2010

Thinking of Gombrich

IS THERE AN ARTIST ANYWHERE who does not have Ernst Gombrich on the shelf? Art and Illusion, Meditations on a Hobby Horse, or—my favorite—The Sense of Order are perennial staples in the studio. If there is room for only one book, The Essential Gombrich fills the bill. His The Story of Art is a stock item in libraries across the country. Imagine my surprise, then, when I came across this footnote in Norman F. Cantor’s riveting Inventing the Middle Ages: The Lives, Works, and Ideas of the Great Medievalists of the Twentieth Century:
I have to admit that I must be almost alone in not learning anything of importance from the writings of (Aby) Warburg’s other famed student, Ernst H.
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Three Faiths, One Hymnal

THREE FAITHS: JUDAISM, CHRISTIANITY, ISLAM is two things at once. To the eye, it is a stunning exhibition of historic manuscripts, incunabula and printed texts of great rarity and beauty. On that level, it is nothing short of breathtaking. This is an uncommon opportunity to greet antiquities of incomparable scholarly and aesthetic value. Unhappily, the rarities on show, all from the New York Public Library’s permanent collection, are not displayed for their own sakes. Nor are they here to instruct us in the necessity for civilizational stewardship, the true purpose of a magnificent library. Continue Reading
Philemona Williamson at June Kelly

PHILEMONA WILLIAMSON PAINTS PRETEEN FEMALES who float in pairs across canvas with the lightness of schoolgirls at a moon-struck tea party. There is a charm, even a sweetness, to them that sets them far afield from the surrealist frisson to which the exhibition lays claim. Figures drift and turn in gravity-free spaces, more like untethered astronauts than Chagall’s airborne couples. Topsy-turvy cupcakes, hovering goblets, stylized flowers and buoyant oddments provide local color for dreamy narratives that waft over the surface with the insubstantiality of light fiction. Continue Reading
Miscellany

HEDDY ABRAMOWITZ REPORTED EARLIER on an exhibition in Jerusalem that centered on the work of Francis Cunningham and several students. Her conclusion—a regretful one—was that there is no telling what road a student might take. Some embrace their training, put it to work and build upon it. Others discard it to follow their bliss. It is this second group that reminds me of a story Donald Kuspit once told. A few years after graduating from art school at Stony Brook, one former student in his art history class called him up. Continue Reading
Fashion For Erudition

THERE WAS A TIME, NOT LONG AGO, when fashion began in the fingers of individuals gifted with a sense of style and the moxie to make something of it. Not any more. Now, aspiring fashionistas have to draw on their parents’ retirement income, take out loans and subject themselves to degree programs in fashion studies. The old Parsons School of Design, now a division of The New School, has extended its name. In the 1970s it became Parsons The New School for Design. Continue Reading