Henri Matisse’s “Portrait d’Homme de Profil” (1946, Charcoal on paper, 39 x 29 cm) © 2010 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS) RIGHT: B.B. King, at the Texas International Pop Festival (1969). See “James Hamilton” (Photo by James Hamilton (courtesy of KS Art, New York)
In November, galleries offer darkness & enchantment
Matisse, Madonna, Mutu vie for your attention
BY STEPHANIE BUHMANN
Every year during the first two weeks in November, New York auction houses turn into galleries. For this brief period, public previews showcase the lots that will make up Christie’s and Sotheby’s Impressionist and Post-War and Contemporary sales. One can tour the vast offerings, from rare Schiele drawings and Warhol canvases to more obscure works by Pollock. It’s a lineup of some of the most recognized names in 19th and 20th century art — and though not all of these masters’ works are true masterpieces, the previews mark a great opportunity to catch a glimpse of what soon might vanish into private hands. Competing for attention in the face of such high profile fare, New York galleries often treat November as the slot for presenting their most exciting program as well.
At Gladstone Gallery, Wangechi Mutu continues to pursue the darkness of human and animal instincts, on a surprisingly large scale (515 W. 24th St., through Dec. 4.). The installation, which marks Mutu’s first with this gallery, follows her receiving the 2010 Deutsche Guggenheim Artist of the Year award. After museum shows in San Francisco and Vienna, “Hunt Bury Flee” now signifies a major statement in a New York venue. While it elaborates on Mutu’s signature blend of the absurd with notions of gore and hints of the whimsical, the exhibition adds a new twist: sculpture. Her three-dimensional work is much less detailed than the elaborate collages and mixed media concoctions on Mylar. Made from ceramic, one wall sculpture for example features a grid of countless moth-like creatures. As everything in Mutu’s world, they seem to contain a promise of magical power. Stepping into Mutu’s realm resembles entering a jungle — where wild creatures tease and lure you further into the thicket. By the time you pay attention to where you are, you fear what might hide around you just as much as what might hide within yourself.
In November, Paula Cooper Gallery will present drawings and paintings by Michael Hurson (Nov. 18 – Jan. 8, 2011, 465 W. 23rd St.). After moving from his hometown Chicago to New York in the early 1970s, Hurson (1942-2007) became known among peers for his intelligent and humorous figurative drawings. Working on an intimate scale and finding inspiration in cartoon characters and puppetry, he transformed everyday objects into unique protagonists. In his “Eyeglass” paintings, for example (which were created between 1969 and 1971), he animated a pair of glasses. Often constructed like comic strips and entailing multiple canvases, these works combine silkscreened imagery with traditionally painted backgrounds. Hurson’s interests were eclectic and are reflected in an oeuvre that, besides paintings, includes miniaturized interiors and theatrical performances. Though Hurson exhibited extensively in the 1970s, his visibility had decreased by the late 1990s. Along with two posthumous exhibitions — held at the Fisher Landau Center for Art (2007) and the PARC Foundation (2008) — this show aids in re-introducing Hurson to a public audience.
The work of Herbert Katzman will be subject of a major museum retrospective (The Museum of the City of New York, 1220 Fifth Ave. at 103rd St., through Feb. 6, 2011). Focusing on his comprehensive vision of New York, “Glorious Sky” aims to re-establish Katzman as an important 20th century Expressionist who, in his day, exhibited his New York cityscapes alongside the Abstract Expressionists.
Gaining recognition in the 1950s, Katzman (1923-2004) exhibited at the Downtown Gallery — and his work was included in the landmark exhibition “Fifteen Americans at the Museum of Modern Art.” Despite this affiliation with the Abstract Expressionists, he remained devoted to figuration — depicting the city’s architectural density with vigorous passion. In about 90 paintings and works on paper, New York’s buildings, rivers, bays, and bridges function as the artist’s muse. Far from a documentarian, Katzman instilled a strong sense of mood in his compositions by employing mist, rain or stark sunlight as means to express emotions. Bold harbor scenes, panoramic vistas of the Hudson and East Rivers and the iconic skyline reflect Katzman’s interest in European expressionism (which he studied in the 1940s while in Paris).
The retrospective will also include works from the last years Katzman’s life when he was confined to his studio, suffering from emphysema. A selection of miniature drawings made after September 11, 2001 depict in great detail the view from Katzman’s studio overlooking the Hudson and World Trade Center site. He died in his studio on October 15, 2004, a drawing of New York Harbor on the table in front of him.
Curated by Martin Fisher and Martin Mullin, “Henri Matisse: Writers on Paper” is the first exhibition to exclusively focus on the still unfamiliar subject of Matisse’s portraits of men (La Maison Française of New York University, 16 Washington Mews at University Place, through Dec. 21). Drawn from The Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation, this selection of intimate works on paper focuses on the artist’s friends and acquaintances. Among the group are portraits of Roger Bernard, a young poet and martyr whom Matisse admired, Henri de Montherlant, Paul Léautaud, and Louis Aragon, one of France’s foremost poets, who became one of his most passionate advocates.
Several of the works (which were created between 1937 and 1946) are being shown for the very first time in public. Rendered in pen and ink with almost stenographic restraint, the drawings reflect Matisse’s fluent touch that fuses distinct, unwavering lines with a sense of determination. It is the curators’ hope that the exhibition will initiate a greater appreciation of the artist’s interaction with men, musicians, writers and thinkers, who represented European cultural life in the first half of the twentieth century. As is the case with Matisse’s famous depictions of women, these works not only offer intimate insights into the personalities of the sitters, but also into Matisse’s inner circle at the time.
James Hamilton has titled his first art exhibition with the enchantingly sounding “You Should Have Heard Just What I Seen” (KS Art, 73 Leonard St., Nov. 12 – Dec. 18). As a staff photographer for the seminal music magazine “Crawdaddy!” in the 1960s (and later while working for Harper’s Bazaar, The Village Voice and The New York Observer), Hamilton portrayed a wide range of music world luminaries. His work translates as a colorful encyclopedia of rock, punk, disco and hip-hop — highlighting subjects ranging from James Brown and Jerry Garcia, to Joey Ramone. Most of Hamilton’s work predates the Internet. While browsing his skillful shots, one comes to miss the days of celebrity photography when mystery dominated over mediocrity and volume.
Hamilton’s depictions of artists such as Madonna, Nico or the Beastie Boys might offer an occasional glimpse of the people behind the glorified façade — but more importantly, they serve as a reminder why in music personality is often a crucial and intriguing part of the performance. The exhibition coincides with the release of Hamilton’s first book of the same title, which is published by Thurston Moore’s newly established Ecstatic Peace Library (www.ecstaticpeacelibrary.com). It is to be expected that Moore, who as the founding member of Sonic Youth is himself a legend within his genre, will set the right stage for Hamilton.