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“Ninth Street Women”

Grace Hartigan - The Persian Jacket - 1952 - Oil on canvas - 57 1/2 x 48 in. - Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) - New York (click photo for larger image)Ninth Street Women: Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Frankenthaler — Five Painters and the Movement That Changed Modern Art is an extensive book authored by Mary Gabriel that everyone is talking about these days. It focuses on artists Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Frankenthaler—and their contributions to modern art. Find out a bit more about the work in an excellent New York Times review written by Jennifer Szalai.

We’ll be looking at all of these artists on What About Art? (and we already have features on some of them).

The work featured here today is by American artist Grace Hartigan (1922-2008). Although she was a second-generation Abstract Expressionist—she is often associated with the first-generation members of that movement, such as Pollock and deKooning. Her work certainly embodies the bold and gestural experimentation exemplified by those artists.

“Hartigan's best-known works combine the abstraction of her early work with recognizable images from everyday life or motifs from art history, particularly from the Renaissance and Baroque periods. The distinction between abstraction and figuration is often blurred by her experimental brushwork and lack of shading.” (The Art Story)

One interesting bit of trivia is that The Persian Jacket needed a bit of touch up by the artist after it was brought to MoMA by Museum Art Director, Alfred Barr. The artist apparently rushed right down with her oil paints and was able to make the required corrections in about a half-hour!


Quote of the Day

“The main thing is to be moved, to love, to hope, to tremble, to live.”  - Auguste Rodin


“Joan Miró: Birth of the World”

(click photo for larger image) Joan Miró - Dona i Ocell - 1983 - Sculpture - 72 ft × 9.8 ft - Joan Miró Park, Barcelona Spain (click photo for larger image)

“Persistent experimentation and a lifelong flirtation with non-objectivity stamped Joan Miró's magnificent mark on the art world. His canvas represented a sandbox for his subconscious mind, out from which sprang a vigorous lust for the childlike and a manifestation of his Catalan pride.” (The Art Story)

Although Catalan artist Miró (1893-1983) is discussed elsewhere on What About Art? the current exhibit running at MoMA in New York makes this a good time for us to revisit this remarkable artist. Initially associated with Dadism—the artist is most closely associated with the Surrealists and their quest to explore emotions, visions, dreams—and the unconscious—in their visual expressions. Miró uniquely combined fantasy and abstraction in ways that explored the tensions between poetic impulses and the challenges of modern life. A man of many talents, Miró developed his own pictorial language and sense of space in works of art including paintings, lithographs, murals, tapestries, and sculptures for public spaces.

The work featured here Dona i Ocell, "Woman and Bird") is a 72 foot high sculpture by Miró, located in the Parc Joan Miró in Barcelona, Spain. The sculpture was covered in tiles by the artist's collaborator, ceramicist Joan Gardy Artigas, and is part of an artwork trilogy commissioned from Miró to welcome visitors to Barcelona.

The work uses some of Miró's recurring themes of women and birds. In Catalan the word for a "bird" (ocell) can be used as slang for penis. This might be reflected in the phallic shape of the main form. The sculpture is decorated in primary colors and it has a vulva shaped split down the side of the shaft which is lined with blackish tiles. The idea for the sculpture is not new and examples of placing vulva on a model penis (and a hole in the glans) have been found on Roman sculpture from the second or third century. But Miró is an artist who always found a highly individualized way of interpreting resources.


Jacob Cornelisz. Van Oostsanen - An Amsterdam Artist

Jacob Cornelisz. Van Oostsanen - Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalen as a Gardener - 1507 - Oil on oak, 55 x 39 cm - Staatliche Museen, Kasse (click photo for larger image)Jacob Cornelisz. Van Oostsanen (c. 1432 - 1533) was a Netherlandish painter who worked mainly in Amsterdam, where he was the leading designer of woodcuts. He liberated the Dutch woodcut from the miniature tradition and gave it a new power and breadth. Although his work is somewhat provincial, he marks the beginning of the great artistic tradition of Amsterdam, and his keenness of observation was to be one of the trademarks of later Dutch art. Of course, he was also a painter.

In the foreground on the small wooden panel featured here, the artist shows a scene from the story of the Resurrection as recounted in St John's Gospel. Mary Magdalene meets the risen Christ and mistakes him for a gardener. When she recognizes him, she throws herself at his feet. Christ then speaks to her the words the artist has painted in artful Gothic lettering on the trim of his garment: 'Touch me not, Mary, for I am not yet ascended to my Father' (Maria noli me tangere - nondum enim ascendi ad patrem).

In the middle and far distance, integrated in a finely-detailed landscape, the painter shows four more episodes grouped around the central motif; the two Marys at the empty tomb, Jesus meeting the three Marys, his encounter with the pilgrims on the road to Emmaus, and the meal at Emmaus. In the artist's time and later, it was quite usual to group together a series of events on one single panel. It was also common to dress figues in contemporary garb.


Did You Know?

Georgia O'Keeffe preferred a very specific, very cramped space as her studio: a Model-A Ford. In order to shield herself from the harsh sun present in the desert landscapes she painted, she would take out the drivers seat and reverse the passenger seat so that it faced the back. Then, she would place the canvas on the back seat and paint from the passenger seat. This also kept her safe from bees.