From the editor's desk | By Archived articles

Editor's Letter, November/December 2015

December 7, 2015  |  It would be tempting to wiggle into this one, introduce the issue with some high minded talk about the past not being another country and so forth, go on to mention our wonderful articles about Julia Margaret Cameron, etc., but more about all of that in a minute…The fact is we have something here requiring immediate comment—Paul Kossey’s discovery of a set of drawings done in 1945 quite probably by Schenley High School in Pittsburgh’s most famous graduate, Andy Warhol. Let’s begin with Mr. Kossey, whose sleuthing has appeared in these pages before (“George Caleb Bingham’s Rocky Mountains, a landscape discovery,” November/December 2014). He could have gone elsewhere with his big find but he trusts us to see something like this through in a careful manner. And I think we have.

This is hot. Or it’s not. Some people will take a shot at it. The experts consulted have been encouraging, but no one will risk authenticating any work by Warhol now for all the well-publicized legal reaso…» More

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Art Brut in New York

December 4, 2015  |  Although the American Folk Art Museum’s exhibition space has contracted since it moved to 2 Lincoln Square from the now-demolished Tod Williams and Billie Tsien building on West Fifty-Third Street, it continues to expand thematically. Following its recent exhibition of self-taught performance artists, When the Curtain Never Comes Down, which stretched from Japan to Brazil, the museum is now mounting Art Brut in America: The Incursion of Jean Dubuffet. The two hundred works are drawn from Dubuffet’s vast collection in the Collection de l’Art Brut in Lausanne, Switzerland. The exhibition is in some ways a reprise of a ten-year-long display of twelve hundred works from his collection that was held in the East Hampton, Long Island, home of the artist Alfonso Ossorio between 1952 and 1962. This time around the works brought here will have a public venue, and what visitors will see amounts to a staging of Dubuffet’s great moment of impact on American art and artists. That some of the…» More

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A Look at the Life of "Blind Tom" Wiggins

December 4, 2015  |  The once famous career of the musical prodigy Thomas “Blind Tom” Wiggins, born a slave and raised to entertain audiences here and abroad with uncanny feats of musical mastery, tainted virtually everyone who touched it. Wiggins’s owners exploited him and profited hugely from his earnings (his concerts and sheet music yielded an astonishing $20,000 in 1879); critics and reporters wrote about him in gaudily racist language; African-American intellectuals kept him at arm’s length dismayed by his stage antics. Yet Wiggins’s gifts were indeed awesome: he was composing music at age five and went on to master the works of Bach, Beethoven, and other composers, often in a single afternoon. He also leaped about the stage, clapped for himself, and used the racial slurs his managers had taught him though he could not have understood their import. Today he would be classified as autistic.

“Blind Tom” Wiggins (1849–1908) in a photograph of 1865 by W.L. Germon’s Temple of Art, Philadelphia.…» More

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Pictorialist Photography in Cleveland

November 13, 2015  |  Julia Margaret Cameron’s “photography has been a touchstone for generations of photographers. The pictorialists adored her,” writes Phillip Prodger in our article about the British photographer in this issue. And he couldn’t be more right, says Barbara Tannenbaum, curator of photography at the Cleveland Museum of Art and co-curator of the museum’s stunning exhibition Shadows and Dreams: Pictorialist Photography in America. “While the images of the pictorialists were related in part to the impressionist painters,” she says, “the aesthetic did indeed stem from Cameron, who was an important source of inspiration not just in terms of technique, but also content. Her emphasis on imagination over fact, subjectivity over objectivity, and poetry over description became core values of pictorialism.” As examples from the exhibition, Tannenbaum cites the work of Clarence H. White of Newark, Ohio, who would probably have learned of Cameron’s work through Alfred Stieglitz’s journal Camera W…» More

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Gilded Age Cartoonists at the Flagler

November 13, 2015  |  Often cited as an early influence on the humor of the New Yorker magazine, Puck ran in this country from 1877 to 1918 (it began with a German-language edition). The choice of Shakespeare’s mischievous fairy as the magazine’s namesake and mascot pretty much set the tone for its lighthearted mockery, and judging by the drawings and published cartoons on exhibit at the Flagler Museum, the humor remained gentler than you would have expected from satirists in the Gilded Age. The artists’ subjects are familiar ones: country bumpkins, uppity women, fads, fancies, and, of course, plutocrats and politicians.

The Haunted Auto by Alfred Zantziger Baker (1870–1933) for the cover of Puck, 1910. Collection of Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf, courtesy of the Flagler Museum,Palm Beach, Florida.

One particular drawing will certainly strike a chord with contemporary viewers: The Theatre Conversationalist (1890) suggests an ornate remedy for those who would rather listen to each other than let …» More

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[Compiled by Bill Stern, Executive Director at the Museum of California Design, Los Angeles. Originally published in "Curator's Eye" in Modern Magazi

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