Lists aren’t my thing. I read the NY Times’s lists of 2015 art happenings and realized I’ve had a great art year. I skipped around the Venice Biennale like a madwoman, changed airplane reservations to catch Velazquez at the Grand Palais, and wandered a Cartagena ghetto to visit Ruby Rumie’s studio. Could I choose only five art events to highlight? Let’s see:
1. Picasso Sculpture, MoMA
For those suffering Picasso fatigue, this exhibit reawakened for many viewers an awareness and affirmation his work represents genius. New information, at least for me: Pablo stayed in Paris throughout the Nazi occupation, sneaking around at night between studio and foundry, creating works that could have gotten him executed. This exhibit of the decade can be seen until February 7,2016.
2. Venice Biennale, Venice
The Armenian Pavilion won the Gold Lion Award and the Biennale adminstration should have handed awards to all who endured the complex boat transport to visit San Lazzaro. Well worth the trip though to this island monastery where Armenian monks fled in the 1717 diaspora.
Shout out to artists like Nina Katchadourian who honored the centennial of the 1915 Genocide by examining the roots of her father’s accent and in reverse assimilation, attempts to talk like him and her Finnish mom. The six screen video installation added humor informed by a life that continues beyond familial tragedies. These themes add poignant parallels to a world in which we are all immigrants.
3. Velázquez, Grand Palais, Paris.
DV and I go way back to 1967 when as a student in Franco’s Madrid, I first courted him. Research has consumed me for the last year and the chance to see these works assembled together couldn’t be missed. In Vienna, in the Prado, empty wall spaces where Velázquez masterpieces had hung reminded me to get to Paris to V’s first French exhibition. Astonishing. In spite of the rabbit warren space, the paintings were all here, like a reunion of 17th century personalities. The exhibit included works by his slave Juan de Pareja and son-in-law Martinez del Mazo. The Marciari Velázquez “Education of the Virgin” was positioned near the bodegon works like the “Old Woman Frying Eggs” of the same period and the Velázquez attribution of the Virgin painting became stronger.
4. Kongo: Power and Majesty, Metropolitan, NYC
No wonder Picasso and many other modern artists understood these sculptures carry an emotional power lacking in European art of the same period. Research on African colonial history drew me to these works and connected me to the artists who created them. More of this type of exhibit, please.
5. Transmissions: Art in Eastern Europe and Latin America 1960-80, MoMA, NYC
Who doesn’t love unexpected connections? Artists continents away suffered political oppression. A very personal connection for me to these artists especially those I’ve worked with from Argentina, Chile and Uruguay who suffered political persecution, writing manifestos to compliment their work and world views, made me hunger for more depth. Many artists are not represented who made wonderful contributions but kudos to those who are like Ana Mendieta and Luis Camitizar. Namaste MoMA for breaking out of the NYC white male box.
Not So Much List:
The Montreal Museum of Fine Art should be on every traveler’s list. A great Canadian ‘gallery.’ A competent thorough show of Rodin’s work, Metamorphoses, missed for me because the theme was ‘by the artist’s hand.’ Rodin’s career is marked with an illusive hand, delegated to studio helpers, clay models done by others and foundry work finished by still other artisans (artists?). This accounts for massive production world wide and reproduction mania continues by Rodin’s Foundation.
The only Rodin work that resonated with me was his marble sculpture of Camille Claudel who produced brilliant works in Rodin’s studio even creating significant parts of the Gates of Hell. Camille’s family had her committed to a mental hospital after she had an abortion and when Rodin found a new lover. Rodin’s sculpture renders her beautiful face and locks her own artist’s hands into a block of marble. Metaphorical truth?
Crying big tears for what I missed
Doris Salcedo at the Guggenheim (Doris, I will never forget those shoes hidden in the wall), Havana Biennial, a cannot miss in 2017 thanks to US-Cuban political egos being set aside FINALLY, Stella at the new Whitney, the new Broad Museum in LA, and Martin Puryear at the Morgan.