This Week: Must-See Arts in the City

WNYC's Arts Datebook: December 22, 2011 - January 3, 2012

Thursday, December 22, 2011 - 08:30 AM


Renaissance portraiture at the Met, geometric explosions (or are they implosions?) at the Asia Society, and a painter who bucked a trend at the National Academy. The holidays may be upon us, but there's still plenty to do in New York. Here's what we're looking at this week:

The Renaissance Portrait from Donatello to Bellini at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Men with gnarled noses. Women with buoyant tresses. A Medici as painted from a death mask. The first great age of portraiture arrived in southern Europe in the 15th century, when portraits ceased to be the exclusive domain of popes and kings, and became a normal facet of upper class life. Fathers could pass on their images to their sons. Husbands could record their wives in their most exuberant moments of youth. And artists could take inspiration from everyday people (instead of just the Church). In this regard, the show of Italian portraiture at the Met reveals an interesting progression: stiff, side-view portraits ease into three-quarter view and full-frontal paintings, going from academic records of sitters into works that capture expressions and personalities. As is generally the case with these things, the “ugliest” people make for the most remarkable portraits, a parade of bulbous noses, double chins, bizarre haircuts — all markers of what it means to be human. (The incredible marble bust of the jowly, droopy-eyed Niccolo de Leonardo Strozzi looks as if it could talk.) Ultimately, the show is like a totally amazing Renaissance high school yearbook — a startling, incredible record of pretty girls and brutish men, not to mention nerds, freaks, geeks, weirdos, anal retentives and hazy-eyed burnouts. To that I say: Bring. It. On. Through March 18, on the Upper East Side.

Sarah Sze, Infinite Line, at the Asia Society The Boston-born Sze creates pieces that take geometric forms -- and then explode and dissolve them. Drawings show surreal structures on myriad planes. Installations that employ found objects like bottle caps, sheets of paper and string take these ideas into three dimensions — creating fictional universes that feel as if they’re in the process of breaking down. Or, perhaps, they are simply coming together. Through March 25, on the Upper East Side.

LAST CHANCE: Wil Barnet at 100 and The Artist Revealed: A Panoroma of Great Artist Portraits, at the National Academy It’s the last two weeks for a couple of important/interesting shows at the National Academy. Will Barnet at 100 is the first New York retrospective of painter Will Barnet, a long-time New York artist whose flat and tidy works have often defied convention. (As in: he wasn’t doing the whole make-a-mess-on-a-canvas Abstract Expressionist thing.) It’s art of the 20th century seen through a very different lens. While you’re at the Academy, be sure to pop into the highly intriguing Artist Revealed exhibit, featuring lots of comical and breathtakingly honest artist self-portraits. Through December 31, on the Upper East Side.

National Academy Museum, New York
At the National Academy, the work of Will Barnet is on view for two more weeks. Shown here: his 1981 self-portrait.
Courtesy Thomas M. Messer
Barnet went for flat surfaces and tidy, figurative arrangements -- as seen in 'Remi,' a work from 1962 -- at a time that other New York artists were still in the thrall of Abstract Expressionism.
Private collection. Courtesy Alexandre Gallery, New York
'The Blue Robe,' another work from 1962. Barnet and a core group of artists took inspiration from American Indian art, with its attention to simple, flat surfaces.
Photo by Ed Tahaney
Also at the National Academy: An intriguing show of artist portraits. Seen here: Ivan Le Lorraine's 1948 self-portrait.
Photo by Ed Tahaney
Artist self-portraits are often an interesting way to see a painter let loose -- as in Wayne Thiebaud's 1965 work, 'The Tennis Player.'
Courtesy of the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York. Photo Courtesy of Adam Reich
Sarah Sze displays her geometrically-minded drawings and installations at the Asia Society. 'Day,' a lithograph from 2003, is shown above.
Courtesy of the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York. Photo Courtesy of Adam Reich
Another lithograph by Sze -- this one titled 'Funny Feeling,' from 2004.
Collection of Nancy and Stanley Singer. Photo courtesy of Frank Oudeman
In her installation work, Sze turns discarded bottle caps, cut bits of paper and old tape measures into suspended galaxies. Seen here: 'Hidden Relief,' from 2001.
Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
Italian portraiture from the early Renaissance is now on view at the Met -- including this lovely depiction of a lady by Antonio del Pollaiuolo, created ca. 1460-65.
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Like the retouchers who work at Vogue Magazine, Boticelli (he of the Venus) preferred his ladies on the idealized side -- as in this 1475-80 work, 'Ideal Portrait of a Lady (Simonetta Vespucci).'
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Portrait that deserves its own movie: This 1510 painting by Francesco Francia depicts a 10-year-old boy who is about to be sent as a hostage to the papal court in exchange for his father. Whoa.
Carolina A. Miranda
Best in Show: The marble bust of Niccolo di Leonardo Strozzi, carved in 1454 by Mino da Fiesole -- a profoundly human depiction of a wealthy Florentine banker.


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About Gallerina

Carolina A. Miranda is a regular contributor to WNYC and blogs about the arts for the station as "Gallerina." In addition to that, she contributes articles on culture, travel and the arts to a variety of national and regional media, including Time, ArtNews, Travel + Leisure and Budget Travel and Florida Travel + Life. She has reported on the burgeoning industry of skatepark design, architectural pedagogy in Southern California, the presence of street art in museums and Lima's burgeoning food scene, among many other subjects. In 2008, she was named one of eight fellows in the USC Annenberg/Getty Arts Journalism Program for her arts and architecture blog, which has received mentions in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. In January of 2010, the Times named her one of nine people to follow on Twitter. Got a tip? E-mail her at c [@] c-monster [dot] net


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