Born into a middle-class Jewish family in Warsaw, Poland, Elie Nadelman was encouraged to study art and music from an early age. During his early twenties, he spent time in Munich, where the important collection of early classical Greek sculpture in the city’s Glyptothek museum made a deep and lasting impression. By 1904, he was living in Paris, where he became a part of the avant-garde circle of artists and intellectuals that included Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Guillaume Apollinaire, and Gertrude Stein (who wrote a prose portrait of Nadelman). At a time when many dismissed classical art as outmoded and inimical to modernism, Nadelman daringly asserted its enduring validity as the ultimate standard of aesthetic and formal beauty. In his own work, he struggled to discover and emulate classicism’s underlying principles of balance, harmony, and proportion. Intense and melancholic, poor but utterly passionate about his art, the young sculptor “seemed to live on plaster,” wrote the poet André Gide.
With the outbreak of World War I, Nadelman moved to New York. Although his first impression of the United States was not positive-he described it as “a country of bluffers and snobs”-he soon became enamored of the energy and optimism of American life. Thanks to the support of prominent New York art world figures, such as Alfred Stieglitz and Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, his career blossomed. His sources of inspiration also began to take on a new and decidedly American cast, and included the popular culture of his adopted country. Nadelman was delighted by vaudeville performances and other popular amusements, which he sometimes incorporated into his work. He was also fascinated by American folk art, which he admired for its directness of expression, simplicity, and charming lack of pretension. In 1919, he married a wealthy American widow, Viola Flannery, and together they formed a collection of American and European folk art that eventually exceeded 10,000 objects. In 1926, a portion of their country estate in Riverdale, New York, was transformed into the Museum of Folk and Peasant Arts, the first museum of its kind in this country.
The crash of the stock market in 1929 devastated Nadelman financially and emotionally, and forced him to close his beloved museum. He became increasingly withdrawn, stubbornly refusing invitations to exhibit his work. The artist was, however, coaxed into lending three works to an exhibition of American sculpture at Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh in 1938 after initially declining the institution’s invitation for submissions. In 1946, plagued by debts, illness, and depression, he took his own life. At the time of his death, Nadelman’s studio was filled with hundreds of small figurines-none of them ever exhibited-created during the last decade of his life.
Nadelman’s first fame and commercial success in America came from bronze and marble busts that overtly-in style, subject matter, and technique-paid homage to the classical past. A number of exceptionally beautiful examples are on view, among them his Woman’s Head (Goddess) (marble, ca. 1916), whose serene expression, idealized features, and crisply chiseled contours are derived from ancient Greek images of female deities. Although Nadelman soon began to experiment with subjects and forms derived from American culture, classical art remained-albeit sometimes quite subtly-a source of inspiration throughout his life. For example, the exhibition includes Woman with Leg Raised, a marble of ca. 1930-35: While the figure’s softly rounded, rather plump physique owes little to canons of classical art, her pose is modeled after the Thorn-Puller, a famous Hellenistic image of a young boy pulling a thorn from his foot.
Beginning around 1917, Nadelman began to incorporate references to European and American folk art in his sculptures. The apparent crudeness of these images, often made of painted wood and carved with doll-like features and limbs, startled many admirers of Nadelman’s classicizing sculptures. (One critic accused him of making a bizarre and grotesque joke.) Today, they are regarded as among Nadelman’s most original and visionary works. The exhibition features a number of these homages to folk art, including the celebrated Orchestra Conductor (Chef d’orchestre) (1918-19, carved 1919-23). In this deceptively simple work, the figure stands stiffly at attention, on clothes-pin like legs; and yet the image is imbued with an extraordinary elegance of line and economy of form.
Dancers and Performers
Another significant and very American source for Nadelman’s art were performers from the circus and vaudeville stage, who astonished him with their athleticism and feats of coordination. One of the most famous works in this genre is Dancer (High Kicker) (ca. 1918-19), in which a female figure is balanced on the tiny ball of one foot as she thrusts her other leg high in the air. Carved from cherry wood, the smooth, simplified forms of the dancer are reminiscent of American folk art. In fact, however, it is a work of enormous sophistication, whose carefully orchestrated curves and counter-curves emulate the formal harmony of classical sculpture. This section also includes The Acrobat (bronze, 1916-20) in which Nadelman captures the fleeting moment of equilibrium in a hand-stand.
Nadelman was an astute observer of the habits and fashions of contemporary life, which he often, quite wittily, transposed into classical high-art modes of representation. His Man in a Top Hat (bronze, ca. 1924), for example, is strikingly similar to antique conventions for representing great military leaders, which showed them bust-length, bearded, and with their helmets pushed high on their head. The exhibition also includes what is undoubtedly Nadelman’s most famous classicizing take on contemporary life-Man in the Open Air (1915). In this life-size bronze, a young gentleman wearing a derby hat strikes a casual pose against a stylized tree. The contrapposto stance, with the weight on one leg, is a hallmark of Greek sculpture. Specifically, the Nadelman bronze alludes to a well-known sculpture by the Greek master Praxiteles, showing a marble faun resting one arm on a tree trunk.
The Late Work
During the last decade of his life-a period of financial hardship and increasing ill health-Nadelman spent his time in seclusion, obsessively producing hundreds of small clay figurines of young girls. The exhibition features forty-three of these works, which were never exhibited during his lifetime and whose purpose remains a mystery. Most are small enough to be held in the hand, and, indeed, must be, for they cannot stand on their own. Plump and child-like in their proportions, some assume coy and flirtatious poses, others appear to be giggling, still others stare out in solemn silence. The so-called Tanagra figures, small clay sculptures of females produced during the Hellenistic period, have been cited as a possible classical source for these works. Some of Nadelman’s figurines wear the conical hat typical of many Tanagra figures. However, many of these diminutive nymphets also bear a striking resemblance to fun-house kewpie dolls. Once again, Nadelman seems to have deftly combined “high” and “low” art, popular imagery and classicism, in the creation of something totally original.
I found this Native American artist and really liked Her work. As Jackson Pollock was influenced by Native Americans I had to include her, so here she is.
Jaune Quick-to-See Smith (1940- ) Native American artist, whose best-known works combine traditional Native American symbols with a sophisticated understanding of modern abstraction. Native American identity and social issues form the focus of many of her paintings and collages.
Quick-to-See Smith was born at the Saint Ignatius Mission on the Combined Salish and Kootenai (Flathead) Reservation of western Montana, and traces her ancestry through the Salish, Shoshone, and Cree tribes. In 1976 she received a B.A. degree in art education from Framingham State College in Massachusetts, and in 1980 earned an M.A. degree in fine art from the University of New Mexico.
In the early 1980s Quick-to-See Smith began to create paintings that address the complexities of Native American identity, both on the personal level and as a communal experience. Since 1990, many of her works have drawn attention to specific issues affecting this community, including preservation of the environment, racial and gender stereotyping, and problems of alcoholism.
For a large-scale collage titled Genesis (1993, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia), Quick-to-See Smith layered dripping blue, yellow, and red paint; news clippings about Native Americans; and line drawings of a bison and other Native American symbols. The result is a composition that combines the vigorously applied paint of abstract expressionism with images that suggest stories to the viewer.
Antoni Tàpies was born December 13, 1923, in Barcelona. His adolescence was disrupted by the Spanish Civil War and a serious illness that lasted two years. Tàpies began to study law in Barcelona in 1944 but decided instead within two years to devote himself exclusively to art. He was essentially self-taught as a painter; the few art classes he attended left little impression on him. Shortly after deciding to become an artist, he began attending clandestine meetings of the Blaus, an iconoclastic group of Catalan artists and writers who produced the review Dau al Set.
Tàpies’s early work was influenced by the art of Max Ernst, Paul Klee, and Joan Miró, and by Eastern philosophy. His art was exhibited for the first time in the controversial Salo d’Octubre in Barcelona in 1948. He soon began to develop a recognizable personal style related to matière painting, or Art Informel [more], a movement that focused on the materials of art-making. The approach resulted in textural richness, but its more important aim was the exploration of the transformative qualities of matter. Tàpies freely adopted bits of detritus, earth, and stone—mediums that evoke solidity and mass—in his large-scale works.
In 1950, his first solo show was held at the Galeries Laietanes, Barcelona, and he was included in the Carnegie International in Pittsburgh. That same year, the French government awarded Tàpies a scholarship that enabled him to spend a year in Paris. His first solo show in New York was presented in 1953 at the gallery of Martha Jackson, who arranged for his work to be shown the following year in various parts of the United States. During the 1950s and 1960s, Tàpies exhibited in major museums and galleries throughout the United States, Europe, Japan, and South America. In 1966, he began his collection of writings, La practica de l’art. In 1969, he and the poet Joan Brossa published their book, Frègoli; a second collaborative effort, Nocturn Matinal, appeared the following year. Tàpies received the Rubens Prize of Siegen, Germany, in 1972.
Retrospective exhibitions were presented at the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris, in 1973 and at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York, in 1977. The following year, he published his prize-winning autobiography, Memòria personal. In the early 1980s, he continued diversifying his mediums, producing his first ceramic sculptures and designing sets for Jacques Dupin’s play L’Eboulement. By 1992, three volumes of the catalogue raisonné of Tàpies’s work had been published. The following year, he and Cristina Iglesias represented Spain at the Venice Biennale, where his installation was awarded the Leone d’Oro. A retrospective exhibition was presented at the Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume, Paris, and the Guggenheim Museum SoHo, New York, in 1994–95. Tàpies lives in Barcelona.
Richard Armstrong, a specialist in American 20th century art and the former director of the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, was named the director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and the Guggenheim Museum on Tuesday 23 September. On the eve of his appointment he gave an interview to The Art Newspaper outlining his vision for the New York museum and its overseas branches.
Mr Armstrong will head a global network of museums in Venice, Bilbao and Berlin, and will direct the organisation’s flagship museum in New York, filling the posts long held by Thomas Krens who stepped down in February after two decades. Mr Armstrong, 59, had led the Carnegie since 1996, and in June announced that he would retire by the end of the year. He takes up his new post at the Guggenheim on 4 November.
He told The Art Newspaper that the vision he presented to the search committee consisted of adding intellectual heft to the Guggenheim, empowering the curators, and finding new ways to make the museum relevant, especially to younger audiences. “My concern was that all the museums, and New York maybe foremost, be seen as exemplars of great intellectual enterprise. The search committee felt the same way and responded.”
While the board remains committed to enhancing the museum’s connection with Asia and Latin America, there does not seem to be “a big appetite at present to keep adding sites to the operation,” Mr Armstrong says. Getting a handle on Abu Dhabi, where a new Guggenheim branch is scheduled to open in 2013, will be a challenge, he says. There is, he adds, interest in improving the focus on the programme in New York, where most of the Guggenheim’s board members live.
Mr Armstrong says he intends to more fully integrate the branches and increase their ability to generate and share exhibitions. He also intends to develop partnerships with major museums outside the Guggenheim network. “To me, Tate looks like the most logical long-term partner,” he says, citing the current Louise Bourgeois retrospective co-organised with Tate and Pompidou (at the Guggenheim New York until 28 September). He will meet with Tate director Nicholas Serota in London in October.
Richard Armstrong joined the Carnegie as a curator in 1992 after 12 years at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York where he co-organised four of that museum’s influential biennials. Mild-mannered and known for his fiscal prudence, his appointment marks a return to more traditional museum leadership after Thomas Krens’s revolutionary and often controversial expansionism.
William Mack, chairman of the foundation board, says that “Richard Armstrong has the wisdom and demeanor—as well as the knowledge, stature, and status—we sought in a new leader for the Foundation.” President Jennifer Stockman, who co-chaired the search committee with Mr. Mack, says that his leadership is based on “artistic vision, diplomacy, and inspiration.”
Mr Krens transformed the Guggenheim from a “boutique institution” into one of the world’s most recognised museum brands, but attracted sharp criticism for the franchise-like partnerships he established around the world. He clashed with former chairman Peter Lewis, the largest donor in the Guggenheim’s history (he had given $77m), who left in 2005 after the board failed to heed his advice that the museum should shore up its finances and operations in New York rather than continue to expand overseas.
In 2005 Mr Krens announced that chief curator Lisa Dennison would be his successor as director of the New York museum, but she left after less than two years to become vice-president of Sotheby’s North and South America. The Guggenheim had difficulty recruiting a successor to serve under Mr Krens, who stepped down earlier this year as head of the foundation to act as the consultant overseeing development of the Guggenheim branch in Abu Dhabi, designed by Frank Gehry. Mr Armstrong says the trustees decided to recombine the positions of director and foundation head, “but getting a director at Fifth Avenue [in the future] is a possibility. That is not a closed proposition,” he adds.
The schedule of exhibitions now in place includes retrospectives of Catherine Opie, Kandinsky and Frank Lloyd Wright to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the newly-renovated landmark. (The announcement of Mr. Armstrong’s appointment came the day after the unveiling of the $26m renovation. Speaking at the ceremony, Mayor Michael Bloomberg quipped: “It’s one of the best facelifts I’ve seen on Fifth Avenue, but it’s probably not the most expensive.”)
Next, Mr Armstrong plans to find ways of exhibiting the little-seen permanent collection. He believes museums should show their treasures, and if a solution cannot be found within the restrictive Guggenheim, then he may seek other means of getting the works out of storage.
He says the museum has collected well in contemporary art, but the strategic plan calls for filling gaps in the early modern collection, such as Matisse, Malevich and others, and the museum also needs to improve its holdings of art from 1940 to 1975. Mr Armstrong notes that the only way to expand in these areas is by attracting gifts from patrons. The board also has identified Asian and Latin American art as areas to explore. But what distinguishes the Guggenheim from many other museums, he says, is its ties to early modern non-objective art. “That quest for utopia that so distinguishes the best political and aesthetic aspects of Europe from 1880 or 1890 onwards is really very deep in the psyche of the institution. And that has power today, as well,” he adds.
Most of all Mr Armstrong says he wants to add “gravitas of purpose” to the institution. He told the search committee that “through the curators, the institution will reassert itself as a place of high intellectual ambition, and they responded to that. That’s an intangible that is absolutely essential because that’s the credibility factor,” he says.