Tuesday, June 28, 2016


Judith Godwin, Epic, 1959, oil paint on canvas (diptych), 82 × 100 inches. LEE STALSWORTH/©JUDITH GODWIN/NATIONAL MUSEUM OF WOMEN IN THE ARTS, WASHINGTON, D.C,. GIFT OF CAROLINE ROSE HUNT
Judith Godwin, Epic, 1959, oil paint on canvas (diptych), 82 × 100 inches.
Asked if a male artist ever told her she painted like a man, Grace Hartigan replied, “Not twice.” “Women of Abstract Expressionism,” an unprecedented exhibition on view at the Denver Art Museum, celebrates Hartigan’s distinctive achievements and those of her colleagues, wrestling once again with inimical art-historical tar babies—sexual politics, canonicity, and generational amnesia.
The show features 51 paintings by 12 artists active in New York and San Francisco in the 1950s: Mary Abbott, Jay DeFeo, Perle Fine, Helen Frankenthaler, Sonia Gechtoff, Judith Godwin, Grace Hartigan, Elaine de Kooning, Lee Krasner, Joan Mitchell, Deborah Remington, and Ethel Schwabacher. “We researched more than 100 artists preparing for the show,” Denver Art Museum curator Gwen Chaznit explained. “Most of them were drawn briefly to direct gesture painting but moved on and became successful with other forms of expression. Nevertheless, we identified an amazing group of professionals engaged in avant-garde circles in the two major centers of Abstract Expressionist production in the 1950s.”
Joan Mitchell, Hudson River Day Line, 1955, oil paint on canvas, 79 × 83 inches.

For Chaznit, expressionistic gesture painting represents the “heart” of Abstract Expressionism, and numbers are on her side. By the end of the 1950s artists who regarded themselves as advancing the revolution initiated by Willem de Kooning’s brushy abstractions and figure paintings were at work in cities throughout the United States. With very few exceptions, the confident, exuberant, high-keyed painterly abstractions in the Denver exhibition not only conform to the ideals and visual pleasures of this widely practiced genre, but also, in the case of Krasner, Frankenthaler, Mitchell, and Hartigan, represent an apex of achievement for the movement’s second generation.
Essays in the exhibition’s comprehensive catalogue acknowledge the early career success of most of the New York painters in the exhibition; in San Francisco, artists such as Deborah Remington and Jay DeFeo became leaders within the city’s avant-garde. Since none of these artists came to be regarded as canonical Abstract Expressionists, their absence demands art history’s attention. Sexism obviously played a role, but so did a growing consensus among New York artists and critics that gesture painting had become an academic dead end by the end of the 1950s. (Who remembers Ernest Briggs or Edward Dugmore, prominent male gesture painters of the period?)
The invasion of so-called “neo-Dadaists”—Allan Kaprow, Robert Rauschenberg, and Jasper Johns—was already well under way by 1958, prefacing critiques of high modernism that would inspire obituaries for painting itself during the next decade. It could be argued that the women of Abstract Expressionism were slammed more heavily by the cultural shifts that Arthur Danto identified as “the end of art” than by misogyny. None of these speculations, however, will detract from the exhibition’s serious pleasures. It’s a revelatory time capsule, and the museum deserves a hurrah for opening it up.
The exhibition travels to the Mint Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina, in October and to the Palm Springs Art Museum in California in February 2017.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Senate Passes Act That The Arts Are Considered Core Subjects

Arts receive attention in new education plan.

On July 16, the United States Senate passed its bipartisan Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization proposal, the Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177), by a count of 81 to 17, according to a press release distributed by NAfME
This is a huge step for the students currently attending schools. This act allows any student from any school in the nation to learn the magic of Arts Education. Also with this step, the Senate has acknowledged that with the No Child Left Behind Act, the current school curriculum is narrowing its field and is actually dismissing Arts Education as a whole.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Bronx Museum postpones show after Cuba halts loans to US
US President Barack Obama salutes a portrait of Abraham Lincoln in Havana’s Museum of the City during his visit to Cuba in March. © REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

The Bronx Museum of the Arts has postponed an exhibition of contemporary art from Cuba that was to be loaned by the National Museum of Fine Arts in Havana.

The decision follows Cuba’s delay in finalising arrangements to send its art to the US amid fears that loaned works of art could be seized to satisfy claims from Americans whose property in Cuba was confiscated after Fidel Castro seized power in 1959. 

The postponement sheds light on the many issues still to be resolved between the two countries, despite the official thaw declared by the Obama administration.

The Bronx exhibition, entitled Wild Noise, was to be the second part of an exchange with the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (MNBA) in Havana, and was scheduled to open this spring. The reciprocal initiative began a year ago with an exhibition in Havana of more than 90 works by 50 artists, on loan from the Bronx Museum’s permanent collection. After an exuberant publicity campaign, Wild Noise has disappeared without a murmur from the museum’s spring 2016 schedule.

Immunity request

The Bronx Museum insists the exhibition will still take place, saying in a statement: “There has been tremendous and rapid change in a wide range of activities with Cuba; not long ago no one would have imagined that we could have exhibited works from our collection there, as we successfully did in 2015… we are planning for the exhibition at the Bronx Museum in January 2017.” Its request for immunity from seizure for loans from Cuba is currently “in process”, an outside publicist for the museum adds.

But a January opening date may be optimistic, according to a lawyer who specialises in such disputes. He cites the Cuban embargo, still in place, which will not be lifted until property claims by Americans against Cuba are resolved. Loans from the MNBA, which are state property, would be at risk of seizure in the US to satisfy those claims. Under US law, cultural objects are as subject to seizure as any other Cuban government property.

“You can’t really have commerce until the embargo is lifted and until Cuba pays compensation to more than 6,000 American claimants,” says Mauricio Tamargo, a lawyer who chaired the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission under the Bush and Obama administrations. “This is the largest confiscation of American property in history. It’s something that can’t be ignored. As much as everybody would like to have normal relations with Cuba, this has to be resolved first.”

Claims total $7bn

The American claims amount to more than $7bn. Until a settlement is negotiated, Cuban museums are unlikely to loan art to the US without a guarantee of immunity from seizure—something the State Department regularly gives to US museums borrowing work from abroad. In the Bronx Museum case, though, even an executive order from the White House granting the museum immunity from seizure for art on loan from Havana is not an option, Tamargo says, since the US president lacks the authority (and probably the will) to override an embargo that has been affirmed by the US Congress. Nevertheless, the museum has responded to repeated enquiries with assurances that it expects the exhibition to take place.

As well as American claims on Cuba—known as certified claims because they have been recognised by the US government—there are nearly a dozen US legal judgments against Cuba that could delay full normalisation of relations, says Tamargo, who is now in private practice. The judgments include a 2009 order for Cuba to pay $27.5m in damages to the mother of a journalist jailed since 2003, and a 2011 ruling that the family of a Cuban-American citizen driven to suicide by Castro’s agents in 1959 should receive $2.8bn in compensation. Late last year, US and Cuban officials had their first meeting to discuss certified claims and judgments. Progress has been slow, according to insiders.

No easy solution

“This is an issue that is going to be very difficult and I don’t see a short-term solution to it,” says Ramón Cernuda, a dealer in Cuban art in Miami. “In the current climate, I really don’t see any important museums in the US wanting to convey an image of not caring for or considering valid claims to ownership of art or other claims against the Cuban government. It’s not just the uphill battle of getting the immunity, but the backlash that could come with that.”

Cuban reluctance to send government property to the US is understandable, says the American collector Howard Farber, who has purchased art in Cuba and brought it to the US, thanks to a special status that removes art acquired privately from the current US embargo. “It’s happening too fast,” he says. “You’re dealing with 55 years of distrust between two countries. They’re not going to gamble with their Mona Lisas—for a museum show?”