Sacred Allegory (detail), about 1500-1504, Giovanni Bellini, tempera (?) and oil on wood panel. Gallerie degli Uffizi, Florence. Photo credit: Scala/Ministero per i Beni e le Attività culturali / Art Resource, NY
D.K. Sole has worked at UNLV's Marjorie Barrick Museum since it changed its focus to fine art in 2012. An artist and former resident of Melbourne, Australia, she held her first one-woman Las Vegas show, 'Some Time Ago," in 2015 at Clark County's Winchester Gallery. She was co-manager for the highly praised downtown Las Vegas gallery, Satellite Contemporary. She loves art.
By D.K. Sole
I was haunted all last year by a shape – by the roughly triangular patch of air framed by the elbow of the woman in [Jean-François] Millet's "Shearing Sheep" (1852-53). I saw the painting at the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art in February 2017. . It teased me, the way this central triangle seemed to concentrate and focus – like a prism – the foggy atmosphere of tenderness that hung over the rest of the picture.
Why did I grip that detail? Did it seem so infinitely suggestive to other people? I never discussed it with anybody.
Instead – and this turned out to be something like a substitute for discussion – I visited the small Bellini exhibition at the Getty in January 2018. Here was an artist who had devoted attention to small areas of intensely-realized appearance. This exhibition, which was named "Giovanni Bellini: Landscapes of Faith in Renaissance Venice," asked you to look at the painter's intelligent use of the countryside around his city. "One of the most influential painters of the Renaissance, he worked in and around Venice," explained the text, "and while his landscapes are highly metaphorical, they also accurately reflect the region’s topography and natural light."
I found that I wanted to look at the little things he had made: the judicious crumbs of light along the side of a reed-like plant growing out of a crack in the rock, or a single skull as carefully shaded as the rocks around it, in the bottom third of a crucifixion.
No one who came across a real landscape like the one in "St Jerome Reading in the Wilderness" (1505) would see a lizard, a pebble, and a cliff with riveting, equal clarity all at once, as the painting does. The implied glance in the Millet is more casual: the colouration of the scene suggests a hazy blur, telling us we have scanned it rapidly and come back with a convincing, incomplete impression, softly stirred by our emotions. The softness of this painted glance exists in tension with the stern, buried architecture of the composition. But Bellini's attention fuses attention with the viewer's eye. He paints a stare. He puts his areas of attention in a more ambiguous emotional territory.
This St Jerome asks: are you capable of the intensity he has assigned to you? Does intensity evade the devotional purpose of the painting or help to define it? These smart treasures scattered across the countryside of the work are a machine to save the devotee from boredom.
You look. The tiles and fenceposts in "Sacred Allegory" (c. 1500 – 1504) are so neat that you imagine him tracing along the edge of a ruler, as if his hands are still remembering the day when his teacher showed them how to make perspective. You decide that teacher must have been his father, Jacopo, since painting was the family business. Thinking about the amount of time it would have taken to create the work you conclude that the family was stable and prosperous, with a reliable clientele. There must have been physical space dedicated to Bellini's work and people around him who respected what he was doing. He had some area that functioned as "a room of one's own." No wonder he appealed to Ruskin, so quickly moved to anxiety and a sense of loss. Nothing is lost in Bellini, you think. When he wants to pull your attention away from something he often just blots it a little darker. That's why the red trousers on the shepherd in the background by Christ's wrist in "Christ Blessing" (c. 1500) are less noticeable than the clear brown tips of the curls on Christ's shoulders. Online reproductions make the trousers look like mud.
Christ's eyes point in different directions and the area around the one on the left is asymmetrically large. The Getty's label says he is "gazing straight at the viewer as if lost in thought." As I stood in front of the painting I imagined this a little further. The weird set of the eyes meant that the figure was not gazing at me even though his face was aimed in my direction. It was difficult to say if this was the expression of a person who was seeing or thinking anything at all. Rising from the dead, his brain was still trying to bring the physical world into focus. A point about the division between material and immaterial worlds had been made through the invention and subsequent tolerance of this physiognomic strangeness.
Looking around the room with that in mind, I felt that the uncanny amount of attention Bellini paid to everything had given each stone or house its own state of invisible, private interior being, concurrent with its presence in the visible world of landscape and sea. They were insistently with me but I would never be able to absorb them. He preferred the three-quarter view of heads, the face that turned to the viewer and still meditated on itself. (Did the odd distance between Christ's eyes come originally from this habit of depicting people with their heads turned? Bellini: Cubist.) That was the style of the age, but this shadowy room at the Getty isolated it in Bellini alone, and I was surrounded by faces half-aside and stones that existed both in and behind their shading.
In Bellini, unlike Millet, the prisms of attention suggested individual thingness rather than the existence of a wider emotion. The Venetian treated his objects with the mindfulness that French painter's woman gave to her half-shorn sheep, tracing the contours of its skin with care and never jabbing the surface with her scissors.
Giovanni Bellini, "Christ Blessing," circa 1500. Getty Museum
For the Los Angeles sister blog, María Margarita López went to the March opening of “L.A. History: A Mexican Perspective" at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. The stories of Latino history are Los Angeles centric, but the impact of this mural's history belongs to the Southwest. The story was first posted at viewfromaloft on March 10.
By María Margarita López
As a Girl Scout walking through the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, Barbara Carrasco never dreamed her work would one day grace its walls.
After 25 years of being stored away, Carrasco’s controversial 1981 mural, “L.A. History: A Mexican Perspective,” will be on view in Los Angeles for the second time. It was a highlight of “¡Murales Rebeldes! L.A. Chicana/o Murals Under Siege,” co-curated by LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes and the California Historical Society as part of the Getty-led Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA. It hung in Union Station.
This time it will be featured at the Natural History Museum’s (NHMLA) for “Sin Censura: A Mural Remembers L.A.” It runs from March 9 through August 18, 2018.
Carrasco stood mid-room, absorbing the impact of her mural displayed as she had never seen it before, wrapped around three walls giving it a more intimate feel. She is excited how the piece is uncensored and and it can be seen at the institution that helped make the mural possible in the first place. The late NHMLA curator William Mason helped Carrasco when she first researched subjects in the vignette, and loaned her photographs for source material. Much of the imagery was used in the final work. “This was my chance to show what I wish was in the history books.” said Carrasco.
It was the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), the same agency that commissioned it in the first place, that objected to fourteen of the depicted scenes. Some of those stories do not place the city of Los Angeles or the CRA in the best light. Both had histories of injustice in under served communities. These are the L.A. stories you will be hard pressed to find anywhere else.
“As she grew older she became more aware of her surroundings and really started to open up her eyes regarding the injustices that surrounded her and our communities and many of us growing up.” said Supervisor Hilda Solis of the artist. “I think her art has a way in which she shared those lived experiences meanwhile drawing attention to problems in our society. Barbara is a community champion.”
Supervisor Solis went on to suggest that NHMLA is the best place to give this mural a permanent home.
A highlight of the exhibition is the 70-inch digital touchscreen that details the people, places and events in each of the vignettes. From an image of Juan Francisco Reyes, LA’s first black mayor, to the lynching of 20 Chinese residents to memories of Grand Central Market, Luis Valdez’s “Zoot Suit," and a group portrait tribute to LA that includes Dolores Huerta, Jane Fonda, Ricardo Montalban, Martin Sheen, Rick James and other artists, activists and politicians.
The interactive touchscreen gives full details of people and place in English and Spanish.
Los Angeles has many untold stories. This mural beautifully depicts Los Angeles’s past, and present with a nod to the future, also including portraits of the interns who helped make the mural. It’s a history lesson worth visiting.
María Margarita López has covered arts and performances for viewfromaloft since 2011. On behalf of viewfromaloft, her photos have also appeared at KCET.org, the LATimes, and Hyperallergic. As a film producer, she is co-founder of AjuuaEntertainment, plus consulted and produced media under her company ValorFilms since 2005.
In the downtown Las Vegas Arts District, this wall with bold pinks stepped away from the usual abstract typography of graffiti.
C. Moon Reed on Tokyo-born printmaker Yoshiko Shimano's exhibition "Engraving on Land" at CSN's Fine Arts Gallery. "Through a variety of printing methods—woodcut, silkscreen, stencil, monoprint, linoleum cut—an abstract portrait of a place and people emerge from the layers of prints" I Las Vegas Weekly
Opening today, March 30 in, Washington DC, is Renwick Gallery's exhibition that includes six Burning Man sculptures "a stone’s throw from the White House" I Hyperallergic
NEXT DAY ADD "The Smithsonian’s Burning Man Art Show Is Actually Quite Good"I Bloomberg
Sarah O’Connell, Las Vegas-based theater director and publisher of culture site eatmoreartvegas, is featured in this report on "brave delegation of art-loving Nevadans" who traveled to Washington, D.C. to take part in Arts Advocacy Day I Las Vegas Weekly
More coverage of the trip and outcome at Review Journal.
If you missed it, Trump signed spending bill that increases NEA funding. Also: "Earlier this month, the US Bureau of Economic Analysis and the NEA released a report that found that the arts contribute $763.6 billion to the US economy, which is more than the agriculture, transportation, or warehousing industries. It also stated that the cultural sector employs $4.9 million workers across the country who earn more than $370 billion" I ArtForum.
Curated Instagrams of the local arts community.
Roger Gastman, the graffiti historian who helped assemble that MOCA's Art in the Streets, returns to to L.A. for a new show that takes over 40,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor displays in Chinatown. Beyond the Streets looks at global street art movements by over 100 artists, including Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Takashi Murakami, Jenny Holzer, Martha Cooper, Shepard Fairey, RETNA, Ben Jones, CHAZ Bojórquez, and Gajin Fujita I LAMagazine + LATimes
'Photographers Harry Gamboa Jr. and Luis Garza on pushing back against 'bad hombre' Chicano stereotypes" I LATimes
"The Chicano Art of a Red-Blooded American Sangre Colorado, an exhibition by Carlos Frésquez, reminds viewers that 'American' is an abstract and malleable concept" I Hyperallergic
In a topic PtD had covered before, "social media isn't just changing the way we interact with each other; it's driving the culture, especially in cities full of tourists eager to beef up their photo feeds with dispatches from elsewhere. At the same time, it is redefining the nature and intent of public art" I The Globe
Ancient statue of a winged bull destroyed by ISIS recreated by Iraqi-American artist Michael Rakowitz. It is the "latest public art installation to sit on a sculpture platform here known as the Fourth Plinth, on Trafalgar Square" I NYTimes + ArtNet
There was buzz about Justine Ludwig's move from Dallas Contemporary to New York art nonprofit Creative Time. In an interview with ArtNet News, Ludwig spoke with ArtNet on the importance of public art. She said: "Public art is an integral part of New York City’s urban landscape. It’s a city that lives and breathes art, and public art is central to that—greatly expanding the art-going audience by enabling greater accessibility. A major issue facing cultural institutions right now is the sense so many people have of not belonging: the feeling that they don’t have access or that these institutions are not tailored to them. Central to public art is the idea that art should be part of the everyday, of everyone’s life. It’s a very different way of presenting art. Everyone has access and everyone belongs, because it’s a part of the urban fabric itself."
Banksy recently invaded New York with politically outspoken works I Art Newspaper
Artist Haifa Subay used street art to mark the third anniversary of full-scale war in Yemen I
The best public art opening in New York this Spring I Observer
"Temple of the Artifacts" 2018
Screen printed cardboard. Sculpture representing boxes for future relics.