Friday, January 23, 2015

EXHIBITIONS: Snowbirds take note! Winter art museum offerings in sunny South Florida

Calder, Untitled, 1945, gouache on paper

Abstraction on Paper
January 26 - April 5, 2015
Delving into the Museum’s rich collection of works on paper, and featuring significant loans from generous members of the community, the exhibition presents a variety of media by American and European artists from the 1920s thru the 1950s. Superb works by American Abstract Artists and other Modernists such as Alexander Calder and Wassily Kandinsky. While all 20 works were created on paper, the media used range from ink, gouache, pencil, and watercolor to etching and drypoint.

 Patkin, You Tell Us What to Do [detail], 2010, ink on pleated tulle curtains

Izhar Patkin: The Wandering Veil

January 26 - April 5, 2015
This survey of works by Israeli-born, New York-based artist, Izhar Patkin will fill the museum's main gallery space with spectacular mural-size paintings on tulle fabric. The mesmerizing display chronicles the history of modern-day Tel Aviv and Israel at large. Grand yet touchingly intimate, The Wandering Veil resonates with personal narrative, emphasizing memory, loss, love, exile and redemption.

• at the Wolfsonian in Miami's Art Deco district:

Downtown Miami in the mid-1920s

Boom, Bust, Boom: Downtown Miami Architecture, 1920s-1930s
Ends March 08, 2015

Miami's first skyscrapers, including the Miami Daily News building (now Freedom Tower), were built during the city's "boom" years following World War I. A destructive hurricane in 1926, however, dealt a devastating blow to the city's economy, worsened significantly by the onset of the Great Depression. Recovery was slow, but with the 1939 completion of the magnificent Art Deco-style  Alfred DuPont building, things started looking up. 

At the 75th anniversary of the DuPont building, The Wolfsonian reflects upon this architectural legacy and its role in transforming a seaside town into a vibrant modern metropolis.

Also at the Wolfsonian:

Rose colored mirrored glass and wooden radio with horizontal struts design
Sparton, model 517, Walter Teague designer 

Art and Design in the Modern Age: Selections from the Wolfsonian Collection
This exhibition explores the ways in which art and design have both influenced and adapted to the modern era, a time of unprecedented experimentation and innovation. Design became a critical issue for producers and consumers at a time when machine-made objects were replacing those crafted by hand. The works on display demonstrate designers’ responses to profound social and technological changes of the modern epoch. They reveal how people living in this tumultuous period viewed the world and their place in it, as urbanization, mass production, and new transportation and communication systems revolutionized modern life.

Floor lamp, desert motif, Wendell August designer

UPDATE: Glasgow School of Art rises from the ashes

On May 23, 2014, a devastating fire came within a hair's breadth of destroying the stunning Glasgow School of Art, a masterpiece of architecture designed over 100 years ago by modernist  trendsetter Charles Rennie Mackintosh. (See Mad for Mod postings of May 23 and 24.) Design aficionados all over the world despaired to hear this news. Eight months later, however, reconstruction is well underway, and due to quick action by the heroic firefighters of Glasgow, much of the building's exterior and 70% of its contents were saved.

Author and international travel director Joemy WilsonMad for Mod's first-ever guest blogger, traveled to Scotland recently, and generously contributed this optimistic report on what she saw. Thank you, Joemy!

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Joemy’s report from Glasgow

Last autumn, my husband, Jon, and I took a long-awaited trip to Scotland. I was especially looking forward to getting lost on the lonely single-track roads of the magnificent Highlands. But first, I wanted to visit every Charles Rennie Mackintosh building that three days in Glasgow would permit. At the top of my list: one of Mackintosh’s acknowledged masterpieces, the Glasgow School of Art, built more than one hundred years ago. In May of 2014 the building had suffered a tragic fire that destroyed its iconic library and a number of its graduating students’ final art projects. I was eager but apprehensive. What would be left to see? Will the building live again?
Eastern elevation of GSA building (Douglas St.)
All photos by Joemy Wilson, unless otherwise noted

The GSA website said that tours were still being offered, so upon arrival in Glasgow we dumped our bags at the ultra-hip CitizenM Hotel and walked the few uphill blocks that took us to the school. We got there just in time for the first tour of the day and were lucky enough to draw Georgia, a current student, as our guide. Her major is painting but she loves architecture, and especially the great CRM.

The venue has had to adapt its tour drastically since the fire, of course.  Because the interior has been closed to visitors for several months, we began at the undamaged eastern side and continued around the block. Georgia pointed out the ornamentation: the symbol of St. Mungo, with the bird, tree, fish and ball; and the Glasgow Rose elements in front of the windows. She told us Mackintosh’s story, from student to master architect.

Around the corner behind the school, Georgia showed us a building with a plaque reading 
The • Glasgow • Society • of • Lady • Artists •1882. 
(Men and women were kept apart in school in those days, except for special evening events.) She pointed out the elegant wrought-iron door, which Mackintosh designed in 1908. Interestingly enough, this door was also a replacement after a previous fire! How nice to learn that Mackintosh, who championed women artists, designed the door for these “ladies.”

We continued around the block. There was the library tower, covered in scaffolding. It was crawling with the most enthusiastic hardhat workers I’ve ever seen. They were calling to each other cheerfully, giving every indication that it was a personal joy for them to help recover this cultural treasure for Glasgow and for the world.

Sunlit view of library at Glasgow School of Art. The library was destroyed in the fire.
Photo courtesy of

Georgia showed us a photo of the singular library interior, which she said will be restored down to the most minute detail. It will probably take five years, but fortunately, she told us, it was “one of the most photographed rooms in the world.” Also, providentially, there is a 360° computer rendering of the space, and everyone is confident that Mackintosh’s vision can be reproduced. Skilled craftsmen are already researching the proper materials, a phase that alone will probably take at least a year.
Greatly cheered, we went off to celebrate with lunch at the nearby Willow Tea Rooms on Sauchiehall Street. As we sat in Mackintosh’s gorgeous Room de Luxe, we clinked teacups in a toast to a genius architect whose masterpiece will certainly live again.
Room DeLuxe at the Willow Tea Room, another Mackintosh creation
CRM designed everything, from room interior to utensils to waitresses' uniforms

Detail of Willow Tea Room mirrors

While I nibbled on my sandwich, I thought of the brave firefighters whose brilliant strategy of forming a human wall up the west end of the main staircase probably saved the vast majority of the school building and its priceless artwork. I thought of the archives that were miraculously saved. I thought of those animated construction workers, cheerfully toiling away to resurrect a treasured icon. 
And I thought of the phoenix rising from its ashes, and how we can look forward to returning in a few years to see the restored library in all its glory. 

Front entrance to GSA, Renfrew St.
Photo courtesy of

To contact Joemy with feedback or questions, email her at

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For information on another Mackintosh masterpiece, the House for an Art Lover,
link here to my article originally published in Style 1900 magazine.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

EXHIBITIONS: Mac Conner’s Mad Men era illustrations

• Mac Conner’s Mad Men era illustrations
through Jan. 19

McCauley (“Mac”) Conner (b. 1913) grew up admiring Norman Rockwell magazine covers in his father’s general store. He arrived in New York expecting to work on wartime Navy publications, but stayed on to make a career in the city’s vibrant publishing industry. The MCNY exhibition presents Conner’s hand-painted illustrations for advertising campaigns and women’s magazines like Redbook and McCall’s, imagined during the years after World War II when commercial artists helped to redefine American style and culture.
Closing soon -- I hope that some of you will be able to make it. I won't, but I thank my nephew T. for picking up an exhibition catalogue for me, so that I won't feel like I've completely missed out.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

EXHIBITIONS: Cooper Hewitt reopens! The Magic Pen and "Maira Kalman Selects" take center stage

After being closed to the public for three years, the newly renovated and expanded Smithsonian/Cooper Hewitt Museum in NYC -- the only museum in the nation devoted to both historic and contemporary design -- finally reopened its doors on December 12, 2014. The $91m modernization, which adds 60 per cent more gallery space, will allow museum-goers to have an enlivened visitor experience through the use of interactive, creative technologies. These include The Magic Pen (my moniker, not theirs), which can be used to trace and sketch on computerized table-screens, explore related objects in the Cooper Hewitt’s collection, and save and share items online.

Take (borrow, actually) the pen!
To learn more about the magic pen, and how it will
enliven the museum experience, link here.

I'm particularly excited about the special exhibit of artist Maira Kalman's favorite items from the museum's vast collection. Five years ago, Kalman began choosing items for this exhibit, sorting through the Cooper Hewitt's vast collection of decorative and functional items: stockings, shoes, hats, teapots, samplers, handkerchiefs, glassware, ceramics, porcelain, jewelry and vintage editions of famed children's books to name but a few. (Alice in Wonderland and Winnie the Pooh are included in the show.) Two goosebump-inducing items on display are Abraham Lincoln’s funeral pall and gold pocket watch.

Below are some items from Maira Kalman Selects  ...
    Bonbonniere and cover: 
    Ambassador, 1926. Mold-blown muslin glass

Abraham Lincoln's watch, England, c. 1858. Gold, glass, metal   

Bracelet, ca. 1993. Netherlands. Marijke de Goey. Bent steel wire

Painting, Zig-Zag Chair, 2014. Maira Kalman. Gouache on paper 

To listen to an interview with artist Maira Kalman on WAMC FM's popular show "Roundtable", link here.

Maira Kalman Selects will run
from 12 December 2014 to 14 June 2015

 10 inaugural exhibitions will include the 350-piece collection showcase

Link here to the Cooper Hewitt's "Object of the Day" webpage
Always fascinating!

The Cooper Hewitt Museum on Fifth Avenue, New York City
The 64-room mansion, built 1899-1902,  was originally the home of 
industrial magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.