Friday, January 2, 2015

Let's Talk About Art -- Buffalo edition

It took me two tries, but I finally made it to the Albright-Knox Museum in Buffalo.  While I was extremely annoyed not to have made their Greatest Hits exhibit around September, that will be on display in Milwaukee this summer, and there is a good chance I will be able to take the Amtrak up from Chicago and see that.

I'll start off with the main reason I was visiting, which was the Helen Frankenthaler exhibit upstairs.  This runs approximately 6 more weeks (through mid Feb.), so if interested, you should make plans to soon to go, especially as it can be pretty unpredictable with the lake effect snow.

As it happened, I find Frankenthaler's color field paintings a bit hit or miss.  Some I like quite a bit, whereas others are just too diffuse.  While I guess ranking artists is always a mug's game, of the female abstract expressionists, I tend to prefer Joan Mitchell.  I guess I rate Frankenthaler about as highly as Lee Krasner.

I liked three paintings a fair bit, though it wasn't even clear all were in the catalog.  I've found two on-line, but the third (Square Field from 1966 or 1967 is still eluding me).

So here are the two others I thought were quite nice.  (In person, Riverhead is enormous, much larger than The Human Edge.)

Helen Frankenthaler, The Human Edge, 1967

Helen Frankenthaler, Riverhead, 1963

I wasn't very impressed with the other special exhibit upstairs, but I thought the main galleries were really impressive, even considering that many of the masterworks were back out on tour.

In a bit of a reverse from the AGO, the most current guidebook to the Albright-Knox stresses contemporary works but they seem to focus on displaying cubism through abstract expressionism.  The AGO, in contrast, has some masterworks of abstract expressionism in the gallery guide, but these haven't been on display for perhaps 10 years or so.  Personally, I think it is a somewhat misguided effort by the AGO to avoid abstract expressionism, specifically, as it is so identified with the U.S. artworld and thus displaying it would almost be a surrender to American hegemony (or something like that).  Not that I dislike the Canadian rooms that they have added, but I think they probably would do better closing down the David Milne display and putting up 20th Century US and European art back there.

I can't possibly display all the great paintings that I saw at the Albright-Knox, but I will definitely include the Clyfford Still room, as it is very impressive, and a few other paintings I liked quite a bit.  I'll do them basically chronologically, rather than the order that a visitor might encounter them. 

Gustave Caillebotte, Study for Le Pont de l'Europe, 1876

Max Weber, Figure Study, 1911

Norman Lewis, Street Music, 1950

Franz Kline, New York, NY, 1953

Adolph Gottlieb, Dialogue I, 1960

Despite the annoyance of actually getting to Buffalo, I'll probably try to take the family once a year or so to soak in the art.  As one can see, the ratio of visitors to great art is pretty good -- from the visitor's perspective.  I'll just note that I was pretty underwhelmed by downtown Buffalo near the Greyhound bus station, so I'll plan on driving from here on out.

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