Friday, November 14, 2008

Gallery is open!

Here is the building again, this evening, as I first took the brown paper off, and drew up the shade. And I had my first visitors a little after I took this shot, a very nice and attractive family from Williamstown visiting Hudson for the evening. They enjoyed the art, which is great, and the reason for having the gallery.
A closer look showing the view into the gallery through the red door.
And here is inside the door. I will have to reshoot this all during a bright day, the color is all off, but you get the idea, lots of sculpture, dramatic lighting, and display cases.
Another view, different angle.
View from the rear of the gallery looking towards the door.
Here is a large oak and glass display cabinet I found, housing an assortment of antiquities from Chinese jades to pre-Columbian terracottas. It works very well, and keeps them out of harms way.
And here is one of the displays I had made for the gallery, this one with archaic Chinese jades and bronzes. They work well, really allowing me to highlight the pieces.

Now that I am open, I hope you will come take a look when you get to Hudson. The address again is 307 Warren St., hours will be Thursday through Monday, 11am to 6pm, closed Tuesday and Wednesday.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I am going to have a gallery again!

It has been awhile since I last contributed to my blog, one sort of loses steam after awhile. But big news, I am about to open a gallery, after many years of not having one and doing real estate here in Hudson. I have been thinking of getting back to art and making jewelry. After all, what gifts do I have which are unique to me; not selling houses, as good as I am at that. Every housewife got their license in the past few years, so being in real estate was hardly special. My knowledge of arcane areas of art and the jewelry I make are however special and rare, although perhaps not every ones taste. So I put my house on the market and someone came along who wanted it, and who owned a building on Hudson's main street, Warren St., and who offered to trade it for my house. I immediately said yes, the building at 307 Warren is a charming two story building with a large open storefront with great windows, and a decent, very livable apartment above. It needed work but minor things for the most part such as paint, some work in kitchens and baths, but nothing major and all easily done. So we did the trade and I am in my new place, but not open yet. That will take a few weeks more, getting the lighting and displays in order, etc.

Here is a view of my new building and home, 307 Warren Street, near all the restaurants and next to the local Chinese restaurant, The Red Chop Stick! You can buy archaic Chinese jades and take out dinner right next to each other.
Here is a closer, better view of the new store front with a few pieces in it. 307 Warren has great windows, a great show place for furniture and objects. It is large enough for me to do a mix of things, from the jewelry which doesn't need much space, to sculptures, antiquities and perhaps even some antiques. For me it is like having my parlors on the street, my collection is my inventory, and now people can see what I have gathered over the years. I do look forward to being able to share it with people.
So keep an eye out, I will post as I get completed and give you a look inside. This will give you an excuse to come visit Hudson and see the gallery and the other interesting shops and galleries in Hudson.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

A new purchase; the She Bear

I usually post about places I go and what I see, however, I do buy objects from time to time, and am going to post about them as well, when so moved. I am moved at the moment by one of my latest purchases, a small white jade carving of a bear with pendulous human breasts. While a strange subject, the carving is compelling, it is an intense concentrated work of art.

Standing just under two inches (48 mm) high, it is quite small, but incredibly finely carved with great attention to detail. The fur ruffs on the limbs and edge of jaw are incised with fine lines, the teeth are individually carved and even the tongue is freed, reaching from the bottom of the mouth to touch the palate in a fierce open expression. Most strange are the breasts, which are pushed together between its paws, as if being presented. Interestingly the piece is drilled through from the top of the head through its bottom, and may have been worn as a bead or ornament. It may have been a sleeve weight, fingered by a dignitary during long meetings.

Just what is going on here, and how to date this piece. I purchased it from a dealer in the City, Spencer Throckmorton, who told me he had it looked at by the current Chinese jade expert, Gu Fang, who gave it a Ching Dynasty date which would make it 18th Century at the earliest. There is no real scientific way to establish age of jade, but certain things about this, aside from its style of carving, conflict with that late date. There are traces of burial encrustation in the mouth, in the hole drilled through it. This makes no sense for such a late date, it would have been unlikely to have been buried, and to develop encrustation that adheres to an impermeable surface like jade takes a very long time. However for me, it is the style that argues most strongly for an earlier dating; this is a superb example of Eastern Chou through early Han Dynasty carving, say 500 to 200 or so B.C.

There are a number of other jade bears that share many features with this one, from the round eyes, to incised ruffs of fur, form, finish and scale. Two have been illustrated in catalogues of shows at Throckmorton Fine Arts, Enduring Art of Jade Age China, 2001, by Elisabeth Childs-Johnson, and its successor volume, Enduring Art of Jade Age China, Volume II, also by Childs-Johnson, NY, 2002. In the first volume number 50, is a Mythical Squatting bear, which while more elaborated than this, is somewhat comparable, and in the second volume, number 45 is titled a Performing Bear, which has the same one leg, one leg back stance as mine.
The text explains this piece: "The emergence of the bear as a popular image in Warring States and Han times may be associated with the emergent popularity of the legend of Chiyu, the God of War, who was envisioned as a human in the disguise of a bear skin wielding weapons.... and with the Impersonator of the Bear celebrated in the Zhou Li, or Rites of Zhou, who exorcised pestilence during the Great Exorcism rite, on the eve.... that inaugurated the New Year."

The deciding factor in dating this piece for me is its fierceness; this is no trifle, no mere trinket, this is a emphatic depiction of a transformational state. What we have here is a female shaman, transformed into a She Bear, presenting her human breasts to prove her human origin. She is in an ecstatic state, with the power to protect herself and commune with the spirits of the dead and formative powers. We know from the few cultures today in Korea and Mongolia, which are still shamanic, that female shamans are not uncommon, we know very little about this aspect of ancient China, but there is no reason to think it different then. The artist who carved this must themselves have been in this altered state of reality to capture this vision in such a hard difficult material.

I love Archaic Chinese jades, and one reason I can buy them is that the scholarship is so in flux. I am quite comfortable buying a piece which the experts will not endorse, as I have faith that scholarship will catch up. With Chinese art, I have seen this happen before, where objects coming out are at first disbelieved, but now are acknowledged as genuine. But one must be able to see for themselves, to take this type of risk, and as well, be willing to live with a mistake. This jade bear is one of the finest little things I own, and I look forward to continuing to research it, and find parallels for it.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Asia Week this year, 2008

One of a pair of spectacular handles from a tomb.
Bronze, inlaid with silver and gold, these date to the Eastern Chou Period,
ca. 500-700 B.C. Apr. 10 inches in total length.
Chystian Deydier, Paris.

Unfortunately at many of the exhibitions of Asia Week, I was not allowed to take my own photographs, and nowhere on the web were others available. This was one of the only ones I could crib from the web, a detail of a pair of beautiful pull handles from the Eastern Chou Dynasty. Probably from the ends of a lacquered wood coffin, this is of bronze inlaid with silver and gold, and of beautiful design. At his boot in the Asian Fair, no longer at the Armory on 67th and Park, this year it was held at a church at 583 Park Ave. Strange quarters for this type of fair, Christian Deydier's booth made up for the oddness with some spectacular objects. My favorite of his offerings was a bronze mirror with a back inlaid with gold and silver in an intertwined dragon design reminiscent of the Book of Kells. Sadly, I cannot illustrate it here, no photographs allowed, and none available online.

Of course the best exhibitions belonged to Gisele Croese, at Nora Haime Gallery at 32 E. 57th St., my old building, the Fuller building, and Carlton Rochelle, also in the same building. Sadly, nothing on the web to illustrate the wonders on exhibit, and no photography. However, Gisele did publish a catalogue, from which I have cribbed images of the best object I saw this week; a nearly three foot tall bronze stand, of which I could only capture the top and a detail of the base. Suffice it to say the entire piece is breathtakingly beautiful, really psychedelic imagery in bronze, gold, and silver inlay. Let the pictures speak:

This is the top of the stand, which dates to the Late Warring States Period, about 400 BC.
Such stands could have held incense burners, or a drum, hard to know, but in this case it is in the form of three dragon heads, coming from a common stem. So amazingly fierce, and the supports above their heads, like elk horns.

Here is a detail of the base, like a trumpet end, only sitting on the ground, inlaid in silver with these fantastic dragons intertwined, again like the book of Kells. Stupendous example of Warring States imagery; a culmination of the Animal Style, the best of the best in craftsmanship and imagery.

I do not know how Gisele does it year after year, but she does; the best and most beautiful Archaic Chinese objects on the market.

On a different note, Rossi & Rossi from London at Neuhoff Gallery in the Fuller building again, had an incredible exhibit of Tibetan Tantric carpets. Amazing imagery, below is a tamer example of one of them. Others had naked aesthetics flayed with pudenda hanging down, others of flayed bodies with organs and bones scattered about, really amazing images. It is a type of carpet that one rarely sees more than one of at a time, and there were over a dozen on display.

Here is one of the carpets, a elephant tiger hybrid, flayed and spread out for the aesthetic to pray on. Peaceful, isn't it?

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Rubin Museum of Art

A favorite stop of mine when I go to Chelsea is this relatively new museum, located in the old Barney's building at the corner of 17th Street and Seventh Avenue. It is an imaginative reuse for a familiar place, I lived across the the street at 16th and Seventh, so I knew the Barney's store well. The spiral staircase of the women's section now serves like a downtown Guggenheim, for conveying one between the floors of exhibition space. It is beautifully done, the exhibitions and collections well displayed and lit. However, the organization of the collections and the labeling I find strange. For in fact this is not so much an art museum, as an educational institution whose mission is to bring Himalayan art and Buddhist religion to the west. As such the labels are less concerned with the work of art as what it depicts, and some of it is silly. For example, the floor with my favorite pieces in the museum is in sections labeled; Where is it made?; Why is it made?; How is it made?...etc. It is as if it was geared to kindergarten students, rather than people interested in art. What redeems it though is the quality and beauty of much of the art, and the beautiful installation and display of the objects. Below is a selection of some of my favorite pieces.

Statue of Maitreya.
Gandharan, ca. 3rd -4th Century A.D.
Grey schist.
This beautiful statue is a very fine example of Gandharan art, which comes from the part of the Kushan kingdom that had been conquered by Alexander the Great, and retained ties to the Western world and showed the influence of Greek and Roman art in its own style. Maitreya is the Buddha of the future, and here is depicted as a Bodhisattva, thus the jewels and rich clothing and adornment. You can always recognize him by several attributes, a small jar of water in one hand and the jewels he wears, often with large bracelets worn on the upper arms and sometimes only shown as a shape under his robe as here on his left covered shoulder.

another view of the Maitreya statue.

Here you can get a better view of the Maitreya showing the muscled torso, and sensuous treatment of this beautiful figure; he really is quite sexy here.

Statue of a Bodhisattva.
Tibetan, 14th to 15th Century.
Gilt bronze, apr. 36 inches tall.

This poignant sculpture is in gilt bronze, about half life sized, and is heavily damaged with limbs ripped off, bullet marks and holes, and appears generally abused; and yet despite these damages there is a peaceful tranquility that it radiates and a triumphant beauty. It comes from a monastery in that was destroyed by the Chinese army in the 1950's. There are many fragments from these monasteries on the art market, and in museums in the West, this is one of the largest figures I have seen, and one of the most beautiful and moving of them.

Upper part of a statuette of the Buddha Sakyamuni.
I believe it to be Indian, from the Kasmir region, 8th Century A.D.
Bronze, height apr. 12 inches.

Terrible photo of the complete figure above, I could not get a good one, and no better image
is available online. But just for those who need to see the complete figure, I am posting this.

This beautiful bronze statuette depicts the enlightened Buddha, freed of earthly desires and possessions, dressed simply and without adornment in a simple monks robe, distinguished however from mortals by the ushnisha, the bun on top of his head, and here his webbed fingers and unnatural proportions; his hands reach to his knees for example. All of this is specific to the Buddha, and deliberate, not a stylistic fault on the part of the artist. The long sweeping eyes that go right off the sides of his head are a feature of Kashmir, and Swat Valley art, and the treatment of the shallow folds of the robe and the way it clings tightly to the body dates this piece to the earliest period where the Buddha was given human form. However the label in the museum dates it much later, and I simply do not agree with it. I think this may be one of the rarest and most important objects in the museum, which is not being adequately recognized by the institution.

This mislabeling in the museum makes me question the quality of the art, there are many great works that I admire in the museum and three of them are featured here; I know these to be good examples of their kind; however the misunderstanding of this last piece and the emphasise in the labels on teaching about Buddhism rather than the art work in front of one makes me wonder about the works I understand less; are they any good? Are they good of kind, and are they correctly labeled? I wish more emphasis was given to the artworks and educating the public about them, as well as what they depict.

The Rubin Museum is always worth a visit and they have thematic exhibitions that change several times a year. After a day of seeing contemporary art in Chelsea it is a welcome respite for the eyes and soul.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Mount Holyoke College Art Museum

Thomas Charles Farrer (British, 1839-1892)
Mount Holyoke, oil on canvas, 1865.
My youngest brother is now living in Holyoke Mass, about an hour and a half from my home in Hudson, so I am exploring the very fine small college museums there. That area, Northampton, Easthampton, Holyoke, Springfield, has a number of colleges and a few good small museums. I am looking forward to getting to know more about them and the area. I am starting with the Mt. Holyoke College Art Museum, which has a small but very satisfying collection. Above is a view of Mt. Holyoke painted by a British painter, and it captures the beauty of the landscape in that area. I happen to like this painting a lot, even though there are others of the same scene that are larger, as it reminds me of the luminist painters from the Hudson River School; it is remniscent of Kensett. And of course it is beautifully painted and polished in its execution.

Statuette of a Youth, Greek, early Classical, ca 470 B.C.
Bronze, cast and incised, Height: 9 inches.
This bronze statuette is the star of the collection in my eyes, I have known it since my early days of learning about ancient art; it has been included in a number of important exhibitions of ancient Greek bronzes and published many times. It is a Severe Period Greek statuette, a short moment between Archaic and Classical that lasted maybe 50 years, if that. It is characturized by the serious mein of the figure, and simplicity and severity of ornament, the way the garments drape, etc. So while a modest object in size, this bronze is very rare and quite important.

Head of a woman, Greek, Late Hellenistic, ca 200 B.C.
Marble, Height: apr 8 inches.

I could not this charming ideal head, typical in the soft carving and idealistic treatment of original Greek sculpture from the Hellenistic period. It is from a statue made of parts, the head and possibly the hands an feet being carved of high grade white marble, the body in limestone or lower grade marble. This is typical of sculpture from South Italy where marble was imported, they used it sparingly. You can tell this by the cut off at the neck, which was shaped to fit into a socket in the body, usually draped torso, with the drapery hiding the join. It is hard to know who is depicted, it could be a goddess, or a royal figure, the filet she wears in her hair was reserved for royalty, or gods.

Ideal head of a Woman, Ellie Nadelman, ca. 1910-1911
White marble, about 20 inches tall.
Ellie Nadelman is one of my favorite American sculptures. He was active in the first part of the 20th Century living from 1882-1946. He is best known for his wood figures of men and women, a few of which are at the Metropolitan Museum, but he did a series of ideal heads, and it follows on the Greek head I feature before. He was looking to classical antiquity for his inspiration and yet enfused this ideal type with the spirit of his age, the sharpness of the nose here, the small closed mouth, are very much the ideal of his time, not that of antiquity. But the softness of the carving with smooth transitions is very much like that of Greek sculpture.

The Holy Family, School of Joos van Cleve (Flemish, 1485-1540)
Oil on Canvas.
I thought this one of the most beautiful things I saw at the Holyoke College Museum. I always like Flemish Renaissance paintings, and this is a beautiful example, it is exquisitely painted with incredible detail, it has a sense of vista, you have the gorgeous cloth of honor behind Mary, and the view of houses, cliffs, water and mountains beyond. And like so many Flemish paintings the iconography is a bit mysterious, what is the man doing, he looks like he is feeding baby Jesus porridge. Perhaps he is. Given the splendor of Mary's raimnent, Joseph looks out of place, like a poor priest. It is a very satisfying gem of a painting, on loan to the museum; I hope it is gifted to them, it really adds to the collection.

Hetch Hetchy Canyon, by Albert Bierstadt, 1875
oil on canvas.

This beautiful luminist painting is a gem of a Bierstadt, it has the qualities of his best works, and is of a respectable size, in other words, it is a really good example of his work. Being one of Americas greatest lanscape painters, he was the heir to Thomas Cole and Church, and while he painted mostly in the West, he can be considered a member of the Hudson River School of painters. This is a view of a canyon quite close to the Yosemite, one of his favorite places to paint. I googled Hetch Hetchy Canyon and found out that this painting marked the founding of Mt. Holyoke College Museum of Art, it was purchased a year after it was painted. It shows vision on the part of the donors, a Mrs. A.L. Williston and Mrs. E. H. Sawyer. I also learned that this canyon was dammed up to provide water to San Fransisco, and that there is a group arguing for the restoration of the canyon to its natural state. It was described by John Muir, "Hetch Hetchy Valley is a grand lanscape garden, one of Nature's rarest and most precious mountain temples."

There are many other notable works at this very fine small museum, and if you are in that part of Massachusetts, you owe yourself a trip to it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Montreal MFA, and decorative arts

view of the decorative arts galleries at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

One thing I really enjoyed about the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, was its emphasise on objects, from ancient, to African to 20th Century design. While not a huge museum or collections, they really make an effort to be inclusive of all expressions of design and art. For anyone planning a trip to Montreal, the Museum of Fine Arts is a must see for lots of reasons, this being just another one.
Here is another view of the decorative arts galleries.

Another view of the galleries, showing my personal favorite, not necessarily the prettiest of the bunch, but close to my heart; the original Macintosh computer at the top, ca. 1984. Having become a Mac convert in the past four years now, I love my mac, and enjoyed seeing the original one. I remember them when they came out, computers in general were sort of exotic and Macintosh computers stood out for their simplicity of design and utility, and of course, the graphic interface, which we now take for granted on every platform.

The Artemis again

After that spectacular sale at Sotheby's this last summer, the bronze statue of Artemis de-accessioned by the Albright Knox Gallery in Buffalo, NY, has reappeared; at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY, on loan anonymously. I was quite happy to see her again, on my own home turf, rather than having to travel to see her. Still no real clue as to who bought her and now owns her, but at least she is available to the public. There is a difference seeing something at a museum rather than at an auction house; here she was in the company of many other great things, and still she stands out as something noteworthy and special.
I look forward to getting to know her better by repeated viewings, which is how I see things best.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Strangest thing I saw at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

Old Enemy, New Victim, by Tony Matalli, 2006
Latex resin, hair.

This has to be a mistake, I find it hard to believe that this museum feels the need, like so many today, to buy bad contemporary art. This sculpture is so weird, extremely well made, very naturalistic in a Madam Tussauds sort of way. I mean at least there is skill and craft involved, but to what end? What a stupid obvious allegory, the skinny chimp strangling the fat one; compelling visually, but just too trite. But perhaps my strong reaction is in part because this is exactly how I feel when going to Walmart; it is all I can do to keep myself from wringing the necks of the obese people there! (Just kidding, like I'm so skinny myself.)

One good thing is the installation, rather than being safely quarantined with other terrible contemporary art, it is in a gallery full of beautiful paintings, and is a strange but very interesting, juxtaposition.

Friday, January 11, 2008

African Art and the Cirque du Soleil

Ceremonial mask from the Lower Zaire Region in the Congo, Vili-Yombe tribe, 19th-20th Century.
Wood, pigments and animal skin.
Collection of Cirque du Soleil.

Unexpectedly, on exploring the wonderful Museum of Fine Arts in Montreal, I came across a superb small exhibit of African art culled from the collection of the museum, with additions from other collections in Montreal, many of them from the Cirque de Soleil collection. While not an obvious connection, when you look at the sculptures, you can see how they had influenced the imagery that Cirque employs.

I love the Cirque de Soleil, I first saw one of their shows in NYC, years ago, and have vivid memories of it, and made a point of going to Saltimbanco while I was in Montreal. It is wonderful entertainment, with music, movement, incredible acrobatics with terrifying high wire acts and juggling, percussion artists. And beautiful visuals, including two male acrobats who use each other as props to do these amazing positions, erotic and beautiful at the same time. So to see the art that inspired much of the imagery in the show was great. I have enormous respect for Guy Laliberte, who founded Cirque and remains very involved in it. He started buying museum quality works about ten years ago, many from old historic collections, and the pieces are exquisitely beautiful. He loaned 36 objects from his collection to this installation with other objects from the Redpath Museum, which is affiliated with McGill University, and the balance from the Montreal Museum's own collection.

Ceremonial mask, Mbuya, Congo, Tshikopa region, Wester Pende.
19-20th Century, Wood, pigment, and black cords.
Collection of Cirque du Soleil.

Dance Mask: Mwana Pwo
Southern Kasai region, the Congo, Chokwe tribe.
19th - 20th Century, Wood, vegetable fibres, pigments.
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

With these galleries of African Art, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts adds depth to the experience of their museum, it is wonderful be able to see such a range of art, the people of Montreal are lucky to have this visual resource to go to. Visit their website for more information on this exhibition and the museum: