stimulation with this Spiegelvideo from the Jewish Museum:

Watch: Sebastian Junger and Ron Haviv Talk ‘Testimony’

What is like to be on the front lines, armed with only a camera and surging adrenaline? Ron Haviv has 23 years worth of answers. The photojournalist’s work across 18 countries unfurls in “Testimony,” an exhibition on view through January 31 at New York’s Anastasia Photo gallery. “I believe and have dedicated my life to witnessing history in an attempt to create a body of evidence that holds people accountable,” Haviv has said. In this video, the first in a new series produced by the gallery, Haviv is joined by Sebastian Junger for a discussion about war, stories, pictures, emotions, and what happens when those things collide.

New York Historical Society Readies Bill Cunningham Photo Exhibition

(Bill Cunningham)
Bill Cunningham’s photo of Editta Sherman on the subway dates to around 1968-1976.

With the first snow flurries behind us and the deep freeze still ahead, we turn our thoughts briefly to spring, a season inevitably heralded by a selection of pastel-hued or floral-dappled ensembles captured by Bill Cunningham. This March the beloved New York Times photographer gets a spotlight of his own as the New York Historical Society mounts “Façades,” an exhibition that will explore Cunningham’s eight-year project documenting the architectural riches and fashion history of New York City. The photos, taken between 1968 and 1976, pair models in period costumes with historic settings such as St. Paul’s Chapel and Rockefeller Center. Fellow photographer Editta Sherman, captured in profile in front of Grand Central Station crowned in an elaborate hat (recall Cunningham’s early career as a milliner), manages to give Jules-Félix Coutan‘s mythological statues a run for their money.

Quote of Note | Ian Buruma

(Balthus)“To be sure, the marvelous paintings by Balthus of the twelve-year-old Thérèse [Blanchard], dreamily gazing at the viewer with her white panties showing (Thérèse with Cat, 1937), or the painting reproduced in the catalog of the nude Laurence Bataille (daughter of Georges Bataille) stretched back, cat-like, in a chair, while a sinister-looking person draws the curtains to throw light on her naked form (The Room, 1952–1954), are unsettling, but not because of anything pornographic….What is disturbing about Balthus’s pictures of girls is not just the age of his models, but the atmosphere, which is creepy, full of dread and latent violence, and yet extraordinarily beautiful. Girls are trapped in angular, often torturous poses in tight gloomy spaces. There is something in Balthus’s art of those claustrophobic Victorian novels about children locked up in dark attics.”

-Ian Buruma, writing in The New York Review of Books about “Balthus: Cats and Girls—Paintings and Provocations,” on view through January 12 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Pictured: Balthus. Thérèse Dreaming (1938)

From Paris, with Gems: ‘Jewels By JAR’ Dazzles at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

If on your next trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art you spy a bivouac of bejeweled butterflies, do not be alarmed. The gem-encrusted insects are among the one-of-a-kind creations of Joel A. Rosenthal, better known by the only initials that can strike fear in the jewelry-loving hearts of those accustomed to getting everything they desire: JAR. The uncompromising designer is the subject of a glittering exhibition that opens today at the Met. We sent writer Nancy Lazarus to take a sneak peek.

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JAR’s Tulip Brooch (2008) and Colored Ball Necklace (1999) are among the more than 400 works in the Met’s “Jewels by JAR” exhibition. (Photographs by Jozsef Tari. Courtesy of JAR, Paris.)

The city of lights is an apt setting for a jeweler who creates brilliant one-of-a-kind gemstones. Joel A. Rosenthal (JAR) set up shop 35 years ago on Place Vendôme and now New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is celebrating the Bronx-born craftsman with a retrospective that marks two other firsts. It’s JAR’s first American museum exhibit and the Met’s first exhibit devoted to a living jeweler.

“Joel is not here in person now, but he’s here in spirit,” said Jane Adlin, the exhibit’s organizing curator and associate curator of modern and contemporary art, during a press preview held earlier this week. If JAR had shown up, he would have observed an awestruck audience taking in the description-defying display of gems. Adlin collaborated with research assistant, Lori Zabar, and with exhibition design manager, Michael Lapthorn. The exhibit, on view through March 9, 2014, is set in a large, dimly lit gallery where only the cases and the 400-plus intensely colored jewels are illuminated.

“JAR is a talented sculptor who uses jewels as his medium,” said Jennifer Russell, associate director for exhibitions. “It’s an astounding range of work in terms of size, scale, range, and subject matter and it’s an amazing array of objects,” she added. Many of the jewels are inspired by nature: waves, shells, stars, vegetables, fruits, butterflies, birds, and exotic creatures. Others are based on accessories, such as fans or handkerchiefs. In the collection JAR designed for his international clientele are earrings, brooches, rings, bracelets, watches, picture frames, decorative boxes, and a bejeweled glass jar.
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Enigmatic Photographer Vivian Maier Gets Close-Up in Documentary

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It’s Vivian Maier‘s moment. The enigmatic Chicago nanny-cum-master street photographer died in 2009 at the age of 87, leaving behind more than 100,000 photographs from a lifetime of shooting. Now her life and work are the subject of a cultural triple play, with an exhibition on view through December 14 at New York’s Howard Greenberg gallery that coincides with the publication of Vivian Maier: Self-Portraits (powerHouse), setting the stage for the November 17 U.S. premiere of Finding Vivian Maier at the DOC NYC film festival.

The documentary, directed and produced by John Maloof and Charlie Siskel (Bowling for Columbine, Religulous) with the help of Kickstarter backers, unravels the life of the now famous Maier as well as Maloof’s journey to piece together her past. Its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival generated not only buzz but a deal with Killer Films to develop the documentary into a narrative feature (we’re thinking Frances McDormand would make a great Viv).
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Quote of Note | Pierre Huyghe

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From “Untilled” (2011-12), Pierre Huyghe’s Documenta 13 project, which was installed around a park’s compost heap.

“To a certain extent, I have always used animals in my work. This might have increased in recent years and become more overt. But even in my 20s, I did a show with a lot of animals. I think a major turning point, however, was my show at the National Museum of Art and Popular Traditions in Paris [2009-10]. I became fascinated by the work in progress. I realized that what I was more and more attracted to was the aspect that was undetermined. You frame a rule, set the conditions, but you cannot define how a given entity will interact with another. I can never fully determine what animals will do; it’s certainly not my aim to have one animal eat another, although that can happen. What I show is a set of elements and the way they collide, confront and agree with each other. In a certain way, I construct a play. I don’t want to exhibit something to someone any more. I want to do the reverse: I want to exhibit someone to something. It’s random… I don’t even know what will happen most of the time.”

-Artist Pierre Huyghe—whose first major retrospective at the Centre Pompidou features bees, spiders, and a dog—in an interview with The Art Newspaper

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