28 February 2022

Louise Moillon: A Bunch Of Asparagus


"someone will remember us/ I say/ even in another time." - Sappho, Fragment 147

In full, the title of this painting is Fruit Basket With A Bunch Of Asparagus but the foretaste of spring in the  bunch of asparagus is irresistible. The eye is drawn by a spotlight of mysterious  origin to the to the lower right quadrant of the canvas. Against an indeterminate backdrop,  fruits and vegetables are rendered with a naturalism replete with elegance as well as clarity.

Most of Louise Moillon's paintings were made between 1629 and 1637;a short but impressive career bracketed by a long life. Her father and stepfather were artists and art dealers who provided the young Louise with a workshop, training, studio space of her own, and - crucially - clients for her work. Who her primary teacher was is uncertain although her uncle has been suggested. Eventually  King Charles the First of England acquired five of  Moillon's still lifes  for the royal collection. Indeed, during her lifetime, Moillin's work was widely admired but, like so many other female artists, her reputation faded after her death for lack of champions.

Louise Moillon (1610-1696) was born in Paris; her family resided in the Pont Notre Dame section of the city, a haven for French Protestants who had been forced into internal exile by ferocious religious wars between Catholics and Protestants. Thanks to her father's participation in art local fairs, the young Louise came to know several Dutch painters.  Their influence on her style is apparent. Her still life paintings are ensconced in the atmosphere that Lawrence Gowing identified in the paintings of Vermeer aas "an envelope of quiet air."

Image: Louise (Louyse) Moillon - A Basket Of Fruit And A Bunch Of Asparagus, 1630, oil on wooden panel, Art Institute. of Chicago.

13 February 2022

On The Avenue With Marisol Escobar

Strolling along Fifth Avenue is to experience a real life catwalk; it's a ritual that has a long and storied history. Marisol Escobar's society lady in On The Avenue is impossibly slim with impressively long legs. Cloaked in a 1960s sheath, she wears two accessories that were de riguer then: a little dog and a hat. And that hat looks like the artist planted a Ponytail palm on her head. I know, because there is one just like it sitting in my living room. Ponytail Palms are not actually palms which is only fitting as fashion works best with a pinch of artifice. For Marisol, mimicry was useful for critiquing  sexual politics in a way both pointed and fanciful.
Marisol studied with the Abstract Expressionist painter Hans Hoffmann in the early 1950s but her sculptures began  to prefigure Pop Art by the late fifties. So it was hardly surprising that she attracted the attention of  Leo Castelli, whose Manhattan gallery, opened in 1957, became the forward outpost of Pop.
Seymour Knox, a founder of the Albright-Knox Gallery in Buffalo. purchased several works by Marisol in the early 1960s for the museum. Whenever I would visit the city I looked forward to seeing The Generals (1961-62). Simon Bolivar and George Washington sit astride a larger-than-life sized wooden horse. Another favorite of mine, Baby Girl (1963), shows a little girl sitting with a Marisol doll om her lap. An early critique of the postwar culture that infantilized  women?

Marisol had a cosmopolitan personality that fit the New York art world nicely. Born in Paris to wealthy Venezuelan family, Marisol grew into a worker bee in art.   "(C)onside ring her work habits, the frequency with which she appears at uptown art openings an parties is nothing short of astonishing."  

With the loss of her longtime dealer Sydney Janis in 1989 Marisol lost a gallerist whose simpatico with her work would be not be easily replaced. The Albright-Knox Gallery has long been home to the largest collection of Marisol's work: when she died, Marisol left her estate to the museum.

Image: Marisol Escobar - On The Avenue,  1961-62, acrylic paint and graphite on plaster and wood.

02 February 2022

The Toyland Of Joaquin Garcia-Torres

This little figure in the bowler hat reminds me of the wooden sculptures made by Marisol Escobar. He doesn't look happy.

Parisian-born, the daughter of Venezuelan expatriates, Marisol Escobar (1930-2016) was an American sculptor
known for her larger than life figures and elongated shapes.

Joaquin Torres-Garcia (1874-1949) made wooden toys 1917-1932 an interest that grew out of his  sculpture-making. Cut, sanded, and panted by hand, the toys often featured detachable parts. In 1814 after the school closed he began to sell his toys and he had his first exhibition devoted to them in 1916 Joguines d;Art (Art Toys).

Torres-Garcia was born in Montevideo, Uruguay but in 1891 the family returned to his parents' homeland. In Barcelona Joaquin enrolled in art school. Recognition  came in 1903 when Antoni Guadi invited the younger artist to collaborate on creating stained glass windows for the (still incomplete as of today) cathedral Sagrada Familia. 

Torres-Garcia began teaching at the Mount D'or School in Barcelona in 1907.A proponent of the  progressive pedagogy of Maria Montessori, he included  making of wooden toys in his curriculum  He got the idea to make toys with detachable parts to encourage the students to be creative.

During a  stay in Paris in 1912, he discovered Cubism  But the need to make a living turned him into an itinerant  artist who would crisscross the Atlantic several times. Visiting New York City and meeting the Dutchman Piet Mondrian  influenced  his toy-making; the constructions became more geometrical and the surfaces arose from the construction rather than applied as decoration.

By the time of his death in New York in 1949, Torres-Garcia was recognized as an important figure in introducing modernism in the Americas. His paintings are included in the collections of Reina Sofia in Madrid, Centre Pompidou in Paris and  the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Image - Joaquin Torres-Garcia - untitled toy, circa 1917-1932, oil painted on carved wood,   Ortizar Prijects, NYC.