2014年1月31日 星期五

A Cascade of Petals From the Met’s Japanese Collection


‘The Flowering of Edo Period Painting’

Robert and Betsy Feinberg Collection
The Japanese galleries at the Metropolitan Museum have been pulling crowds since John T. Carpenter became curator in 2011. He has taken the permanent collection, shaken it up, threaded it through with strategic loans and, like a good teacher, unfurled it logically around graspable themes. Who could resist a show that tells the art history of a complex culture, as Mr. Carpenter did last year, entirely in images of birds?
With the “The Flowering of Edo Period Painting: Japanese Masterworks From the Feinberg Collection,” he takes on a different challenge: presenting a cogent narrative within the parameters of a private collection. But given the material, it would be hard to go wrong. What a collection this is. And what histories, new and old, it holds.
One history, a charmer, is that of the collection itself. Robert and Betsy Feinberg were young New York professionals in the 1970s when they bought a $2 poster — produced for a Met show, as it happens — of a 16th-century Japanese painting. They hung it in their apartment and concluded that this was the art for them.
At the time, ultrarefined ink landscape painting was the Japanese art of choice among connoisseurs. No one would have looked twice at an image like the one reproduced in the Feinbergs’ poster, a high-color, vividly detailed depiction of Portuguese traders, the first Europeans to arrive in Japan, galumphing around a port town like so many Sasquatches, to the appalled fascination of their Japanese hosts.
As collectors with smarts and pluck often do, the Feinbergs trusted their instincts and invested in a serious way in an undervalued product, namely art of the Edo period (1615-1868), a time when modern Japan — and modern Japanese art — was being formed.
It was a rough-and-tumble era. After nearly a century of territorial wars and bruising feudal chaos, consolidations were in process and centers of gravity shifting. Under military rule, the country’s political weight moved from the ancient imperial capital of Kyoto to a former fishing village turned shogun castle called Edo, today’s Tokyo, which was fast swelling into one of the world’s largest cities.
Social hierarchies were under reconstruction. A hereditary gentry and a warrior elite found themselves sitting down at the same table. Even more surprising, they were, suddenly, and with some discomfort, rubbing shoulders with ordinary people, urban tradesmen who, literate and entrepreneurial, were getting very rich, very fast.
In art, as in life, old divisions were giving way. Since the mid-15th century, rival family-based schools of art had maintained class affiliations. The Tosa school, which specialized in indigenous Japanese landscapes and literary themes, was aligned with the imperial court. The parallel Kano school, which looked to China, and specifically monochromatic brush painting, for its sources, was favored by the neo-Confucian shoguns.
In the Edo period, however, these two streams began to run together, sending out tributaries, and even incorporating European influences before Japan slammed the door shut on the West.
All of this to say that the Met exhibition — which is fresh from a tour of Japan itself — is a thing of varied styles, moods, economies and aesthetic ideals. A good many of the 90 paintings, presented in two rotations, are fragrant with nostalgia for art of the past. But by the last third of the show, you’re in a world so much in the grip of appetite, change and fashion as to have no time for anything but the now.
Art, of course, had its fashions, and in Edo the so-called Rinpa painting was bedrock. Less a movement than a shared impulse to revitalize old genres, including nature painting and narrative, it originated in Kyoto early in the 17th century: A work from around 1630 by a Rinpa founder, Tawaraya Sotatsu, of a plump and adorable tiger, is the oldest piece in the show. After a half-century lull, the style was revived by Ogata Korin — Rinpa means “style of Korin” — and transplanted from Kyoto to Edo in the 19th century by Sakai Hoitsu (1761-1828).
We pick up its thread in a two-panel screen by Hoitsu called “The Ivy Way Through Mt. Utsu,” illustrating a scene from the venerable “Tales of Ise.” The painting dates from about 1815 but might have been done centuries earlier judging by the antique attire worn by its principal character, the ninth-century courtier-poet Ariwara no Narihira. The landscape, though, is a giveaway. It’s painted in the dripped, pooling technique, called tarashikomi, a Rinpa signature.
Nature becomes even more radically and decoratively abstract in folding screen paintings of cranes by the Edo-born Suzuki Kiitsu, Hoitsu’s star pupil and assistant. In this work, the younger artist makes a deep bow to his master and to the long-dead Korin, both of whom had painted versions of the same motif.
After Mr. Carpenter has set out these hints of Rinpa history, his show takes a swerving route in an Edo direction. Along the way, we encounter some unorthodox sights. A Kurosawaesque painting by Soga Shohaku of two medieval action heroes competing in martial theatrics is one. A matched pair of Chinese-style ink landscapes by Kano Sansetsu that have the spectral density of white noise is another.
And so it goes, this back-and-forth play of unalike styles. Ike no Taiga, who was immersed in literati culture and wowed people by painting, impromptu, with his fingers, gives us big scrawly portraits of Chinese eccentrics. At the same time, some of his late-18th-century peers were exploring a fine-tuned realism, as Mori Sosen did in a heartbreakingly tender fan painting of a stag licking a fawn, and Maruyama Okyo in a hanging scroll image of a rainbow-hued peacock, as exacting in detail as it is decorative in effect.
At another time, in another place, decorative would have been a dirty word. But increasingly in the Edo period, it was the hallmark of high style. In terms of design, it could be fairly simple. Such is the case in Tani Buncho’s window-size scroll called “Grasses and Moon,” in which a glowing circle and a splash of lines catch the mood of a lush summer night, and in a fan painting by Ike Gyokuran, wife of Ike no Taiga. Titled “Bamboo on a Windy Day,” it’s little more than a superbly controlled scattering of ink strokes that fly up like sparks.
But complex design is more often the rule, particularly when we get to the Edo we know best, the 19th-century floating world of pay-for-your-pleasure inns, bars and theaters. The city’s red-light district, Yoshiwara, seems, as recorded in art anyway, to exist beyond discretion, order and tradition, almost beyond history. Social hierarchies appear to have been more or less leveled. Ruling-class taste hardly matters. Street life is life, and life is art.
So we get paintings of klutzy Europeans of the kind the Feinbergs first saw, and of beggars, brothel window shoppers and local beauties all but smothered in floral kimonos, with images of flowers spilling across ceramics, onto lacquer boxes and into printed books. Painted portraits of courtesans by the likes of Utagawa Hiroshige and Gion Seitoku were expensive items, made for the rich. But ukiyo-e prints of the same figures were cheap, perfect products of the Yoshiwara cash-and-carry culture.
Everything was for sale; conservative values scrambled. Landscapes, once primary art subjects with spiritual dimensions, are now a backdrop for parties, or glimpsed from rooms littered with lounging lovers, all-night cooks and servants hovering for tips.
In one vivacious, gender-blending 17th-century painting, artist unknown, a 12th-century dance named for the poet Ariwara no Narihira, of “Tales of Ise” fame, is being performed. All the roles, male and female, were originally played by women. In the 17th-century update, we see a man playing the part of a woman playing the part of a man.
In some ways Japanese culture was never more vigorous and diverse, and the Edo period certainly turned out great artists. Just look at the staggeringly intricate pen-and-ink notebook drawings by Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) — he of the “Great Wave” — that close the exhibition. Among a handful of entries added to the show from the Met’s collection, they’re realistic, fantastic, Eastern, Western, archaic and utterly modern. In short, they’re in classic Edo style, a style that the Feinbergs were astute and adventurous enough to recognize as some kind of classical more than 40 years ago.

Renaissance and Baroque Bronzes : The Mythic and Heroic, Just Inches Tall

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“Bacchic Man Wearing a Grotesque Mask,” attributed to Adriaen de Vries, with Ed Ruscha’s painting “Seventeenth Century.” Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times
In case you haven’t noticed, the Frick Collection has been on something of a bronze statuette kick over the last decade. During that time, it has mounted five monographic or survey shows of these small collectibles, all organized by the estimable curator Denise Allen.
Portable bronze statuettes began to proliferate in mid-15th-century Italy as antique medals, coins and sculptures began to be collected and the musculature of the body was increasingly studied. The pieces quickly became a competitive artistic medium, frequently taken up by goldsmiths and blossoming especially in Florence. With their emphasis on mythological power struggles and sex — Hercules crushing Antaeus was big, as were upright or reclining Venuses and nymphs — the statuettes were also status symbols. They were cherished by rulers all over Europe, who frequently exchanged them as diplomatic gifts, and by succeeding generations of the high and mighty, including the industrialist Henry Clay Frick.
What was good enough for Frick is evidently good enough for us. But if you have thus far been unmoved by his museum’s curatorial exhortations, “Renaissance and Baroque Bronzes From the Hill Collection,” Ms. Allen’s sixth effort since 2003, may win you over.
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 Ferdinando Tacca’s “Ceres and Bacchus,” with a Cy Twombly painting, at the Frick Collection. Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times
This is a sensational show. The collectors Janine and J. Tomilson Hill share a taste for perfection, for historically important, big-statement bronzes in exceptional condition. The 33 works they have acquired since the early 1990s — all on view — include nothing in the way of fragments, damaged pieces or the odd amuse-bouche. This can sometimes feel a bit hygienic, but it also gives the show an air of intense concentration. Fine details, emotional expression, tensed or relaxed limbs and the varied tones of patina are offered to the eye.
The presentation is also unusual because the Hills collect more than bronzes. They mix their statuettes with paintings and other works old and new, and Ms. Allen has superbly juxtaposed them here in a wonderfully clean installation, free of both vitrines and the works’ small bases, called socles. But the big news is that this is the first time late-20th-century paintings have hung in the Frick.
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"Prince Ferdinando di Cosimo III on Horseback,” by Giuseppe Piamontini. Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times
Among the show’s high points is an over-the-top sculpture of Prince Ferdinando di Cosimo III, by Giuseppe Piamontini (1664-1742), one of the last great masters of the Florentine Baroque statuette. It’s unmissable and it’s in a room with three other Piamontinis, which is something of a record for New York, where neither the Frick nor the Metropolitan Museum of Art owns his work.
At around two feet high, this dark-patinated piece is among the largest here, and the only equestrian subject. It shows Ferdinando, the Grand Prince of Tuscany, dressed to the nines in French monarch chic: fancy armor, high boots, a fluttering sash and a wig in full cry. His magnificent, well-accoutered horse rears elegantly on its hind legs. Head to foot, bridle to hoof, the bronze is a tour de force of form and realistic detail and several sorts of power. You feel the weight of the steed’s tilted body, the prince’s easy command. Cast by 1717, the piece caused a stir: Statues or statuettes of rulers on rearing horses were all but unprecedented in Florence then.
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“Pacing Horse,” by Giambologna. Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times
Another distinguishing aspect: Ferdinando is displayed with “Seventeenth Century,” a large grisaille painting from 1988 by Ed Ruscha that provides a slyly glamorous silent-movie backdrop worthy of a musketeer. Rising above a low, flat band of black that a distant galleon defines as ocean, a big sky is resplendent with clouds, rays of sunlight and words in Olde English-looking font: “War! Taxes! Alchemy! Plague! Damsels! Melancholia!” and, finally, the apparent punch line, “Firewood!,” a relatively mundane tangible that was nonetheless essential to European life.
The sculpture lends historical accuracy to Mr. Ruscha’s light, linguistic touch. The painting invites you to see the Piamontini as alive and contemporary, and dashingly original. On an adjacent wall hangs an untitled work from 1970 by Cy Twombly in which white oil-stick spirals on a blackboard gray add a spare, modern, implicitly playful elegance to the proceedings while paying oblique homage to Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings of deluges.
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Antonio Susini's "Sleeping Venus." Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times
The Twombly also intimates a wordless yet controlled force — like a high C — that counters the literary (mythological) themes enacted by the other five sculptures that share the gallery with the prince. On a third wall there’s one of Twombly’s less measured efforts, an early Rome painting whose episodic, notational, graffiti-like skirmishes of line and color are fraught with pertinent undercurrents of violence, eroticism and revelry.
Nearby, Piamontini’s hefty “Seated Hercules and Cerberus” gives us Hercules resting after defeating the three-headed guard of Hades, a more loosely modeled work in which fur, club, rock and animal skin are nonetheless differentiated. And there’s also the large “Bacchic Man Wearing a Grotesque Mask,” attributed to the Dutch artist Adriaen de Vries (circa 1545-1626), from around 1578, over 100 years before Piamontini. This work was unusual for depicting the god of wine as a rough, workmanlike figure who might stomp the grapes overflowing the wooden cask on which he rests one foot. The mask, with its eyeholes, jagged nose and sinister clown mouth, is not to be missed.
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From left, statuettes of Hercules and his labors, by Antonio Susini and Gianfrancesco Susini. Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times
Nor is a smaller Piamontini, “Milo of Croton,” which illustrates a tale by the ancient Roman writer Valerius Maximus about a wrestler who tests his strength against a sundered oak tree (note the large acorns) only to become caught in the fork of a branch and die, his beautifully proportioned body dangling a few inches off the ground.
These works are grouped in the second and most startling of the three galleries into which Ms. Allen has divided the installation. The first presents 20 bronzes on their own. Like the “Milo,” they are fairly small — 8 to 17 inches tall — and can be viewed closely without losing a sense of the whole, although the most brilliantly composed two- and three-figure pieces must be circled to be fully understood. Spanning the late 15th to the early 18th centuries, these works provide a thumbnail history of the statuette form that covers innovations, Florentine flourishing, the spread to Northern Europe and reigning geniuses.
Most important of these geniuses by far were Giambologna (1529-1608), a Flemish artist who settled in Florence, and his premier assistant, Antonio Susini (1558-1624), who had a gift for casting and also inherited his master’s molds. Giambologna, for example, developed a flowing, serpentine pose under the influence of Michelangelo’s “The Genius of Victory” sculpture. Giambologna’s variation is evident in “Astronomy” (early 1570s), whose shoulders twist away from her hips, while her elegantly coifed head turns back again. (It’s like a seated twist in yoga, except standing.)
The repercussions of “Astronomy” spiral through several works by Susini and sometimes his nephew Gianfrancesco Susini. First there is the astounding “Rape of a Sabine,” from around 1585, a rotating column of bent and straight limbs, exclamatory hands (rigid fingers, separated) and emotions. Nearby, three works share a single pedestal, each depicting a Herculean labor (those involving the hydra, a centaur and Antaeus). Their entwined figures form one of the most heated sculptural moments in a New York museum. Note the amazing red-and-black patina and its effect on the straining bodies of “Hercules Slaying a Centaur.”
For a pause in the action, there is Susini’s “Sleeping Venus” (also after Giambologna), notable for her robust, relaxed body, long neck and possible snoring. The extra-large hands and feet, which are not unusual in this company, seem to add power.
The show rounds out with a tiny upstairs gallery in which Ms. Allen has quarantined five religious bronzes, grouped with other works from the Hill collection. Suffice it to say that a graceful gilded bronze of the dead Christ by Susini after Giambologna hangs next to the visibly suffering “Christ as the Man of Sorrows With Two Angels,” by Giovanni di Paolo, in a sheltering gilded frame. Nearby, a semi-abstract Crucifixion in ceramic with dark metallic glazes by the postwar Italian artist Lucio Fontana is not out of place.

2014年1月25日 星期六

Richard Meier Is Now Focusing on New Jersey Projects

The museum replaces a much smaller version that opened in 2007 in Long Island City, Queens, and that until recently was open only by appointment to students and tour groups. Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

This 79-year old architect, best known for refined, light-graced houses and cultural landmarks, like the Olympian Getty Center in Los Angeles, has just installed the Richard Meier Model Museum in Jersey City, with some 400 handmade models of projects he’s designed since opening
 Richard Meier & Partners in 1963. His firm is also building affordable housing andcharter schools in downtown Newark, drawing on Mr. Meier’s less-well-known early experiences in community-oriented residential projects.Richard Meier is returning to his roots with two new developments in New Jersey, where he grew up.
“It’s really an ambitious project to bring life and activity to this neglected site,” said Mr. Meier, who was born in Newark, pointing out the development’s prime location, across from City Hall.
Last week, the architect, elegant even as he moved a bit slowly with a cane, led a visitor through both projects, with the first stop the museum, a miniature Modernist city now open to the public at Mana Contemporary, which offers a variety of art services and exhibition spaces. The museum gathers much of his life’s work under one roof, and replaces a much smaller version that opened in 2007 in Long Island City, Queens, and that until recently was open only by appointment to students and tour groups.
The new 15,000-square-foot suite in Jersey City has given Mr. Meier room to show his own sculptures, architectural drawings and collages for the first time. He is setting up a research library and a studio space — where he plans to work one day a week — adjoining the office of his daughter, Ana Meier, who is opening an adjacent showroom for her furniture designs.
Mr. Meier had to remove a huge window and use a crane to hoist in the largest of the Getty Center models. Its complex of buildings and outdoor pavilions, set into a terraced topography carved from basswood, stands over five feet tall and stretches 21 by more than 37 feet. (The actual project took 13 years and was finished in 1997.) There are scaled representations of the High Museum of Art in Atlanta (completed in 1983), the Ara Pacis Museum in Rome (completed in 2006), and his first significant commission — the Smith House in Darien, Conn., designed in 1965. It established what became Mr. Meier’s signatures: pristine white facades, with expansive windows, that balance solid and void, light-filled interiors and dynamic plays of interlocking geometric forms.
His topsy-turvy sculptures on pedestals around the models’ periphery come as a surprise. “These are made from discarded pieces of the Getty models,” Mr. Meier said. “I was just having fun.”
Mr. Meier, whose grandparents had a leather factory in Newark, has talked about his pride in bringing his knowledge and expertise back to his birthplace, according to members of his staff. (He grew up in nearby Maplewood.) In 2008, the firm began working with the city to develop a master plan for a mixed-use development called Teachers Village. The firm mapped out a long-range design transforming a 14-block area of downtown, largely parking lots and some dilapidated buildings, into a neighborhood with charter schools, housing to be marketed primarily to teachers, retail space to promote street life where there was none, and parks.
Mr. Meier — who, in 1984, at 49, became the youngest solo architect to win the Pritzker Prize — spent much of his early career building residential communities. He converted the 13 connected structures of the former Bell Laboratories into Westbeth Artists’ Housing in the West Village in 1970.
“People had renovated brownstones but never a building the size of Westbeth,” Mr. Meier said.
Other large community complexes he designed from the ground up in the 1970s are the Twin Parks Northeast Housing, in the Bronx, and the Bronx Developmental Center, a residence for disabled children (and largely demolished in 2002, when the state cut off funding). Models of both projects are at the Jersey City museum.
“What we try to do in housing projects is give the most light and the most space in every apartment we can,” Mr. Meier said. “That’s what people want.”
He applied those principles to the design of the four buildings to be completed this year in the initial phase of Teachers Village. Three buildings, the first to open in March, will be residential, with apartments priced in line with teachers’ salaries and marketed through Teach for America. Every unit will have floor-to-ceiling windows and open floor plans.
The fourth, 230 Halsey Street, opened last August with two charter schools with luminous classrooms, a gym and a cafeteria.
The facades of the four buildings will alternate between sections of red brick and expanses of white — either aluminum paneling or stucco — punctuated with windows mixing clear and translucent glass in geometric patterns. Mr. Meier had not clad a building in brick for several decades.
“The city was very concerned about maintaining some of the character of the area,” said Rémy Bertin, the project architect in charge of 230 Halsey Street. “We understood that we were fitting into the fabric of the city, and Newark is the brick city. ”
Mr. Meier’s firm worked closely with Newark’s planning department, which was rezoning the city. City planners didn’t want a wall of towers lining narrow streets and limited the height of buildings along Halsey Street to 60 feet; buildings facing the street are designed to a residential scale of four stories, some rising to six in setbacks.
Phase 1 of the master plan includes four additional buildings on Halsey, to be designed by other firms. “I think it’s good to have different people involved,” Mr. Meier said. “It gives it a little more normal urban character.”
KSS Architects, based in Princeton, N.J., has already finished one with a charter school and a day care center.
Frank Popper, a city planner who teaches at Rutgers and Princeton Universities, recently saw a version of the proposed development.
“I’d give it a qualified thumbs-up,” said Mr. Popper, adding that he is concerned that Teachers Village could feel like an enclave without efforts to knit it into existing neighborhoods. “It’s going to be middle-class teachers in an area that was previously either industrial or deserted or dodgy, or all three.”

“The urban fabric of Newark is pretty frayed,” he continued. “You can’t ask it to become unfrayed all that quickly.”