Your eyes and ears on the world of art and culture. We remind you that 19 years of back issues of eMusings can be found on our archives page.
Some of us are unmasking, many of us not. But art will always find a way to unmask the truth. Here's what I have found for you this month.
Fabiola Jean-Louis presents "Before Yesterday We Could Fly: An Afrofuturist Period Room". Born in 1978, Jean-Louis is the first female Haitian artist to gain an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which commissioned her to create the piece. The artist speaks of her love of paper as a medium, explaining, "paper symbolizes many things. It's speaking about currency to buy human bodies, it's speaking about power and the fragility of power, and strength - in the ability for the underdog to create something out of nothing."
This piece about W. H. Auden was written in 1975 by Hannah Arendt. We learn much about the poet's life and beliefs, but also about the essence of poetry itself. as she writes, "taught by the poets, our ears open up to the true mysteries of language". It appears that Auden lived in abject poverty, that he constantly rewrote his poems, that he never lost faith in his ability to create great poetry. His underlying theme seems to have been "unrequited love". Arendt recounts a delightful conversation between Auden the student and his tutor at Oxford: "Tutor: 'And what are you going to do, Mr. Auden, when you leave the university?' Auden: 'I am going to be a poet.' Tutor: 'Well - in that case you should find it very useful to have read English.' Auden: 'You don't understand. I am going to be a great poet'".
Although I try strenuously to avoid the world of commerce in art, I nevertheless thought you might like to read this article on "Ten Works that Sold at Frieze Los Angeles 2022". I am not sure what you will gain from it, except to see what some collectors at this time and in this city were willing to buy.
One lucid observation about the Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art regarded the displays of black hairstyles as a form of haute couture. It turns out that 12 states in the U.S. have passed the Crown Act, which prohibits discrimination against black hair. The hair styles shown here are not only works of art in their own right, they remind us of the truth of actor Gabrielle Union's words, "Hair is the story of black women refusing to perform (for) a white society that still suffers from anti-blackness". Union herself was apparently fired from "America's Got Talent" because her hair was "too black".
Those of you who enjoy our Brazen Hussy feature may be interested in what is happening in museums in Vienna, Austria. Vienna's Board of Tourism has opened an account on OnlyFans as an objection to what they see as censorship against nudes on social media and in galleries. Artists, including Modigliani and Schele, have been censored by sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as being too "explicit" or "potentially pornographic".
Born in Thailand in 1960, Mit Jai Inn is holding his first London solo show. On view at the Ikon Gallery, the exhibit combines painting and sculpture in a series called Dreamworld. The single painting shown in the first link is playful and full of color; the video in the second link takes you into and around Inn's immersive world.
In 1924, Andre Breton published the Manifesto of Surrealism, launching the Surrealist movement. Breton was strongly influenced by Sigmund Freud, and the movement spread to artists like Max Ernst, Joan Miro, and Andre Masson. An outgrowth of surrealism, called Automatism, emerged in the 20th century, and is explored in this article about the Tate. Follow the subject with its extensions, like Frottage and Grattage, and some of its individual artists, as well as an additional Tate article expanding the idea.
A singular extension of Surrealism was created by Helen Lundeberg, whose gentle abstractions offer a relief from the chaotic monster/horror/militaristic imaginings of our current universe. Born in Chicago in 1912, Lundeberg applied abstraction to landscape and a somewhat mysterious exploration of figuration. Her gentle palette and minimalist language are potent examples of art expanding its impact while restricting its vocabulary.
Forward-thinking fashion designers catch our eye and push the field ahead with their imaginative clothing. An excellent current example is Craig Green's autumn/winter 2022 collection. You may not see yourself wearing these - actually they are designed like body masks, with faces barely visible - but they do stretch the visual imagination in important ways.
Christie's, no stranger to enthusiasm, refers to artist Zhang Daqian as "China's most popular artist". Known also as a connoisseur and collector, Zhang Daqian was prolific and energetic: by the time of his death in 1983 he seems to have created over 500 paintings every year. Hyperbole aside, these are truly striking works, worthy of your attention.
The New Yorker magazine tells us more about the revered composer Stephen Sondheim, who died recently at the age of 91. In a revealing interview, Sondheim disucsses works he was planning, his intellectual understanding of his pieces, his process in thinking through compositions. This intimate discussion of his background, family, opinions and observations is a treasure.
Take a look at Transatlantico, billed as a "cross cultural dialogue" which took place at the Zona Maco art fair in Mexico City. Sound, light, sculpture, textiles and furniture combine for a fascinating display.
Finally, some beautifully crafted ceramics by Morten Lobner Espersen. Espersen says of himself, "I am a Vessel". If you click on News you will see some closeups of individual pieces further highlighting his fine craftsmanship.
c. Corinne Whitaker 2022