Wednesday, December 28, 2016

My Favorite Paintings at Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena

What I enjoyed most at Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena near Los Angeles were paintings by masters old and relatively new.

My favorite painting was The Black Shawl (Lorette VII) (1918) by Henri Matisse. This Matisse was striking with his surprising color harmony, his usual motifs of exaggerated flowery patterns, and the strange sensuality he achieved. The lying figure, Lorette, we assumed, in her provocative yet pensive pose, looked like mermaid or a siren, thanks to her form-fitting sheen black gown laced with bold floral patterns resembling large scales, and an extra length of fabric around her bare feet, like a tumbling tail. The figure in black really stood out on the pale red bedding, covered with large pale green leafy patterns, whose color reflected on the slightly more yellow tinged walls wrapping around her bed and thrusting the sitter to the viewer. The siren, looking directly into the viewer, had a sad expression on her face, slightly accusative, for neglect, or boredom, perchance? One could easily imagine this Lorette as being in a harem. A strange work of understated and seductive beauty, and enigmatic sentiment.

DSCN7830 _ The Black Shawl (Lorette VII), 1918, Henri Matisse (1869-1954), Norton Simon Museum, July 2013
The Black Shawl (Lorette VII), 1918, Henri Matisse (1869-1954)

My second favorite was a portrait by Rembrandt van Rijn of his son Titus as a little boy, titled as Portrait of a Boy (1655-60). This unnamed boy, in his brown tunic, big black velvet hat with red feathery or flowery decoration, small band of white laced collar, with his soft blond hair, pink cheeks, gentle smile, was most angelic, adorable, and somewhat worrisomely vulnerable. The love, adoration, and worry from the doting father was most evident and touching.

DSCN7591 _ Portrait of a Boy, 1655-60, Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669), Norton Simon Museum, July 2013

DSCN7598 _ Portrait of a Boy (detail), 1655-60, Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669), Norton Simon Museum, July 2013
Portrait of a Boy, 1655-60, Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669)


My Favorite Museum Collection Series
>> My Favorite Museum Collection Series 158: Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin
<< My Favorite Museum Collection Series 156: My Favorite Paintings at the Broad Museum, Los Angeles

List of My Favorite Artworks in the Museums I've Visited

Other Related posts on Art · 文化 · Kunst:
- LACMA - Los Angeles County Museum of Art
- Getty Villa in Los Angeles (Malibu)
- The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles
- Brand New Contemporary Art Museum - The Broad Museum in Los Angeles
- Urs Fischer Exhibit at MOCA, Los Angeles
- Revisiting Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena
- Anderson Collection at Stanford University
- Paintings at Cantor Arts Center, Stanford University
- Surprisingly Urbane Los Angeles


Saturday, December 24, 2016

My Featured Painting "Apprehend"

As if I had anticipated a gloomy election season to conclude this year, back in late January, I worked on and finished a painting titled Apprehend, featuring a lonely bird, enclosed in a disorienting and confused space, sketchily defined by indistinct horizontal and vertical stripes of various thickness and shades of blue, black and yellow.

Apprehend, Oil on Canvas, 20x24, 2016
Apprehend
Oil on Canvas
20”x24”
Completed in 2016
© Matthew Felix Sun
www.matthewfelixsun.com

The bird, in cautions pose, peers into the uncertain distance, seemingly full of expectation and comprehension, an apt metaphor of people in this traumatic post-election time.

Originally posted on matthewfelixsun.com

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- Featured Painting "Liberation Road"
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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

My Favorite Paintings at the Broad Museum, Los Angeles


DSCN0315 _ Broad Museum, LA

IMG_1243 _ Broad Museum, LA

IMG_1247 _ Broad Museum, LA

I was lucky enough to be able to visit the Broad Museum in Los Angeles shortly after it opened its doors. It was the manifestation of the mind-boggling concentration of wealth in this country; it also argued for the continuation of patronage system even in our era, and more favorably, the vital importance of educating supremely wealthy patrons, the eventually arbiters of fine art.

The Broad Museum truly impressed visitors with its glittering contemporary art collections. My favorite was Untitled [New York City] (1953) by Cy Twombly. This 1953 piece, in contrast to Twombly's usual repetitive cursive inscriptions, mimicking chalk on green blackboard, was more painterly, but was just as hypnotic, largely due to the numerous thin black lines crisscrossing over three three "pillars", which dominated the pale gray/white canvas. Those heavily outlined pillars were encircled with horizontal rings of various sizes, angles and heights, and those rings enmeshed with aforementioned thin wires, thus added texture and even mystery to the painting, so as some drippings over those pillars. Despite the limitation of colors and the similarity of shapes, those pillars and rings were not monotonous, due to some obvious variations — the first pillar was encircled by an additional ring plus an additional heavy vertical line drawn down from the lower ring, the middle one had a blunter tip, while and last one had a sharply angled tip. These pillars were also unevenly spaced and angled, and such unevenness helped to create some sense of movement, imbalances, and dynamics. Finally, those pillars did resemble some wounded and bleeding fingers, and this was just my own perception.

DSCN0349 _ Untitled [New York City], 1953, Cy Twombly, Broad Museum, LA
Untitled [New York City], 1953, Cy Twombly

My second favorite was Falle (Trap) (2001) by Neo Rauch, a German artist hailed from Leipzig. This painting was also somewhat an departure — instead of the artist's typical combusting array of saturated colors, Falle was essentially a bi-tonal piece, dominated by pale yellow background and some large patches in deep navy blue, modulated by a few small thin stretches of bright green over some pipes and hoses, and a cartoon callout. The objects of this painting was a seemingly daily routine — a well dressed and groomed man holding something like a deformed trampoline, with two or thee small dogs or cats either pulling the trampoline or feeding off it; a woman leaning over away from the viewer, at the point of tipping over metal rail, towards a casually dressed man, who was holding a pole as if rowing, though he was on solid ground, or it seemed. A heart-shaped deep blue object hovered in the sky, with a long green tube attached to it, like an aircraft readying to suck up more petroleum. Everything we saw was ambiguous in situation or intention, and was to pin down. Perhaps, that comfortable suburbian life was the trap. In the subject matter, this painting was consistent with his oeuvres —  some seemingly mundane setting and activities in nondescript suburbia, actually fostered something alienating, disturbing and even sinister.

DSCN0515 _ Falle (Trap), 2001 Neo Rauch, Broad Museum, LA
Falle (Trap), 2001, Neo Rauch


My Favorite Museum Collection Series
>> My Favorite Museum Collection Series 157: My Favorite Paintings at Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena
<< My Favorite Museum Collection Series 155: My Favorite Paintings at Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Los Angeles

List of My Favorite Artworks in the Museums I've Visited

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- The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles
- Brand New Contemporary Art Museum - The Broad Museum in Los Angeles
- Urs Fischer Exhibit at MOCA, Los Angeles
- Revisiting Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena
- Anderson Collection at Stanford University
- Paintings at Cantor Arts Center, Stanford University
- Surprisingly Urbane Los Angeles

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

My Favorite Paintings at Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Los Angeles

The relatively modest Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles didn't overwhelm people with blockbuster pieces, as other Museums in Los Angele often did, yet it invited conversation and thoughts with some austere pieces.

My favorite was a mixed media on paper titled Dêpouille (Skin or Human Remains) (1945) by French artist Jean Fautrier (1898-1964). The strongest impression of this abstract piece was the understated, appealing palette, which consisted of pale brownish yellow and red, underneath some intermittent light blue wash. The main object, occupying almost the entire paper, shaped like a giant pearl upon its irregular shaped mother shell. Yet, once the title sank in, this amorphous object took on a sinister meaning and darker tone, and the imagined sheen of a piece of jewel morphed into rough and cracked mass, symbol of the degeneration of bodies.

DSCN0461 _ Dêpouille (Skin or Human Remains), 1945, Mixed media on paper mounted on linen, Jean Fautrier (1898-1964), MOCA, LA, October 2014
Dêpouille (Skin or Human Remains), 1945, Mixed media on paper mounted on linen, Jean Fautrier (1898-1964)

At first glance, Franz Kline (1910-1962)'s 1956 oil painting, Monitor, was a pure abstract piece, consisted only white and black paints. The wet over wet effect of the merge and interplay of these sharply contrasted colors was both dramatic and subtle. The boldness of the gigantic central black "beam" also contrasted wonderfully to a very thin dark stroke, fading into far distance, and aided by a small pole at the end of that disappearing stroke, thus added more focal interest to these ever entangled and extending objects, instantly a broad space was opened up for the viewer. After the dramatic impact of the high contrast had dissipated, I realized that one of those protruding object in the center of the canvas was actually indeed a traffic or security monitor, atop of a huge horizontal beam, pointing to unseen and perhaps unaware people, beyond the edge of the canvas. Beautiful and disturbing. 

DSCN0456 _ Monitor, 1956, Franz Kline, MOCA, LA, October 2014
Monitor, 1956, Oil on Canvas, Franz Kline (1910-1962)

My Favorite Museum Collection Series
>> My Favorite Museum Collection Series 156: My Favorite Paintings at the Broad Museum, Los Angeles
<< My Favorite Museum Collection Series 154: My Favorite Paintings at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

List of My Favorite Artworks in the Museums I've Visited

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- Urs Fischer Exhibit at MOCA, Los Angeles
- Revisiting Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena
- Anderson Collection at Stanford University
- Paintings at Cantor Arts Center, Stanford University
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Friday, December 9, 2016

My Favorite Paintings at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

What I enjoyed most at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) were paintings from modern German masters.  My favorite was Bridge and Wharf (1945) by Max Beckman. This was a typical mature Beckmann in his most probing mold. This landscape confronted us with a section of a massive industrial bridge, bold and strong chrome colored beams imprisoned by thick black outlines, chilly looking, partially blocking the view of a narrow wharf, in which haphazardly moored ships of various sizes, shapes and placements. Behind this chaotic yet impressive tableau, there was an almost angry leaden sky, whose pale purple color, together with muted earth brownish green over the static water in the central strip of the canvas, heightened the brightness of the colors in the wharf, predominantly rich red on the bodies of some ships, and on an edge of a boat a small patch of thalo green, which also lent its special chilling allure to some celestial elements in the sky.  All those bright colors were also boldly outlined, similar to those beams of the bridge, with massive black strokes, which bound together the diverse elements and colors with its inexhaustible reaches like slithering arms of a giant octopus. A beautiful rendition of a disrupted world.

DSCN7887 _ Bridge and Wharf, 1945, Max Beckmann (1884-1950)
Bridge and Wharf, 1945, Max Beckmann (1884-1950)

Cows in the Lowland (1909) by Emil Nolde was an apparently idyllic pastoral world, with several cows gazing in a lovely meadow; yet, nothing was as apparent as it was — dark grass, unnaturally colored noble beasts, scattered flowers, a wall of light pink and blue sky, all in heavy impasto and painted with determined palette knife, verging toward disintegration, and formed a world in the shadow of hallucination and madness. A prophetic work.

DSCN7885 _ Cows in the Lowland,1909, Emil Nolde (1867-1956), LACMA
Cows in the Lowland, 1909, Emil Nolde (1867-1956)

My Favorite Museum Collection Series
>> My Favorite Museum Collection Series 155: My Favorite Paintings at Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Los Angeles
<< My Favorite Museum Collection Series 153: My Favorite Sculptures at J. Paul Getty Museum - Getty Villa, Los Angeles (Malibu)

List of My Favorite Artworks in the Museums I've Visited

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- Urs Fischer Exhibit at MOCA, Los Angeles
- Revisiting Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena
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Monday, December 5, 2016

My Favorite Sculptures at J. Paul Getty Museum - Getty Villa, Los Angeles (Malibu)

Getty Villa by the sea was a heaven for lover of antiquities.  Among many Egyptian giants and Greek gods, I found most memorable a group of sculpture of a seated man and the flanking sirens, creatures of part bird and part woman. The real focal points were those ladies, whose careful postures belied their nature, as if they were in break from their fatal performance, and their nature was just a goodie goodie matron, or some prim figures from Victorian era, though they were from ancient Greece, dating to 350 - 300 B.C. The seating figure was a very plain and passive figure, therefore, my attention was fully on those two standing sirens, who on two legs, and large claws, instead of feet, looked very upright, though became a bit comical, when viewed on profile, with their stiff little tail stuck out below their hips, resembling ill-fitting coats, as if they were campaigning politicians in tails, during one of their eloquent and disingenuous speeches. Perhaps, that was what being sirens meant.

DSCN7360 _ Sirens, Getty Villa, July 2013

DSCN7362 _ Sirens, Getty Villa, July 2013
A Seated Poet and Sirens, Greek (Tarantine), Tarentum (Taras), South Italy (Place created), 350 - 300 B.C.

My second favorite was an even more ancient sculpture, titled Harp Player, from Early Cycladic, around 2700-2300 B.C. What so remarkable about this lucid rendition was how wonderfully proportioned and abstracted the little sculpture was and how poetic his or her postures were. There were a few wonderful dialogues, such as the contrasts between smooth and rounded curves and straight and abrupt angles, and between elements of thin and delicate, and that of thick and sturdy. The most memorable aspect, perhaps due to the ravage of time, was the small and ill-shaped head and the player's face, which was like a piece of cloud, with barely discernible features, as if the player had disappeared into an aural world of his/her own creation.

DSCN7550 _ Harp Player, Early Cycladic, 2700-2300 B.C., Getty Villa, July 2013
Harp Player, Early Cycladic, 2700-2300 B.C.


My Favorite Museum Collection Series
>> My Favorite Museum Collection Series 154: My Favorite Paintings at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
<< My Favorite Museum Collection Series 152: My Favorite Paintings at J. Paul Getty Museum - Getty Center, Los Angeles

List of My Favorite Artworks in the Museums I've Visited

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- Brand New Contemporary Art Museum - The Broad Museum in Los Angeles
- Urs Fischer Exhibit at MOCA, Los Angeles
- Revisiting Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena
- Anderson Collection at Stanford University
- Paintings at Cantor Arts Center, Stanford University
- Surprisingly Urbane Los Angeles

Thursday, December 1, 2016

My Favorite Paintings at J. Paul Getty Museum - Getty Center, Los Angeles

What I found most interesting at J. Paul Getty Museum - Getty Center in Los Angels were European paintings, and my top choice was Portrait of the Marquesa de Santiago (1804) by Spanish painter Goya — a formal portrait of an aristocratic lady in dramatically contrasting black dress with golden braids, pink shoes, and white lacy mantilla, with provocatively exaggerated makeup, standing atop a hill, a closed fan in hand, and holding herself like a seasoned stage trooper.

Goya employed broad and quick brushstrokes to establish her black dress and rustic cottages in the low lying village at distance, seen behind tilting ground, which, along with stormy sky, contributed to establish a personality prone to self-dramatization. Despite Goya's loose brushstrokes, this full length portrait was still very realistic, though the sitter's face was curiously plastic and devoid of personality. Maybe Goya did capture his sitter rather too well.

Portrait of the Marquesa de Santiago by Francisco de Goya, 1804, Getty Center
Francisco Goya [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
Portrait of the Marquesa de Santiago, 1804, Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes (Francisco de Goya) (Spanish, 1746 - 1828)

I was also very impressed by Edvard Munch's Starry Night (1893), whose sweeping atmospheric sky, mysteriously-shaped mound and other objects on the shore, and the mirror-like glinty sea, often basked in a blue wash, gave us a sense what the beginning of everything might have looked like, and we were in the presence of some celestial phenomenon recorded with quick brushstrokes and varying thickness of paints of blue, green, maroon, and brilliant white, interlaced with some eloquent patches of almost naked canvas, where the paints thinned out. Altogether, those loosely applied pigments and vaguely suggested elements not only generated a shimmering atmosphere, but gyrating slow movements as well, and the viewers were dazzled by that.

'Starry Night' by Edvard Munch, 1893, Getty Center
Edvard Munch [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Starry Night, 1893, Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863 - 1944)


My Favorite Museum Collection Series
>> My Favorite Museum Collection Series 153: My Favorite Sculptures at J. Paul Getty Museum - Getty Villa, Los Angeles (Malibu)
<< My Favorite Museum Collection Series 151: My Favorite Paintings at Yale University Art Gallery

List of My Favorite Artworks in the Museums I've Visited

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- Urs Fischer Exhibit at MOCA, Los Angeles
- Revisiting Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena
- Surprisingly Urbane Los Angeles

Sunday, November 27, 2016

My Favorite Paintings at Yale University Art Gallery

Yale University Art Gallery's art collection had an amazing depth, whose collections dated back to the antiquities, but the paintings impressed me most were modern works.

My favorite was an Edward Hopper, Rooms by the Sea (1951), which, in contrast to his usual gloomy and enclosed settings, was surprisingly sunny and airy, though not without some uncertainty and vulnerability. The beautiful shaded green and yellow floor contrasted wonderfully with brilliant blue sky and lapping waves see through huge openings of the house, which cast bright geometrical shapes on the walls and floor, and those window sand sunshine created many focal points and they echoed one another through the canvas. A dash of red sofa and brown dresser, seen at the edge of the painting, anchored the sharp angled composition, and balanced the large sun spot and the open sea at the right edge of the canvas.

Rooms by the Sea, 1951, Edward Hopper _7742
Rooms by the Sea, 1951, Edward Hopper

My second favorite was Die Ungeborenen (The Unborn) (2001) by Anselm Kiefer, in his usual monochromatic fashion, and the media were again, consisted of paint, plants, and perhaps metal cutout dresses, all his usual media and motifs. Over the dark, though not overwhelmingly gloomy background, a delicate, broken plant floated in the center, with several very small dresses hung on its extended branches at varying heights. The message was not very clear, even aided with the title; perhaps, those dresses symbolized some tragically unborn children, and that made this dark, yet very delicate painting very touching and poignant.

Die Ungeborenen (The Unborn), 2001, Anselm Kiefer _7747
Die Ungeborenen (The Unborn), 2001, Anselm Kiefer


My Favorite Museum Collection Series
>> My Favorite Museum Collection Series 152: My Favorite Paintings at J. Paul Getty Museum - Getty Center, Los Angeles
<< My Favorite Museum Collection Series 150: My Favorite Paintings at Oakland Museum of California

List of My Favorite Artworks in the Museums I've Visited

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Thursday, November 24, 2016

Featured Installation - Wilting Flowers



Recently I created an installation Wilting Flowers and fully documented the creation and installation processes.

This new effort was spurred on by my continued fascination with paper material - delicate, malleable, and transitory, characteristics well suited for hinting at, versus representing, a world full of fragility and vulnerability, constantly under the threat of total destruction.

My local newspaper dailies, “San Francisco Chronicle” of all sections - news, finance, sports, arts, and classified, served as the building foundation. A segment of our time distilled and encapsulated. Inky strokes and splashes were added to the newspaper, then were folded and tied up to form large flowers, with aluminum wires wrapped with dyed twine as stems.

For the background, I chose five sheets of plain white paper, streaked with similar black strokes of ink diluted with various amount of water.

To install, I attached these background paper to a wall in an uneven row, then affixed those flowers, 13 total, to those sheets. There were no strict rules as how to layout the background sheets and flowers, as long as the finished installation looked balanced, and the flowers largely faced outwards.

I have installed these sheets and flowers on different walls - colorful graffitied concrete wall, or somber looking wooden fences, at different time of the day. The differences of the walls, the different light cast on the wall or fence, background sheets and paper flowers, all contributed to generate a murmuring polyphony.

 Wilted Lowers Installation _ DSCN4040 - modified - 800px
Wilting Flowers

Ink on paper and newspaper, aluminum wire, cotton string
40" x 140" x 5"
Completed in 2016

Wilting Flowers / 凋萎的花卉 / Wilting Blumen






Originally posted on matthewfelixsun.com

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Monday, November 21, 2016

My Favorite Paintings at Oakland Museum of California

Oakland Museum of California has many wonderful oil paintings created by Californian artists in the middle of 20th century. The best example was Bruce McGaw's Figure (c. 1956-57), a portrait of a strangely lit bust, whose held up and inward facing hands were both awkward and eloquent, and it was quite a challenge to determine the spatial relationship between those arms and his eerie looking face. The pale tan face and right hand, interrupted by dark shadow of his featured, and framed by dark background, gave him a ghostly look, which was reinforced by the greenish tone on his left hand. A small patch of red on his left sleeve, and a thin stripe of red on his collar and shoulder over the navy blue uniform, added exciting notes to this muted monologue.

Figure, c. 1956-57, Oil on Canvas, Bruce McGaw, Oakland Museum of California _ 9486
Figure, c. 1956-57, Oil on Canvas, Bruce McGaw

My second favorite was Spring Nude (1962) by Nathan Oliveira. This painting had layers upon layers of paints, and the effect of the interplay of visible paints from various layers were thrilling. In the middle of the canvas, superimposed amidst these layers of red, pink, purple, blue, yellow and green hues, was a dark silhouette of a figure, which could be either a man or a woman, either frontal or rear view, and this addition completely changed the outlook of this otherwise abstract work, and the patterns of the background became a fantastically colored beach, and the painting became an evocative figure study in an unusual, almost mythic setting.

Spring Nude, 1962, Oil on Canvas, Nathan Oliveira, Oakland Museum of California _ 9491
Spring Nude, 1962, Oil on Canvas, Nathan Oliveira

My Favorite Museum Collection Series
>> My Favorite Museum Collection Series 151: My Favorite Paintings at Yale University Art Gallery
<< My Favorite Museum Collection Series 149: My Favorite Paintings at Anderson Collection at Stanford University

List of My Favorite Artworks in the Museums I've Visited

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Friday, November 18, 2016

My Favorite Paintings at Anderson Collection at Stanford University

Anderson Collection at Stanford University was built to showcase an Anderson family's modern art collection.

I found Theophrastus' Garden (1982) by Terry Winters very enchanting. This ethereal garden, in pleasing shades of burnt umber and blended and mingled with white tint, was at the same time earthy, solid, airy, and unreal. The strange, insect-looking flora, in shades of steely blue, scattered around into the depth, like the dispersing dandelion seeds, animated this fenced in paradise.

DSCN9139 _ Theophrastus' Garden, 1982, Terry Winters, Anderson Collection
Theophrastus' Garden, 1982, Terry Winters

Another favorite of mine was a monochromatic, semi-abstract parting by Susan Rothenberg, Wishbone (1979). In the center of the motley black canvas, "stood" an elongated blue black wishbone, a forked bone (the furcula) between the neck and breast of a bird, often chicken from our tables. To its right, a lean horse, in charcoal black shade, occupied the right one-third of the canvas. The shape of the horse, viewed absolutely frontal, seen only it's head, triangle-shaped torso, and two legs, echoed that of the wishbone, or could be its filled-out shadow. The meaning of this painting was quite opaque. Perhaps, the swift horse, might be the agent to accomplish one's wish? Though employed almost only one color, Rothenberg managed to created a world full of shifting changes of shades and moods, and charged with vigor and emotion.

DSCN9146 _ Wishbone, 1979, Susan Rothenberg, Anderson Collection
Wishbone, 1979, Susan Rothenberg

My Favorite Museum Collection Series
>> My Favorite Museum Collection Series 150: My Favorite Paintings at Oakland Museum of California
<< My Favorite Museum Collection Series 148: My Favorite Paintings at Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University

List of My Favorite Artworks in the Museums I've Visited

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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

My Favorite Paintings at Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University

Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University was known for its amazing Rodin sculpture collections, but its painting collections were also remarkable.

My favorite was a semi-abstract by Richard Diebenkorn, titled Window. This painting was striking in its bold division of the canvas into several flat areas of brilliantly contrasting colors - bright blue, neutral orange and muted green, plus a narrow stretch of varying gray. Some details of depicted objects, large or small, helped to break otherwise monotonousness of each area, and artfully joined them together. The painting also drew viewers in with its many shapes and forms, and enigmatic relationships of planes, and trickery of view points. Those objects, seemingly readily identifiable, but upon closer examination, tended to shift away from the initial impressions. This painting's evocative atmosphere, intriguing composition, and strategic placement of objects, reminded me of mature Matisse in similar interior/exterior setting. This painting was exemplary in both representational and abstract worlds.

Window, Richard Diebenkorn _ 1887
Window, Richard Diebenkorn

My second favorite was a portrait by Max Pechstein, Kurish Bride, I.  This was a boldly outlined and modeled portrait of a lovely young woman, in a simple black and white dress or blouse, adorned with wildflower garland and red and pink scarf, high-cheeked and wide eyed, solid yet sensual, sedated yet hopeful, and almost joyous. One particularly striking aspect was that her face was painted in unnatural and even sickly green, but it complimented well of her dark eyes, ruddy cheeks and scarlet lips. Furthermore, against deep red backdrop, and offset by pale green over light brown, the colors clashed dramatically and excitingly, and made her face commend all the attention. The large area of red background echoed and contrasted her ruddy cheeks and scarlet lips, and the scarf, thus firmly connected to the central figure. A riotously outburst of colors and emotions.

Kurish Bride, I, Max Pechstein _ 1909
Kurish Bride, I, Max Pechstein


My Favorite Museum Collection Series
>> My Favorite Museum Collection Series 149: My Favorite Paintings at Anderson Collection at Stanford University
<< My Favorite Museum Collection Series 147: My Favorite Engravings at Seattle Art Museum

List of My Favorite Artworks in the Museums I've Visited

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- Andy Goldsworthy's Stone River in a Lush Setting
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- Richard Serra Drawing and 2010 SECA Art Award at SFMOMA
- My Favorite Sculptures at Institut für Klassische Archäologie, Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz

Friday, November 11, 2016

My Favorite Engravings at Seattle Art Museum

What impressed me most in Seattle Art Museum were two amazing engravings, both by the great German artist Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528).

The first was titled Ritter, Tod und Teufel (Knight, Death and Devil) (1513). This allegorical piece zoomed in on a weary-looking knight amounting a sturdy steed, accompanied by two goat-like strange creatures, one on an exhausted horse to the knight's right — Death, identifiable by the hourglass in his hand reminding the knight of the shortness of life, and the other one following behind on foot, even more hideous looking than Death — the Devil, joining in hearty taunting. Underneath the knight's horse, a hound resolutely ran along on that narrow range of a waste land, as steadfast as the master, who maintained his proud posture and stony countenance in the company of danger, could be seen either as symbol of courage, or foolhardiness.

Dürer's technical virtuosity was astounding, not only in the tense subject and well-planned composition, but particularly also in many fine details, such as the majestic muscles and shining pelt of the horse, the menacing cliffs pressing on the travelers, and the castles seen through barren branches atop the jagged ridge, all through flowing lines, endlessly varied types of fine hatching, the subtle modulations of light and shadow, and the absolute confidence in rendering of minutiae details.

Knight, Death and the Devil
Albrecht Dürer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Ritter, Tod und Teufel (Knight, Death and Devil), 1513, Albrecht Dürer, 1471-1528

The second Dürer was Das Meerwunder (The Sea Monster, or The Sea Wonder), ca. 1498. This engraving depicted a naked maiden, lying on the back of a scaled creature with human head and fish body, being led or dragged away from shore into broad water body, though it was curiously narrow, more an estuary than an open sea. The background featured a steep hill and a castle on top, and a grander castle at the foot of the hill, just above the shore, onto which maidens clambered several naked in great haste, ostensibly fleeing from danger, the sea monster, and nearby, an old man gesticulating his alarm, next to a collapsed woman lamenting on the ground.

Despite all the drama on the distant shore, the central figures, both the sea creature and the abducted maiden, were rather curiously calm and almost nonchalant save for a few traces of sadness, resignation, and slight distress on the maiden's face, which was in turn betrayed by her body's eloquent pose in a reclined pose often associated with voluptuous and seductive Venus. This contradiction created a fascinating though somewhat sad enigma.

Comparing to the dark tone of Knight piece, this one was much brighter, almost ironically sunny, dominated by more white space due to far less hatching, and result was airy and quite suitable to the sea setting, though no necessarily the obviously disturbing story. These main figures and landscape though were no less three-dimensional, due to energetic and graceful lines, and subtle suggestions of shades and volumes, as in a very fine line drawing. 

Albrecht Dürer - Sea Monster (Das Meerwunder) (NGA 1943.3.3483)
Das Meerwunder (The Sea Monster, or The Sea Wonder), ca. 1498, Albrecht Dürer
Albrecht Dürer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


My Favorite Museum Collection Series
>> My Favorite Museum Collection Series 148: My Favorite Paintings at Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University
<< My Favorite Museum Collection Series 146: My Favorite Artifacts in Phoebe A. Hearst Anthropology Museum, UC Berkeley

List of My Favorite Artworks in the Museums I've Visited

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Tuesday, November 8, 2016

My Favorite Artifacts in Phoebe A. Hearst Anthropology Museum, UC Berkeley

Phoebe A.  Hearst Museum of Anthropology of University of California, Berkeley has a huge trove of wonderful and sometimes strange artefeacts from all over the world and many of its prized collections are those from the ancient civilizations.

The most amazing pieces are a group of Egyptian mummy portraits. These ancient works astonished with their verisimilitude. Perhaps, there were some customary beautification, but these portraits really strove to capture the likeliness of the deceased, and their living spirits and personalities. Another interesting aspect of these portraits was that the deceased were all portrayed as quite at peace, and devoid of any traces of sadness, often seen in latter-day cemetery monuments.

Egyptian Mummy Portrait

Another amazing piece was also from ancient Egypt — an Egyptian iconography relief found at Tebtunis, a town or city located in the present-day village of Tell Umm el-Baragat, in the Al Fayyum Governorate, Lower Egypt. This stone carving fragment featured some commonly seen, fantastic ancient Egyptian deities in the shape of wondrous beasts and humans, or maybe simply princes. These beautifully rendered relief profiles dazzled with fluid lines, and economic yet rich details, and they immediately evoked the world full of grace, mystery and spirituality beyond our feeble comprehension.

Egyptian iconography at Tebtunis - Hearst Anthropology Museum


My Favorite Museum Collection Series
>> My Favorite Museum Collection Series 147: My Favorite Engravings at Seattle Art Museum
<< My Favorite Museum Collection Series 145: My Favorite Artefacts at Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life in Berkeley

List of My Favorite Artworks in the Museums I've Visited

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Friday, November 4, 2016

My Favorite Artefacts at Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life in Berkeley

Like many Jewish museums, the Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life of UC Berkeley focuses on artefacts of Jewish culture accumulated through centuries sedimentation and diaspora.

One of the very interesting objects was an illustrated Esther scroll tracing back to the 17th Century Italy - a beautifully illustrated and calligraphed document, whose black figurative images and decorative borders framed pale red texts wonderfully. The simple cherry-colored wooden handles added proper weight to this ancient object.

DSCN1055 - Illustrated Esther scroll - Italy, 17th Century, Magnes Museum
Illustrated Esther scroll - Italy, 17th Century

My second favorite was a piece of dark green silk cloth with embroidery of an eagle and banner beneath its claws, plus some Hebrew circling above the eagle and inside the nook of the hanging banner. This solemn and rather grand piece of fabric was identified as a Challah cover, and it must be intended for important occasions, and it rightfully reflected the richness of Jewish culture. 

DSCN1050 _ Magnes Museum, Berkeley
Embroidered Challah cover

My Favorite Museum Collection Series
>> My Favorite Museum Collection Series 146: My Favorite Artifacts in Phoebe A. Hearst Anthropology Museum, UC Berkeley
<< My Favorite Museum Collection Series 144: My Favorite Paintings at Berkeley Art Museum / Pacific Film Archive

List of My Favorite Artworks in the Museums I've Visited

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Tuesday, November 1, 2016

My Favorite Paintings at Berkeley Art Museum / Pacific Film Archive


IMG_3528 _ BAM PFA January 2016 (md)

IMG_3506 _ BAM PFA January 2016

IMG_3600 _ BAM PFA Pre-Opening, 30 January 2016

BAMPFA, the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, is the visual arts center of the University of California, Berkeley, with a proclaimed mission to inspire the imagination and ignite critical dialogue through art and film. 

One of the most striking paintings I saw in their inaugural exhibition at the new downtown location was 4 Brushstrokes over Figure by Hyun-Sook Son, a painting of a woman half-hidden behind a gauzy white curtain on the left half of the painting, contrasting greatly to the very dark background on the right, bound together by a perhaps broom held by the protagonist. The painting invoked essence of traditional Korean paintings or perhaps the golden age porcelains, with its sparseness and cleanness and the light-handed and deft rendition. There was a great sense of mystery and somewhat sadness to a very ordinary yet almost ritualistic chapter of life. In front of this near monochromatic painting, people felt like eavesdropping and automatically be hushed by its overwhelming quietude.

DSCN1447 _ 4 Brushstrokes over Figure, Hyun-Sook Song, BAM PFA Pre-Opening, 30 January 2016
4 Brushstrokes over Figure, Hyun-Sook Song

For a contrast, my second favorite was a combustive color burst — Summer Bliss (1960) by Hans Hofmann, whose initial donations kickstarted the founding of this museum. This wonderful pure abstract featured bold color blocks, primarily in red, yellow and blue, over a large expanse of green. The most striking part was the color contrast and harmony, and above all, the kineticism of the painting, a overwhelming sense of constant movements as all those colors and color blocks seemed forever shifted, pulsated and moved in many directions, according to the relationships of adjacent colors and shades, and ultimately formed a great choral symphony, full of combustive life and energy.

DSCN9379 _ Summer Bliss, 1960, Hans Hofmann, BAM Closing, 21 December 2014
Summer Bliss, 1960, Hans Hofmann

My Favorite Museum Collection Series
>> My Favorite Museum Collection Series 145: My Favorite Artefacts at Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life in Berkeley
<< My Favorite Museum Collection Series 143: My Favorite Paintings at Art Institute of Chicago

List of My Favorite Artworks in the Museums I've Visited

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Friday, October 28, 2016

My Favorite Paintings at Art Institute of Chicago

One of the largest art museums in the US, the Art Institute of Chicago dazzled visitors with its vast arrays of treasures.

My favorite was Saint Martin and the Beggar by El Greco, dating back to the beginning of the 17th century. The first impression of the painting was the freshness and cleanness — the rain-washed blue sky, the gleaming white pelt of the horse, the polished face, drape and armor of the well-groomed saint, and even the taut and well-scrubbed skin of the beggar — all these gave the painting an other-worldly purity, which was also heightened by the contrast to small muddy patches, such as the brown hill under their feet, and the shadowy distant hills and forest, seen only from underneath the stallion's belly. The viewpoint was very low, thus both figures, particularly that the mounted saint, hovered large almost like a super human, yet his humble and sweet face endeared him to the viewer and managed to bring  him back towards viewers. The narrow vertical format of the painting, which was almost filled completely with these two persons and the horse, was also noteworthy and memorable.

El Greco - San Martín y el mendigo
El Greco [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Saint Martin and the Beggar, 1597/1600, El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos) (1541-1614)

The Art Institute was rightful to be proud of its Impressionism collections. One of the best of those was Arrival of the Normandy Train, Gare Saint-Lazare (1877) by French master Claude Monet. This painting, a bit unusual from others, was its industrial subjects and indoor setting. The steam permeated train station was awash in chilly blue light, and almost everything was off-focus due to the simmer of the heated air. Monet perfectly captured the chaos, excitement, and anxiety with the advent of modern technology and cold machinery.

Claude Monet - Arrival of the Normandy Train, Gare Saint-Lazare - Google Art Project
Arrival of the Normandy Train, Gare Saint-Lazare, 1877, Claude Monet (1840-1926) 
Claude Monet [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


My Favorite Museum Collection Series
>> My Favorite Museum Collection Series 144: My Favorite Paintings at Berkeley Art Museum / Pacific Film Archive
<< My Favorite Museum Collection Series 142: My Favorite Drawing and Artefact at Morgan Library & Museum in New York City

List of My Favorite Artworks in the Museums I've Visited

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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

My Favorite Drawing and Artefact at Morgan Library & Museum in New York City

Morgan Library & Museum in New York City is one of many jewels in that grand city.

I was great touched by a drawing study of Peter Paul Rubens, Seated Male Youth (Study for Daniel), done in lack chalk, heightened with white chalk, on light gray paper. This drawing, a preparatory work for painting Daniel in the Lions' Den, depicted the agonized youth in supplication. The heightened facial emotion and the tensed torso of the muscular sitter, the bold outlines, the effective shading, and the detailed and accurate facial and hand features, left a great impression on viewers. As usual, one could see Ruben's genuine touches and craftsmanship on his drawings and oil sketches, versus his monumental finished works, which often were completed by his assistants under his supervision.

Seated Nude Youth, Peter Paul Rubens
Seated Nude Youth Seated Male Youth (Study for Daniel), Peter Paul Rubens
Black chalk, heightened with white chalk, on light gray paper
19 11/16 x 11 3/4 inches (500 x 299 mm)


Another marvelous thing I admired at Morgan Library & Museum was a cylinder seal and its impression, A Winged Hero Contesting with a Lion for a Bull, dating to Neo-Babylonian period (ca.1000–539 B.C.). From the rectangular impression, one could see the fine details of the proud hero, the roaring lion, and the hapless bull between the powerful rivals. The fine details of numerous curly formations of the hair,  the beard, the mane, the wings, and the claws, were all rendered with amazing control. The enigmatic cuneiform writing, helped to balance the composition, also added depth to the wonderful tableau.

A Winged Hero Contesting with a Lion for a Bull, Cylinder seal and impression
A Winged Hero Contesting with a Lion for a Bull, Cylinder seal and impression
Mesopotamia, Neo-Babylonian period ca.1000–539 B.C.
Carnelian 38.5 x 18 mm


My Favorite Museum Collection Series
>> My Favorite Museum Collection Series 143: My Favorite Paintings at Art Institute of Chicago
<< My Favorite Museum Collection Series 141: My Favorite Paintings at Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City

List of My Favorite Artworks in the Museums I've Visited

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Saturday, October 22, 2016

My Favorite Paintings at Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City was an iconic modern building, and I was a bit surprised to see some paintings from somewhat older era - early 20th century, which in current art market has almost become "classical".

Guggenheim Museum

My favorite painting was Saint-Séverin No. 3 (1909-10) by French painter Robert Delaunay (1885-1941). This monochromatic painting depicted the tall nave of the cathedral and the interlocking buttresses, elongated, soaring, resembling a giant pipe organ, or a glimpse of the hollow of abdominal cavity — vast, cavernous, seductive yet foreboding.

GUGG Saint-Séverin No. 3
Saint-Séverin No. 3, 1909-10, Robert Delaunay [CC0 or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The other favorite of mine was a Cubism-influenced Paris par la fenêtre (Paris Through the Window) (1913) by Marc Chagall, who in his typical fashion, fancifully mixed together various motifs and elements — people, cat, village, window, city, his native Russia and Paris, folk art elements and cosmopolitan sophistication, and the sense of joy, freedom, anxiety and perhaps, malfeasance or even evil. Also very striking was the interplay of his vivid colors, though in a more muted way to his standards.

File:Marc Chagall, 1913, Paris par la fenêtre (Paris Through the Window), oil on canvas, 136 x 141.9 cm, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.jpg
Marc Chagall, 1913, Paris par la fenêtre (Paris Through the Window), oil on canvas, 136 x 141.9 cm, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Source:  Guggenheim Collection Online [public domain]


My Favorite Museum Collection Series
>> My Favorite Museum Collection Series 142: My Favorite Drawing and Artefact at Morgan Library & Museum in New York City
<< My Favorite Museum Collection Series 140: My Favorite Paintings at Neue Galerie, New York City

List of My Favorite Artworks in the Museums I've Visited

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