Glenn Ligon “Narratives” 1993



I went into Luhring Augustine today specifically to see their small Glenn Ligon collection upstairs. One of my favorite living artists, Ligon examines issues of race, sexuality, history and representation via the use of passages and citations from a variety of literary writers and cultural critics such as James Baldwin, Frantz Fanon, bell hooks and Ralph Ellison. Masterfully eloquent and open, Ligon delivers the viewer a diachronic and pervasive analysis on themes of slavery, oppression and freedom in African-American history and identity.

These particular panels are from his show “Narratives” (1993) in which Ligon speaks through traditional image: the format and font of these prints resemble the title pages of mid-19th century slave narratives. Though he includes quotations from Hilton Als, Josephine Baker and Derek Walcott, the story is his own. Not only does Ligon borrow the typographic style of these title pages, he adopts a historic vernacular. In the act of reading and seeing Ligon’s late 20th century prints, the viewer must also consider the context and history of the original, personal, heart-wrenching, realistic and persuasive accounts of slavery. Correspondingly, Ligon tells of his own life and stresses the truth of this kind of honest and suggestive autobiography. Some are almost identical to actual titles of slave narratives, and others are evocative of adventure, suffering and sex.

To anyone who is not familiar with Ligon’s work I highly recommend purveying his repertoire to gain cogent insight into the most important and critical chapter in American history, a narrative that must be constantly questioned and scrutinized as we move forward in our fight for equality.

Nova Totius Terrarum Orbis Geographica Ac Hydrographica Tablua auct: Iud: Hondio. A Paris Par Melchior Tavernier au Lisle du Palais A 1630.

This old world map wall mural is an enlarged reproduction of cartographer Henricus Hondius’ 1630 world map. The decorative map was first published in the 1630 edition of the Mercator-Hondius Atlas. Surrounding the map’s hemispheres are beautifully hand-colored engravings depicting portraits of Ptolemy, Mercator, Julius Caesar, and Hondius. Also bordering the ornate map are representations of the Earth’s natural elements including fire, represented by Apollo driving the Sun’s chariot; Aeros, the goddess of air, surrounded by clouds and birds; Mother Earth, surrounded by animals; and water represented by a siren and sea monsters.


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Suntelia, Unbound

Suntelia, Unbound is a descriptive, scene-oriented poem about a journey through Ancient Greece and all of the landmarks and themes this evokes. It was inspired by Heraclitus’s quote about the ever-changing nature of life (quoted in the final line) and the concept of final causes versus the impossibility of an ending, as expressed by Spinoza. I alternate between the use of telos and suntelia, two different Greek notions of an end, but emphasize the latter (see in the title and Scene VI) as I feel it is more meaningful in the context of the poem.  The main theme is a sense of an unbound ending, a Spinozan immanence, and also alludes to before the crucifixion in the gospel according to St. Matthew, where the word suntelia is written in reference to becoming unbound from the earth in the second coming.


Scene I :

Nafplio. Footsteps pressed by epochs past rise over the Acropolis. A breeze from the Argolic sprays lifts beyond the scalloped shore. From heaven’s height the moon glow dips to dance in the swells of the earth. Human feet pedal upwards to mount the Palamidi steps, rising and longing. Yet the moon shines on the Elms and in their earnest stillness, the swirls of the sea recede again. The tides fall back. Order is restored. And the footsteps begin their descent.

Why stay we on the earth unless to grow?

Scene II :

Athens. An empty court of sepulchral stones. Tablets of the Law thrown down. Cast to the mountain’s base, likes the stone of anathema. Cleric muttering: The sordid ricochet of censure – Niddui folds into Chērem. The gravel of a final cause, and the echo of diaphanous truth unseen and sancrosanct. Stigmatas printed in the canvas of skin, inscribed to the Galatians. Ever present, ever brooding, our fair End is never far away. And yet that does not keep Man from searching.

There is no telos on the ground.

Scene III :

Lampasacus. Eunuchs wander through candle lit walls; their shadows escape them. Holy is the place where thoughts arise unsought. Bedchamber attendants bow and stand. Theophylact of Ohrid ; these truths sift through forgotten sighs. The sun turns freely and time wanes behind the dipping moon. All entities move but nothing remains still, save for the clockwork of the stars.

In the Harem of the Holy Place, all good men doth lie.

Scene IV :

Constantinople. A table stretches beneath folded hands. The abbot sits on his axis of Reason in a monastery that bounds itself from the bedlam. Outside monks shift in cloaks, brushing softly with pacing thighs. The moonlight circles out to cast its glow on the backstreets of the jilted. A crowd spills into the pale-cloaked streets. Cleaving to civic, they rule and forage their way through the very corners of deceit. A stampede to illuminate truths, ruined truths that retreat unarmed yet always ready.

There they recoil to a stasis unfound.

Scene V :

Cadmea. A jail beneath the acropolis of Thebes. Enclosed chambers of dampening Time. Feeble limbs sprawled beneath concaved chests. Hollowed dreams beget tomorrow’s trials. Seasoned in their credence, they are further dragged to the destitute Nature of Man. Each the same, yet here they live and die. Forsaken in parallel corridors, vis-à-vis dredging cells. A guard appears on the outside wall :

His is a shadow fixed in sight.

Scene VI :

Suntelia, Unbound. The sky radiates downwards where the horizons drains the land. No stone left unturned. The echo cannot sound without a wall. The moon glares into the writhing sea, it douses itself in a thrashing waltz, puling the earth nearer, skirting Time at nigh. The moonlight glows and murmurs, its phantom waves surround us:

i. Why stay we on the earth unless to grow?

ii. There is no telos on the ground.

iii. In the Holy Place all good men lie.

iv. Truths recoil to a stasis unfound.

v. A shadow fixed in sight.

vi. πάντα χωρεῖ καὶ οὐδὲν μένει

[All is in flux and nothing abides.]

Retrospective Comparisons: Francis Bacon After Ingres

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The neoclassical paintings of Ingres and the nightmarish renditions of Bacon have, a priori, nothing in common. Ingres’ suavity of outline and extraordinary control of parallel hatchings are stark antipodes to the fragmented and inevitably tortured style of Bacon. Yet Bacon had an affinity for Ingres’ sensual treatment of the body, an anatomical execution that was bereft of warped reconstruction. Bacon also shared his fascination with Antiquity, hence why he rendered his own version of Oedipus explains the riddle of the Sphinx (1805). The canvas version by Ingres depicts the triumph of human intelligence. It shows the Greek hero, Oedipus, in the guise of a majestic naked athlete, calmly confronting the monster, whose tilted head symbolizes submission. In Bacon’s version, Oedipus and the Sphinx after Ingres (1983), the roles are reversed. Like Ingres, Oedipus is painted in profile, but this time he is wounded: blood smears a bandage wrapped around his leg. A winged creature, depicting an Erinys, emerges from the dark background. Erinyes, also known as a Furies, were female chthonic deities of vengeance sometimes referred to as “infernal goddesses.” This Erinys is literally “Fury” incarnated, an agent of divine vengeance whose image contributes to the dramatic atmosphere of the scene for she is, too, covered in blood.

Bacon’s tableau is made ​​of multiple vanishing points. The vertical lines are not perpendicular to the ground, as can be seen from the slanted structure of the door. This gives the painting a very precarious, uneasy atmosphere. Primarily composed of rectangular and circular geometric forms, the room seems like a house of cards that could collapse at any time. Depth is created by the walls leaning backwards in perspective, yet the space in total is denied of dimension by the flat colors and lack of shadows. Everything is on the same plane. The framing is a medium shot, it is close to the action and fixates the viewers eyes Oedipus and the Sphinx, both of whom seem distorted into halves. The floor gives an impression of contra-plunging, while the characters are represented upright and head-on, accentuating the volatility of the work. Compositionally, it is in an interior space; symbolically, it is within the characters and the realm of action.

This scene can be divided into three zones: the left third of the table is the Sphinx area, the door is the area of ​​the Erynis and the remaining space is the Oedipus area. Oedipus and the Sphinx are highlighted as they are the two main characters, yet Bacon reserves a sizable space for the Erynis, who represents the future, portending the fate of Oedipus’ self-cursing oath, and is thus also important.

Pink and beige are the predominant colors. Rather light tones, they create an atmosphere of serenity. However, the three red spots: on the foot of Oedipus, the Sphinx’s head, and the mutating swirl of Erynis, combined with the black wall behind the door disrupt the serenity. Pink is painted thickly on the walls, a solid application reinforced by a violent spattering of red blood. At this point, a blue ellipse highlights Oedipus bloodied foot. The blue and red give this table an incisive violence. Merely degraded shapes, the bodies of Oedipus and the Sphinx form enough to materialize, but no further technique is devoted to their representation.

Interestingly, these same colors are present in the Ingres painting. However the subtle, nuanced layering technique of colors so gracefully mastered by Ingres are not reused by Bacon: his colors appear more vibrant and bleak despite their pastel tones. Unlike Ingres, who uses a clear contrast between shadow and light, Bacon seems to bathe his subjects in light and flatten the dimensions of space. The light is artificial and has no defined source, which cancels the shadows of objects and bodies. It puts Oedipus and the Sphinx on the same plane creating a foreign proximity and brightness reminiscent of a theater stage, thus bringing modernity to the scene.

The Sphinx is located on a pedestal on the left side of the table, like a statue or work of art, but is in motion. It is asexual, impossible to identify, anonymous. A red spot covers his face, representing the violence and danger of the creature. His figure is in profile but its face seems to swivel, looking simultaneously at Oedipus and the viewer. Thus in challenging the viewer, the “Man,” it succinctly answers the riddle.

The heavy stature of Oedipus contradicts the soft curves of Ingres’ Romanticist depiction. He wears sports clothes: blue shorts and a white wifebeater. It is a modern and simple outfit, bearing no individuality. Like the Sphinx, he has a blurred face. Bacon uses shades to outline the idea of ​​human face while avoiding identification. By becoming irrecognisable, the bloody foot characterizes Oedipus. The myth redefines the man. His right leg is lifted as if sprung to span a hedge, a haphazard yet recognizable image of an athlete. His foot lands painfully on a pedestal as if seeking to reach the level of the Sphinx watching him. The creature asks about his own humanity, in essence, asks a riddle whose answer is Man. Indeed, Bacon here evokes the postwar man who questions the violence he is capable of. The artist adapts this scene of the Oedipus myth to a more modern philosophical question. It created a connection between a myth of antiquity and a new problem, a reactive composition that renders the myth timeless and contemporary. Our attention is drawn by the blue ellipse surrounding the foot. It reminds us to observe the original disability. Oedipus is injured, it is no longer the embodiment of human intelligence that Ingres so defines. The two blood stains can be an advertisement of gesture that clots the tragedy of character: in its illumination it is, quite literally, blindingly obvious, further reflected in the tarnished Erynis in the center.

The Erynis personifies the curse cast by someone and is responsible for punishing crimes during the life of the actor. Her face is even more vague and indistinguishable than the Oedipus and the Sphinx. It fuses a gray and blue spattered doused in bloody shades of red. One manages to make out two round ears and muzzle, thus pointing her regard in the direction of Oedipus. Indeed we guess she is here to punish homicide he committed against his family and incest. Often represented with blood in her eyes, her bloody exterior has a dual symbolism: it allows us to identify the character but also declares the fate of the Oedipus. The Erynis is at the same coordinate as the foot of Oedipus, but above. This placement directs the destiny towards which she carries Oedipus, ironically up to the depths of the Underworld.

Everything in this table works to ultimately discomfort the beholder: the lack of nature and, certainly, of humanity in the morphed forms, the violence of color, lines and sudden treatment of key elements such as the faces and the foot of Oedipus. It opposes the work of Ingres, who built a very refined image to respond to a classical ideal, and evokes a modernist imbalance and shocking violence. For Ingres, this scene is only yet a pretext for the representation of the ideal male body, while for Bacon, one is faced with a reinterpretation of the myth which aims to expose and to reflect on the monstrosity of the postwar Man.  Ingres presents a perfect past time, whereas Bacon confronts us with a present tense that is in every sense of the word, imperfect.

David Shaw’s “Beam” at 33 Orchard Gallery


Untitled #6 (Knot paintings), 2015, Burnt found plywood, wood, holographic laminate, paint, 36 x 38 ¾ x 2 in.

Jane Kim is pleased to present David Shaw’s first exhibition at 33 Orchard, Beam, opening Sunday, November 22nd from 6 – 8 pm. The exhibition of new work includes a large-scale wood and glass sculpture, wood paintings with holographic laminate, and a single photograph. 

Shaw plays with the edges of material reality. With an influx of ideas, dialectics, and a nod toward neurochemistry, he materializes epistemological questions of matter and consciousness in sculpture. The works themselves are in constant dialogue, poised in a visual interplay between Nature and Man; a complicated relationship wherein our desire for control faces the natural stages of entropy making the raw and symbolic, the cosmological and subatomic, visible all at once. Using mostly discarded, found wood, blown glass, and a holographic laminate, metonymic symbols of building, structure, and domestication become emotional components with a modern twist, transmuted yet recognizable.

Such material contradictions are vital to Shaw’s craft. Organic elements such as tree branches suggest the figure, while blown glass and fabricated moss introduce notions of time. The result is a rupture in the distinction between solidity and consciousness. Most notably, Shaw uses holographic laminate with these materials, invoking a fourth dimension for the viewer: a seemingly psychedelic, “neuro-synaptic, quantum-chemical portal” through reality. The result can be a dazzling spectacle rendered in a palette of refracted colors and reflective surfaces, or a simple juxtaposition of elemental matter, leaving viewers in a transcendent state between grasping and release. 

Leak, a reclaimed crossbeam from a barn, sprawls on the gallery floor. This fallen figure, now a symbol of disintegrating domestication, acts as a nurse log to the branch growing out its side. A long teardrop of glass expresses pain as well as rebirth and renewal, while large glass bubbles buoy and anthropomorphize its latent potential. The Knot Paintings show a sophisticated level of communication across dimensions. The holographically laminated holes in the scorched, found plywood radiantly suggest passages to other purlieus: quantum, cosmological and emotional. Finally, First Light a photograph taken shortly after the death of a close friend is an acknowledgment of energy released. The image is both an explosive symbol of daybreak, and simultaneously contains the terrifying beauty and rupture that occurs when one loses the love of another human being.

David Shaw was born in 1965 in Rochester, New York, and lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.  He received his BA in Fine Arts from Colgate University in 1987. In 1990, the artist joined Feature Inc., and showed there extensively until the passing of Hudson in 2014. He is a recipient of the Peter S. Reed Foundation Award (2015) and the Nancy Graves Foundation Award for Visual Artists (2008). His work is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, NY and the Artphilein Foundation in Vaduz, Liechtenstein. His exhibition Dear Everything, is currently on view at Jeff Bailey Gallery, Hudson, New York through December 6, 2015.

MNEMOSYNE: de Chirico & Antiquity at Helly Nahmad Gallery


Helly Nahmad Gallery’s new show “MNEMOSYNE: de Chirico & Antiquity” celebrates a modern master’s artistic return to classical antiquity. Displayed alongside a carefully curated selection of Greek and Roman antiquities, de Chirico’s lesser known, Neo-Classicist paintings illuminate the very works that inspired them. From marble statues of gods and muses, triclinium mosaics, bronze figurines and armor, Attic Greek vases, and even a gold funerary mask, each artifact predates the fifth century AD. Individually juxtaposed with de Chrico’s post-Surrealist paintings, their ancient, classical forms don a contemporized presence in the space


(Roman gold bracelet with a hunting scene, 2nd – 3rd Century A.D.)

The show is named after Mnemosyne, the Greek goddess of memory, the mother of the Muses, and, symbolically, memory itself personified. Thus this exhibition pays homage to her, to the art of remembrance, as it illustrates how fastidious retrospective inspiration can result in a markedly avant-garde body of work.
The outcome of this, a veritable conflation of two worlds into one, is a rare treasure to behold – for excitable philhellenists and contemporary art lovers alike.

“Mnemosyne” will be on display until December 23rd. Due to the fragility and value of the works, attendance must be limited and large groups will not be admitted without prior consent. Helly Nahmad Gallery is located on 975 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10075.

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 (Giorgio de Chirico, Gladiateurs et fauves, 1928; Italic Bronze Cuirass, 4th Century B.C).

“Unorthodox” : The Jewish Museum’s New Show

“Unorthodox does not comment on Jewish religious orthodoxy or critique it, but takes its inspiration from the Jewish tradition of dialogue and debate to investigate the impact of unorthodox concepts on orthodox systems. Unorthodox aims to break with a cultural and artistic uniformity that has developed over the last century among artists and museums, proposing a nonconformist engagement with art as a means to disrupt the status quo.” – Jens Hoffman, Deputy Directory of the Jewish Museum.

Valeska Soares’ poignant new installation entitled “Time Has No Shadows” draws from the subjectivity of time and language, and the diasporic nature of Jewish migration and resettlement. In this piece, poetic texts spatter the carpet in spiral shapes, each polished with a pocket watch dangling above. Subtly-altered, these antique watches add to the elliptical tales and manifold histories of these timeworn items and thus prompt the question of who once carried them. Displayed in the lobby of the museum, the installation invites visitors to contemplate their own narratives as a palliative introduction to the diverse array of objects inside.

Valeska Soares  detail of Ouroboros, 2014 Unique antique pocket watch with hand removed, gold chain-mounted on brass, track mechanism 90 in. diameter, variable length Credit: Artwork © Valeska Soares, digital image © Charles Benton

Valeska Soares
detail of Ouroboros, 2014
Unique antique pocket watch with hand removed, gold chain-mounted on brass, track mechanism
90 in. diameter, variable length
Credit: Artwork © Valeska Soares, digital image © Charles Benton

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Etchings and Engravings about Neptune and other Sea Motifs (XIV – XVIII Centuries)

  1. Neptune
    Print made by Francesco Curti
    After Guercino
  2. Print made by Simone Cantarini
    ‘Quos ego’: Neptune and Pluto, with Jupiter above, pay homage to the arms of Cardinal Borghese held by putti on a cloudAN00069056_001_l
  3.  Print made by Daniel Marot I (biographical details | all objects)
    Water; an elaborate vignette showing Neptune riding the sea in a chariot surrounded by a fountain embellished with monstrous fish, a net and anchors
    Etching    AN00231530_001_l
  4. Print made by Antonio Zaballi
    After Laurent Pécheux
    Neptune standing naked holding a trident. 1755AN00476348_001_l
  5. After Jan Collaert I
    Jewel design with Neptune flanked by two nereids holding bulrushes riding a seamonster. 1582
  6. Print made by Giulio Bonasone
    Plate 19; Vulcan, Neptune, Athena and other Gods making shackles to pull Jupiter from the heavens; from a series of twenty-two engravingsAN00041425_001_l-1
  7. Print made by Francisco Vieira ‘Lusitano’
    Neptune pursuing Coronis; Minerva interposes herself and turns Coronis into a crow; Cupid in right upper corner, seascape in the background and tablet with dedication in bottom left corner.
  8. Print made by Valerio Spada
    Meteorology; Juno in her chariot floats on clouds, Neptune rides his sea-horses below, illustration to the ‘Sapientiae Pignus Amabile’.
  9. Published by Adriaen Collaert
    1610 (circa)
    Title-page; strapwork cartouche surmounted by Neptune holding a trident with other sea motifs; first state with address of Adriaen Collaert. c.1610AN00063548_001_l
  10. Dürer The Sea Monster
    c. 1498
    Engraving, 246 x 147 mm
    Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York023
  11. Print made by Giovanni Antonio da Brescia
    After Marcantonio
    Neptune quelling the winds and calming the waves; a reversed copy of the central panel of Marcantonio’s ‘Quos Ego’
  12. After Marcantonio
    After Raphael
    Reversed copy of central tondo in upper fireze of the Quos Ego showing Neptune surrounded by signs of the houses of the heavens
  13. Print made by Cornelis Schut
    Neptune drawn by two horses at centre, Amphitrite (?) at left, three putti in top centre


Photo of Max Ernst’s studio in Huismes, 1961

“The sculpture originates in an embrace, two-handed like love itself. It is the most simple, the most primeval art.” -(Max Ernst Retrospective, p. 295).
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For Ernst, the allure of sculpture was its mutability; a three-dimensional canvas for his imagination. Beginning with his Dada movement in Cologne, Ernst furthered his sculptural work under the influence of friend and fellow sculptor Alberto Giacometti. Together they spent the summer sculpting and painting granite blocks. After a brief return to his more primitive experimentation of casting in the United States, he arrived to find the post-war Parisian art scene drastically changed. Nevertheless, he was met with fame and fortune, albeit short-lived, winning the grand prize for painting in the 1954 Venice Biennale. As a result, he was snubbed from the Surrealist movement by the bitter André Breton, who was splenetic over Ernst’s sudden success. Shortly after, Ernst and his wife Dorothea Tanning escaped to a picturesque farmhouse Huismes. Under this new tranquil setting Ernst created some of the most irenic and beautiful works. Using his own frottage and decalcomania techniques, he was able to transform shapes of quotidian objects (flowerpots, containers, shells, etc.) into anthropomorphic sculptures of raw poetry, humor, and symbolic power. Thus became his trademark: a synthesis of tribal artistic traditions and a playful, even ingeniously provincial, approach to creating form.

Frederik the Great’s Neue Palais in Potsdam

After Prussia’s unprecedented victory in the Seven Years War, Frederik the Great wanted to attribute the construction of Neue Palais as a ‘fanfaronade’ to his kingdom’s legacy. In order to illustrate the strength and cultural enlightenment of Frederik’s reign through architecture, the palace is a vast, ornate, 18th-century splendor built from marble, stone and gilt. Inside are lavish, rococo interiors, hung with numerous paintings. In fact there is an exquisite painting gallery comprised solely of works Frederik collected over his lifetime as an itinerant patronage of culture. Pictured here is the palace’s stunning curved colonnade, decorated with statuary and obelisks. It acted as a state entrance and as a screen to shield the view of the marshlands beyond.

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