Sunday, May 27, 2007

Relief sculpture after 1900


Why did I make my giant web museum,
if not to apply it to topics
like the one raised last week by
Amanda Sisk concerning sculptural relief ?

Are there any good contemporary examples ?
Amanda suggested the National Sculpture Society website,
but I beg to differ -- other, perhaps than Amy Kann
whose portrait reliefs are sweet and pleasant
-- which may not be remarkable compared with earlier eras
-- but in our time -- that's quite an accomplishment.

Overall, the NSS figurative reliefs
have the same mis-direction
that's found everywhere else:
the sculptor is thinking of the figure
rather than the relief
as being what's expressive.

But looking a bit earlier back into the last century --
there really was quite a revival in this genre
especially in Italy,
the motherland of European sculpture.

Venanzo Crocetti

And it wasn't just the famous guys like Manzu,
probably a trip through small Italian museums
will unearth many more as powerful as these

Emilio Greco

I remember 30 years when I first saw this picture
and was blown away
by a sculptural program
that falls nothing short of the Romanesque
in power and mystery

Lello Scorzelli

Here's another sculptor
who's hardly known outside of Italy,
but whose work could hang
beside the masters of the 16th C.

Francesco Nagni

How many more great Italian 20th Century
sculptors like this one
are yet to be found ?

Lucio Fontana

Ten -- fifty -- a hundred -- a thousand ?
This kind of liturgical work is so neglected
by the modern museums,
only an Italian specialist would know.


There's plenty of relief from France as well,
but they had issues with the church
going back to the time when revolutionary mobs
defaced the great cathedrals,

and this has always been my favorite
war memorial

Pierre Marie Poisson

But most French work could be called decorative,
the stuff to go in lobbies of hotels
or the salons of ocean liners.


(this poor sculptor was not famous enough to
merit printing his full name -- but there is
no one alive anywhere near as good)

Leon Drivier

I'm really a sucker for this kind of deep relief,
-- the best of both worlds --
i.e. full-round sculpture
that doesn't need to care about 360 degrees of viewing

Celine Lepage

For whatever reason,
Art Deco often favored young women
accompanied by slender dogs and deer (or antelope)

Otto Munch

And for some different reason,
the sculptors of northern Europe
liked work that was more dramatic and expressive
(for which medieval sculpture offers such fine examples)


and they're also not averse to
sculpture that relates Man to God


Isn't relief the perfect medium for sorrow ?
(where the figures feel real/tangible,
but they're still locked into an imaginary space)

Gerhard Geyer

..but it's also good for humor !

Fritz Cremer

.. and I have no idea what these girls
are up to in this East German sculpture,
but the design maintains my curiosity

Edwin Scharff

..nor do I know what these
young dudes are doing with these horses...
but again... I'm intrigued

Nils Aas

Of course, there's also the large genre
of medallions and coins,
and mostly I've avoided that on this post ...
except for this one -- since it's so expressive

John Ekeland

..just like this portrait,
also by a Norwegian
(which had -- and still has -- a great school of sculpture)

Carl Milles

I'm sure there's also a lot more
good relief work from Sweden
that I just haven't yet found.

(this reminds me of those great Romanesque bronze
doors from Aachen)

Omar Eldaroff

There was plenty of narrative
relief work from the USSR --
and from the 1930's in the US as well,
but most of it seems intent on being boring.

But not this Azeri sculptor,
who lived long enough to see the evil empire vanish,
along with opportunities for talented sculptors
like himself

Eric Gill

Here's the great relief sculptor from the U.K.,
but I don't think any Brits followed in his path

Francisek Smerdu

This is a Yugoslav sculpture from the 50's.
Is this every adolescent boy's fantasy ?
( peeking into a bath house ?)

Nathan Rapoport

The dramatic, multi-figure possibilities of relief
were well used here for telling one of the tragic
stories of the 20th C.

Milton Horn

And here's another great Jewish sculptor
who brought the first book of Torah
to the Chicago Water Filtration Plant.

This is my idea of great relief
... but maybe that's just me.

Sandro La Ferla
is one of those great ideas that someone finally had:
An open-invitational website for figure drawing
that's juried every month by a different gallerist.

Margaret Cherubin

Admittedly -- it can be tough on the viewer,
since with absolutely zero quality control,
a lot of excavation is required before you strike gold.

Alex Knowlton

..and even though the only things kept in the archive,
are the 30 favorites that a different gallerist selects every month,
my favorites are often not chosen.

Emily Stedman

So.. I've decided to make my own little web gallery
of what I like.

Unfortunately, it's too late for me retrieve the
ones that the gallerists ignored

Chanit Roston

So the ones shown above have been
pulled from the monthly vetted archives.

Jackie Garrick Waldman

But from now on...
I'll be looking for things I like,
and saving them before they get deleted.

Lenny Moskowitz

As you might imagine,
the ones I've chosen are not at all
characteristic of all the things shown,
which if not photographs,
show almost zero sensitivity for
human form and spatial design.

But everyone has their own opinion,
don't they ?

My own contribution (from last November)

Friday, May 25, 2007

Reingold Collection of Scupture

Paul Manship (1885-1956) , "Minerva", 1911

The ever vigilant Robert Mileham has linked me to the sale of the Reingold Collection
of late19th - early 20th C. American sculpture.

Sculptors may make things -- but collectors determine which of them we're ever going to see -- and the narratives of art history are woven to validate their choices.

In sales like this one -- the obscure can rise -- the famous can fall -- all, of course, within the limits of what the collector (the Reingolds) liked and were able to acquire.

From the report of what these items sold for,
expense was really not an issue in their collection (relative to pieces from earlier centuries), since about 90% of them sold for less than what a foundry would charge to cast them today
(so if they were made by living artists -- the artist's share of each sale would be zero)

Not a very encouraging statistic for the sculptors of today !

But there were some famous sculptors,
like Paul Manship, shown above,
whose work has held their value over the century that
followed its production .. and Manship's career shot up like a rocket
after he returned from the American Academy at Rome
where he picked up the energies of archaic classical and Etruscan sculpture
that were re-entering modern European practice.

My favorite Manships come from later in his career,
but the piece shown above
was made while he was still in Rome,
-- and it's among the first to show this new
direction in his work -- a direction that I would call inner -
as opposed to the centrifugal that seems to characterize
popular work of the previous decades

Like this this small (9") Edward McCartan (1879-1947) dancer
that exemplifies, I think, the best of late 19th C. practice

McCartan "Girl with shell"

I guess you could call McCartan old-school,
he just never picked up on the new trends in sculpture,
and unlike the wildly successful Manship,
his career hit the skids, he stopped getting commissions,
(his work still doesn't sell for much)
and the National Sculpture Society had to pay for his funeral.

Annie Matthews Bryant (1871-1933)

So much for the relatively famous names in this show...

(there were many more, like MacMonnies, Saint-Gaudens, Nadelman, Borglum, etc,
indeed, this collection has examples of all the best known
American sculptors of this period, including the Frishmuth piece
that I showed from the recent Artopia exhibit,
but for one reason or another,
none of the pictures seemed that compelling --
and if the sculptors did not have large reputations
based on other work,
these pieces would mostly be quite forgettable

(Like this disposable Lachaise piece, for example, which I think would have sold for
$300 instead of $37,000
if his great name were not attached to it)

So my attention was drawn to those with whom I've been unfamiliar,
like the above Ms. Bryant , who I don't think had much of a career.

Sally James Farnum (1869-1943)

You go, girl !

(As you can see from the above link, Ms. Farnum's descendants have been busy making her a website)

Wilhelm Hunt Diederich (1884-1953)

Diederich was an exciting new discovery for me.

He was a Boston blue-blood (and Prussian aristocrat) who liked adventure, got into
a lot of trouble, and is principally known for his decorative iron screens (one of which is in the Chicago Art Institute. An interesting biography can be found here

I look forward to finding more of his work.

Marius Azzi (1892-1975)

And I'd never heard of this guy,
and wonder whether he ever did anything other than iconic portraits

Brenda Putnam (1890-1975) apparently specialized in the cute,
for which I have very little interest,
but this heavy torso is hardly cute,
and it doesn't it feel like a distinctly woman's view
of a woman's voluptuous body ?

I'd like to see more.

Emory Seidel (1881 -)

Seidel was a member of my art club,
so it's hard to say whether he would
still interest me if there were no family connection.

I like a little more tension - inner force -- sense of volume
than this -- for which the word "prettified"
seems all too appropriate.
(but maybe I'm just not wild about art deco)

Frank Lynn Jenkins (1870-1927)

I feel that this exemplifies the "prettiness" of
English sculpture,
but since this pretty creature is obviously
fleeing from something dangerous ...
I enjoy it
( I can imagine the dangerous figure on my own!)

Heinz Warneke (1895-1983)

This was another exciting discovery for me,
since this German-American sculpture is
working within the modern school,
and I'd never heard of him before.

(but there is a book available with his work,
so soon I'll be posting a lot more of him to my website)

Joseph Jacinto Mora (1876-1947)

As the above link reveals,
this artist is really quite well known
(and was even used for the cover of "Sweetheart of the Rodeo" by the Byrds !)

I'm usually not such a fan of cowboy art,
exemplified by Remington,
whose energy is so centrifugal
it's more like an explosion.

This piece feels like it might be enjoyable,
if I could only see it in person.


Which brings us to my conclusion:
why can't collections like this ever make it to temporary exhibits at major museums ?

Yes... I do like Medieval Persian ceramics, African pots, and ancient Mexican bowls,
(all of which had special shows at the Art Institute in the last year)

but why can't more recent American bronzes get the same level of exposure ?

And I sure wish the Reingolds had
taken large multi-view photographs
of their collection before they sold it ...
and then presented it to the internet.

(it really doesn't cost that much .. and people
like myself would be happy to donate the internet space)

(final note: you can click here to download a complete pdf catalog of this sale from the dealer. The catalog is 197 pages of large pictures accompanied by biographical data about the artists)

Saturday, May 19, 2007

What's Blooming on Harrison: 2007

After suffering through so much Artopia,
I was just wondering,
how well it might compare
with my neighborhood Summer art fair,
the one on Harrison Street in Oak Park

And as you can see,
my local art fair isn't so bad....

I'm a real fan of that central piece,
with its fade-in fade-out brush painting

Here's a close-up

...and a wonderful variety of texture and color,
and watery forms that seem
to belong in a pond
(or fish tank)

a small, glimmering world of beauty

Then, there's these more masculine, earthy pieces,
ready to be buried,
and then excavated in a few thousand years
to the appreciative gasps of future archeologists

A small bottle
suitable for that mystical elixir
that prolongs life for many centuries


But to be completely candid.....
this art fair was many miles beyond awful --
even among summer art fairs
it was at the bottom of a very deep barrel --
a festival of junk jewelry and bead necklaces,
and paintings that should only be shown
in a braille museum.

All of the above pieces were found on
one small table -- behind which stood
my good friend John Putnam
"The mad potter of Oak Park"

There was only one more
nice piece at the show...
this mural on the edge of the

It feels a bit generic -
like a shopping mall version
of an outdoor urban mural,
with zero political content.

but at least it's fun and enjoyable