Published: November 29, 2016
Milton Avery’s Vermont by Jamie Franklin and Karen Wilkin, Bennington Museum, distributed by University Press of New England, One Court Street, Lebanon NH 03766, 2016; 80 pages, softcover, $26.95.
Published in conjunction with an exhibition at the Bennington Museum in Vermont, which was on view through November 6, 2016, this exhibition catalog is more than that. While the requisite beautiful color illustrations are included, of course, this slim volume also offers a scholarly examination of Avery’s work over six summers he spent in Vermont between 1935 and 1943, when he exploded into his late work, with free use of color and the delicate balance he achieved between Abstraction and Representation.
Milton Avery (1885–1965) is known for his intense color work of abstract seascapes, landscapes and gritty cityscapes. His work is seminal to American abstract art: he was criticized for being too abstract earlier in his career, and then when Abstract Expressionism came to the for, his work was considered to Representational. However, Avery’s Vermont-inspired works — drawings, watercolor, oils — embrace the entire range of his interests from landscapes to bathers and people on vacation or working in the fields.
Milton Avery’s Vermont examines the artist’s creative process, from en plein air pencil sketches to watercolors that cement his reputation as one of the great watercolorists of the Twentieth Century. In Vermont, Avery’s intense activity was pivotal to his emerging style with bold, gestural marks and bright, nonassociative colors. He created works that captured summer activities and the verdant colors of the Vermont landscape.
The exhibition and catalog include more than 60 works, with color illustrations, an exhibition checklist and two essays — one by Jamie Franklin, curator at Bennington Museum, who wrote “Green Mountain Idylls,” and one by Karen Wilkin, a New York-based independent curator and critic specializing in Twentieth Century modernism, who contributed “Milton Avery: Responding to Place.”
In the foreword to the catalog, Robert Wolterstorff, executive director of the Bennington Museum, said, “Who knew that Milton Avery created so much great work in Vermont? … [but] the work he created here is not of interest merely because of what it led to. These are glorious works in their own right.”
The works included here are drawn from The Sally and Milton Avery Foundation, the Milton Avery Trust, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Neuberger Museum of Art, The Peabody College Collection, the Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery and many private collectors.
A fine compilation of a representative sample of Avery’s work, this is also an attractive and engaging book, worthy of being in any library or on a coffee table.
One and One Is Four: The Bauhaus Photocollages of Josef Albers by Sarah Hermanson Meister with additional text by Elizabeth Otto and Lee Ann Daffner, Museum of Modern Art, www.moma.org, 2016, hardcover, 128 pages, $50.
“One and one is two — that’s business. One and one is four — that’s art — or if you like it better — is life.” —Josef Albers
The first and only book to replicate the body of Albers’ photocollages (70 in all) created during his time at the Bauhaus between 1928 and 1932, many never published before, One and One is Four surveys Albers’ stellar career, which took him from glassworks and furniture design to printmaking and painting. His contributions to modernist photography were lesser known in his lifetime, but this book aims to change that oversight.
The artist’s visual curiosity, his passion for black and white and all the nuances of grays, as well as his wonder at the beauty the universe offered is on full display here, and the book celebrates a recent milestone for the museum, the acquisition of Albers’s Bauhaus-era photocollages, making MoMA the largest repository of these outside of the Albers Foundation.
The discovery of Albers’ photocollages and a trove of other works and ephemera in his basement studio near Yale University Art Gallery a month after he died has been hailed as one of the great art finds of the past century, and this book sheds valuable insights into the artist’s explorations of — mastery of — the photographic medium.
The Lighter Side Of Collecting! by John Stinger; Tanner Publishing, 256-page paperback, $15.95 per copy, plus $3.95 shipping.
We interviewed New Jersey cartoonist and collector John Stinger earlier this year after he had released his new book that pokes fun with good-natured cartoons at the sometimes all-too-serious world of collecting. It bears reminding folks again, however, because this is a sure-fire stocking stuffer with great appeal.
Featuring 200 full-page New Yorker-style cartoons and 56 pages of family-friendly humor about the joy of chasing vintage stuff for fun and profit, Stinger takes the reader on a laughing trip with more twists and turns than a Victorian settee. Designed to appeal to both young and experienced collectors, this classic book will entertain anyone who wheels and deals in vintage treasures. Stinger’s cartoons can be seen in leading publications serving the collectibles market. He sold his first cartoon about antiques in 1973 and in 1992 published his first book about this fun hobby.
It can be ordered by emailing the author at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 908-319-8957. There is a ten percent discount for veterans and seniors.
Encaustic Art In The Twenty-First Century by Anne Lee and E. Ashley Rooney, Schiffer Publishing, Ltd, www.schifferbooks.com, 2016; 304 pages, hardcover, $59.99.
Encaustic (from a Greek word meaning “to heat or burn in,” enkaustikos) painting, also known as hot wax painting, is an ancient technique, dating back to the Greeks, who used wax to caulk ship hulls. Pigmenting the wax gave rise to the decorating of warships and eventually to using the medium for creating art. Encaustic painting involves using heated beeswax to which colored pigments are added. Heat is used throughout the process, from melting the beeswax and varnish to fusing the layers of wax.
While the technique is more than 2,000 years old, it is enjoying a revival, according to the authors who have selected 79 North American artists who employ encaustic in their work to focus upon. Eight chapters organize the artists by geographical region and within each chapter, the various artists reveal how the heated beeswax and resin material is used to create seductive, skinlike surfaces and rich, layered membranes.
The authors say that “from beehive to hotplate to the artist’s hand, encaustic has evolved as a versatile medium applied to almost every artistic style.” This cross-disciplinary medium ranges from painting to sculpture to textile art, assemblage, collage, photography and printmaking. Lee and Rooney came to encaustic through artist friends and were each captivated by the medium’s luminescent quality and versatility.
A preface by Rooney and an introduction to encaustic and its history by Lee are supplemented by a foreword on “Contemporary Encaustic: Diversity, Depth, and Breadth” by Kim Bernard, sculptor and installation artist in encaustic who is the recipient of many artist awards and was artist-in-residence in the physics department at Harvard University.
An afterword on “Encaustic and Creative Process” by Ellen Koment, a painter and teacher who has been working with, exhibiting and teaching encaustic for 20 years, a listing of the artists’ websites and exhibitions and an index complete the volume.
Russian Splendor: Sumptuous Fashions Of The Russian Court by Dr Mikhail Borisovich Piotrovsky, contribution by Georgy Vilinbakhov, Evelina Tarasova, Tamara Korshunova and Nina Tarasova, 2016, Skira Rizzoli; hard cover, $95 US, $125 Canada.
This volume showcases the magnificent court dress of the Russian Empire, culled from the collection at the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, photographed with the Winter Palace as a backdrop. Prerevolutionary Russia was renowned for the glamorous and luxurious lifestyles of the nobility, with their opulent palaces and glittering social life.
Here, Piotrovsky, director of the State Hermitage Museum since 1992, reveals the incredible clothing they wore, from everyday dress and ceremonial attire (traditional holidays outfits and military uniforms) to dress for special occasions, including elaborate evening wear for theater and musical events and fancy masquerade balls. Celebrated for luxurious materials and impeccable craftsmanship, the dress of the Russian nobility was haute couture at its finest.
With beautiful photography and details highlighting the handspun silks and lace and jeweled embroideries, this book highlights the glamour of this gilded age and offers a fascinating window into a vanished world. Essays by Hermitage Museum curators, alongside historic Russian paintings and photo-graphs, place the clothing in a historical context, revealing the rich cultural layers and artistic influences of czarist Russia.
Massachusetts Masterpieces: The Decoy As Art by Gwladys Hopkins, Museum of American Bird Art, printed by Puritan Capital, Hollis, N.H., designed by Glenn Suokko, 127 pages, 30 color plates, hard cover with slip jacket, $58.
A handsome addition to any decoy lover’s reference library — or coffee table — this book is based on the 2013 Museum of American Bird Art at Mass Audubon exhibition of the same name in Canton, Mass. The show featured some of the state’s most beautiful vintage waterfowl and shorebird decoys. Represented were 16 private collections, plus those of three institutions. Every bird on view in that show and in this book exemplifies sophisticated design, superb knife work and masterful paint handling. Author Gwladys “Gigi” Hopkins quotes Robert Shaw, critically acclaimed author and curator of American folk art, as saying, “No other state’s carvers produced so many decoys of high aesthetic quality.”
Forty birds are illustrated in the book’s plates, while the section titled “The Carvers” features 60 images, 45 of which have never before been published. These illustrate newly researched details about the talented men who created these now classic wooden lures.
Beyond what was on view in the 2013 show, there are three additional birds — the dovetail-headed goose, the Osgood trio and the snoozing Safford goose.
Collectors owe a debt of gratitude to Hopkins, “a dedicated and observant birder” in the words of Shaw, who “has brought skills to bear in this book that match every aspect of its source material.”
Carved And Whittled Sculpture: American Folk Art Walking Sticks by Michael D. Hall, published by the Columbus Museum of Art in conjunction with Mingei International Museum, printed by West-Camp Press, Inc, designed by Gene Hite, Design Communications, Inc, 2015; 194 pages, soft cover, $35.
Between the mid-Nineteenth and mid-Twentieth Centuries, American folk artists created thousands of carved and painted wood sculptures in the form of utilitarian walking sticks. This book accompanied a series of exhibitions of folk sculpture, beginning in June 2014 and throughout 2015 and organized by the Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio. Celebrating the imagination, inspiration and innovation of Americans who for more than three centuries created stunning works of folk art, craft and design, the catalog is an impressive product of effort from skilled teams of writers, designers, photographers, scholars and support staff.
The examples depicted seem inexhaustible — from whimsical folk art walking sticks to Northwest Coast speaker’s staffs to all kinds of carved and whittled sculpture of animals, birds and reptiles, whimsies and puzzles, personages and figure, expressions of patriotism, fraternalism and faith.
The Columbus Museum boasts a large collection of these works made by a diverse array of folk and self-taught artists, and has been actively acquiring and collecting these since the 1940s. Anyone who has ever picked up a fancifully carved walking stick cannot help but reflect on how the artist’s identity and personality is there to see and sense even after he or she is long gone.
Thomas Cole: The Artist as Architect by Annette Blaugrund, The Monacelli Press, www.monacellipress.com, 2016, hardcover, 120 pages, $30.
Adding a new dimension of scholarship to the beloved Hudson River School artist Thomas Cole, this book was published to enhance the same-titled exhibition that debuted at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site earlier this year and the recreation of his self-designed Italianate studio there. Interesting to note is that at the peak of his career as a landscape painter, Cole chose to list himself as architect in the New York City Directory.
This book explores Cole’s architectural interests through his paintings and drawings as well as his finished and visionary projects, such as his commissioned sketch entry to design the Ohio Statehouse in 1838, where, against stiff competition from renowned architectural firms, his design came in third place. Landscape painting came out of obscurity to the foreground of the canon of American painting in the first half of the Nineteenth Century, thanks in great part to Cole. Seeking to create a “higher style of landscape,” Cole infused the landscape painting tradition with narrative and architectural elements that told much about man and his place in the world. Crumbling ruins were a treatise on the rise and fall of civilization and his concern for preservation is echoed in vernacular buildings amid verdant landscapes in some of his early works. His masterful painting, “View of Florence from San Miniato,” 1837, demonstrates his love for the city as well as his skill at architectural draftsmanship and his keen knowledge of architectural history.
The Artist as Architect is quite an interesting read for art and architectural scholars.
Photography at MoMA: 1920 to 1960, published by MoMA, www.moma.org, 2016, hardcover, 392 pages, $75.
Since 1930, when the Museum of Modern Art began collecting modern photography, this genre has been an integral part of the museum. Its photographic collections now number more than 25,000 works, making its holdings one of the most important collections of modern and contemporary photography.
Just released, this book covering 40 key years in the history of photography is the second of three books to survey the museum’s holdings. Photography at MoMA: 1920–1960 tracks the meterioric rise of this medium at the peak of the modernist period. Photography changed how people saw the world, from Walker Evans’s documentary style to Dora Maar’s Surrealist musings to El Lissitzky’s photomontages, Man Ray’s darkroom experiments, and Tina Modotti’s socioartistic approach.
In eight themed chapters, this lavishly-illustrated book surveys more than 200 artists, including Berenice Abbott, Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Geraldo de Barros, Margaret Bourke-White, Bill Brandt, Claude Cahun, Harry Callahan, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Roy DeCarava, Robert Frank, Germaine Krull, Dorothea Lange, Gordon Parks, Aleksandr Rodchenko, Alfred Stieglitz, Otto Steinert and James Van Der Zee.
The Vincent Van Gogh Atlas by Nienki Denekamp and René Van Blerk with Teio Meedenorp, translated by Laura Watkinson; Yale University Press, www.yalebooks.com/art; originally published by Rubinstein Publishing BV/Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam; 2015 & 2016; 181 pages; hardcover; $25.
A travelogue of Vincent van Gogh’s journeys — his early days, the places he lived, his various passions and careers, his communications with his family, his artistic development — all are chronicled here with informative maps and illustrations of postcards and writings.
Excerpts from letters between Vincent and members of his family are quoted, bringing van Gogh and his family to life. The narrative is accompanied by photographs and postcards from the time, and of course, van Gogh’s sketches and paintings occupy a central place.
The inspired layout follows the routes taken from his home in Zundert through his itinerant trips from small towns to cities, London, Paris and Amsterdam and ultimately to Auvers-sur-Oise where he died, tracing the artist’s routes from Z to A.
This is a charming and imaginatively designed book; it might inspire the reader to follow in the artist’s footsteps on a pilgrimage — at least through the pages of the book. The layout also facilitates reading one page or two, with small amounts of text surrounded by photographs and van Gogh’s work, and just enough information to enlighten and ignite the reader’s interest. It is suitable for all ages; it traces the more than 20 locations that van Gogh lived and worked, and the thousands of miles he covered in his short, 37-year life.
The authors are specialists in van Gogh: Nienke Denekamp is a freelance writer, editor and picture editor based in Amsterdam; René van Blerk is senior curator of education at the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam; and Teio Meedendorp is a researcher at the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.
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