Tag Archives: Atlanta

Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks

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Late in the 1980s, burgeoning New York art collector Larry Warsh acquired a series of eight, common composition notebooks from members of a seemingly-defunct and little-known band called “Gray.” Those notebooks sat boxed in a closet of Warsh’s Manhattan apartment for more than 25 years. Now they are on a touring exhibition from the Brooklyn Museum, with stops at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, and the Pérez Art Museum in Miami, and the books are likely reaching a much bigger audience than the band ever attracted back at C.B.G.B.’s in 1980.

Of course, these aren’t just any notebooks. “Gray” isn’t just any band born in the Bowery. And it turns out that Larry Warsh is a damn good judge of groundbreaking art.

The sparsely-filled books contain years of hand-written notes by revolutionary artist Jean-Michel Basquiat and they seem to offer a peep-hole in to the mind of that unconventional genius. This exhibit presents pages from the notebooks alongside a selection of his larger compositions, providing the visitor an in-depth exploration of the Basquiat lexicon that is both verbal and visual.

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View from the Basquiat exhibition at the High Museum of Art.

Basquiat started the band, eventually called “Gray” with performance artist Michael Holman in 1979. They, with various other bandmates, played their ambient/industrial music at the usual downtown haunts, but with growing recognition of his visual artistic talent, Basquiat left the band in mid 1980. It was right about then his career seemed to lasso a shooting star and the artist struggled to hold on tight for as long as he could.

Surviving band members reunited to play at Basquiat’s memorial service in 1988 and again more recently for art happenings and music festivals. In 2011 they even released a “new” album “Shades of…” which includes cuts of  the late Basquiat’s voice and music.

GRAY – SHADES OF… from Plushsafe Records.

 

But this is about the notebooks…

View from the Basquiat exhibition at the High Museum of Art.

Since the beginning, Basquiat’s artistic efforts have focused on words and short phrases. The SAMO@ graffiti he perpetrated with school friend Al Diaz in the late seventies often seemed like excerpts of Beat poetry.

MICROWAVE & VIDEO X-SISTANCE
“BIG MAC” CERTIFICATE
FOR X-MAS
-SAMO©

Even after his painting evolved from street walls, to paper and fabric, to canvas and wood installations, these words and phrases infiltrated every aspect of Basquiat’s artwork. In fact they seem to be the actual essence of it, merely enhanced by the more visually dominant graphic elements.

Basquiat – Untitled, 1982–83. Oilstick, colored pencil, crayon, and gouache on paper mounted on canvas. Collection of Fred Hoffman.  Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat.

This first major exhibition of the books displays 160 pages of the artist’s personal writings, sketches and notes, accompanied by other drawings, paintings and historical Basquiat ephemera. The pages on display often reveal a kind of evolution on many of the subjects he used in his more extensive paintings, along with those iconic motifs like figures, faces and crowns.

Page from Basquiat notebooks – Famous Negro Athletes.

Basquiat drawing – Famous Negro Athletes, 1981, oil stick on paper. Collection of Glenn O’Brien.

 

Basquiat developed a unique way of using language the way other artists used paint, or filmmakers use footage. The notebooks seem to be like mental scrapbooks for the artist to collect and manipulate phrases and ideas.

The exhibit presents them as “autonomous works” and not the “preparatory studies” of a sketchbook. But they do have a sketchbook feel to them, only these sketches are made with words instead of line and shadow.

This brings me back to the Beat Poets, and Kerouac in particular. On the back cover of my copy of the book: “Jack Kerouac Book of Sketches“, (Pengiun 2006), it says:

“…Ed White mentioned to Jack Kerouac ‘Why don’t you just sketch in the streets like a painter but with words.’ White’s suggestion is credited with helping to inspire Kerouac’s move to spontaneous prose.”

Here’s an excerpt from a Kerouac “sketch” in Massachusetts.

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Concord River RR
Bridge
Sunday Oct 24 ’54
Lowel
5 PM
     A ridiculous NE
tumbleweed danced
across the RR bridge
     Thoreau’s Concord
is blue aquamarine
in October red
sereness — little
Indian hill towards
Walden, is orange
brown with Autumn
The faultless sky
attests to T’s solemn
wisdom being correct
— but perfect wisdom is Buddha’s

—————-

Many of these Basquiat notebook pages have a very similar feel…

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Basquiat – from Untitled Notebook #2, 1980–1981 – Collection of Larry Warsh, Copyright © Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Photo: Sarah DeSantis, Brooklyn Museum.

 

Just as other collage artists like Ray Johnson and Robert Rauschenberg collected little snippets physically from newspapers, letters and trash piles, to later assemble and re-arrange in their artworks, – Basquiat seems to have been collecting these snippets verbally instead. He collected them in the notebooks by writing them down when he read them, heard them, witnessed them, or just thought them up.

While many lines are filled with these intriguing collections of phrases, and developing ideas, other pages do indeed feel more like finished works of art on their own.

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Basquiat –  Untitled Notebook Page, circa 1987 – 

Collection of Larry Warsh. Copyright © Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Photo: Sarah DeSantis, Brooklyn Museum.

Looking closely at the intricate structures of words and lines on the pages, one can hardly resist recalling the obvious influences of seasoned contemporaries like Rauschenberg and Cy Twombly.

Basquiat – detail from page of Notebook #4 – Collection of Larry Warsh.

In addition to these rarely seen notebook pages, some of the more emblematic Basquiat works are traveling with the show. These larger compositions, canvasses and collages add a pleasing compliment to the exhibition.

Views from the show at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta.

Some of the most precious little items in the show are the rare mementos of the artist’s life, such as the Brooklyn Museum Junior Membership Card signed by a young Jean-Michel Basquiat.

And the unforgettable Polaroid photograph by cohort Andy Warhol.

Jean Michel – Basquiat Polaroid 1982 – by Andy Warhol on loan from private collection, seen at The High Museum of Art.

These additions provide a much wider scope for viewing the artist’s work, making this a unique opportunity for both longtime aficionados, and Basquiat newbies alike.

As notebook owner Larry Warsh expressed so perfectly in an April, 2015 Q&A article for Departures by Laura van Straaten:

“No one can have a complete picture of the inner workings of any artist, but the words on these pages give us a glimpse of the soul behind this complex, creative persona.”

While I highly recommend attending this exhibition if you can, I can’t help myself from wondering what else Warsh might have stashed in that closet of his…

Tour Schedule :

Brooklyn Museum, New York

April 3–August 23, 2015

High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia

February 28–May 29, 2016

Pérez Art Museum Miami, Florida

August 8–October 23, 2016

 

Links, Sources & Recommended reading:

 

Departures: “Q&A: Larry Warsh On Basquiat’s Notebooks” by Laura van Straaten

Financial Times: “Larry Warsh on his approach to collecting” by Peter Aspden

Gray History from the website of Michael Holman

http://plushsaferecords.com/

http://www.basquiat.com/artist-timeline.htm

The SAMO© Graffiti photographed by Henry Flynt

https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/exhibitions/touring/basquiat_notebooks http://www.high.org/Art/Exhibitions/Basquiat-Notebooks http://pamm.org/exhibitions/basquiat-unknown-notebooks

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TEXT AND PHOTOS BY LANCE ARAM ROTHSTEIN (except where noted.)

 

 


Vik Muniz Retrospective at High Museum

By guest contributor Karen Rothstein.

Now on exhibit until August 21, 2016 at The High Museum of Art in Atlanta, is a retrospective including more than 100 photographs by the Brazilian born mixed media artist Vik Muniz.

He has such a warm and enthusiastic manner. At the media preview, he expressed his overwhelming joy at seeing museum-goers actually taking close-up notice of all the unorthodox materials he used to create his artworks. Even the youngest child can find something in his work that brings them pleasure and perhaps engages them into taking an interest in the world of Art.

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The writer, Karen Rothstein with artist Muniz in front of his Self-Portrait: “I Am Too Sad to Tell You”, after Bas Jan Ader, from the “Rebus” series.

Muniz is known for trying to create a sense of wonder and intrigue within his photography. The way he creates each piece is unique, adding a plethora of unconventional items in the process of making each finished photograph. These things that you might be familiar with in their proper place, will all come as a surprise in his art. Things such as: tiny childhood toys, garbage, torn pieces of magazines, diamonds, food of all sorts, etc…. It is easy to see the artist has a playful sense of humor. The different textures and sizes of his working canvasses make each finished photograph very unique. For example, one project included large-scale drawings made by bulldozers on a construction site, while other images were made by assembling small pieces of garbage or tiny toys and then photographing them from above, to reveal the intended scene that he pictured in his head before it all started. Be sure to watch the video in the gallery, showing how he created “Mother and Child” from the “Pictures of Garbage” series.

Vik Muniz – Mother and Child  (Suellen)  from “Pictures of Garbage” series.

Muniz often makes several works in a series, using similar materials to explore a common theme, materials that often trigger the viewer’s memory, recalling another time and place.

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Vik Muniz – “Double Mona Lisa” (Peanut Butter and Jelly) from “After Warhol” series.

Vik Muniz – “Saturn devouring one of his sons” after Goya, from “Pictures of Junk Series.”

Vik Muniz – “Vik, 2 Years Old,”  from Pictures of Album series (representing one of the few pictures from his childhood)

Before moving to New York as a young man, Muniz was brought up in a working class family in Brazil while the country was under a strong military regime. People couldn’t speak their mind and times were hard. To this day he stands up for the underdog and addresses issues of social justice, and several of the works on display express the depth of his feelings.

 

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Vik Muniz – “George Stinney, Jr.” from “Pictures of Album” series  (Stinney was convicted at a flawed trial in 1944 at the age of 14 in South Carolina.)

 

Vik Muniz – Six children from the “Sugar Children” series (Children from sugar plantation workers who played in the sand on the Island of St. Kitts).

Muniz really loves to use all different textures and is intrigued with color pigmentation as seen in his wonderful rendering of Gauguin’s “Day of the Gods”. Look close, the colors and textures comes to life.

Vik Muniz – “Mahana No Atua” (Day of the Gods), after Gauguin, from “Pictures of Pigment” series.

Muniz is primarily working in series these days, but he started out in the 80’s doing sculpture. A fine example is on display, be sure to few his Mnemonic Vehicle (Ferrari Berlinetta) a composite of polyurethane, plexiglass and aluminum, portraying a nearly life-size Ferrari automobile as a massive matchbox car.

The Artist is a true master of creativity and composition, his work has been on display the world over. He currently works in  New York City and Rio de Janeiro.

This exhibit is a wonderful one and will make for great discussion with family and friends in days to follow.

Vik Muniz – A Bar at the Folies-Bergère after Édouard Manet, from the Pictures of Magazines 2 series.

The Vik Muniz exhibition runs through August 21, 2016 at The High Museum of Art in Atlanta. Visit www.high.org for more info.


Abelardo Morell’s Universe Next Door at High Museum Atlanta

ABELARDO MORELL’S UNIVERSE NEXT DOOR AT HIGH MUSEUM OF ART – ATLANTA

Review by Labeauratoire US Correspondent Karen Nurenberg Rothstein

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The photography exhibition, “The Universe Next Door” is now on view at The High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia through May 18, 2014. It includes more than 100 works that span Abelardo Morell’s career from 1986 through the present-time.

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Abelardo Morell – Camera Obscura: Manhattan View Looking South in Large Room
1996, Gelatin silver print.

Abelardo Morell was born in Havana, Cuba in 1948. He fled with his family in 1962, but before he left Cuba he saw many atrocities. His life was turned upside down by the things he lived through. These events have given him a great sense of depth and feeling which he has used in his work as a photographer.  Morell is especially known for his work with the camera obscura, but he got his early inspiration from great masters of street photography such as Robert Frank and Henri Cartier-Bresson. Bresson was an early adopter of the 35mm format camera, which Abelardo used primarily for some time, but with the birth of his children, he left the light weight 35mm camera and went to a heavier, large format model. He began to experience things in a different way after his children were born, and he used the large format camera to express that new found depth of meaning with contrasting light and dark expression in his work.

Unlike many other photographers, Morell doesn’t limit himself to one photographic style. There are several different visual avenues he explores, giving this exhibition a dynamic variety.

CHILDREN

Abelardo Morell shows us that you are never to old to experience things with the enthusiasm of a child. His children opened his eyes, allowing him to visualize things with a simplicity and wonderment, to go beyond what is plainly visible and to genuinely see and photograph the world in a different way. His work is indeed a magical mix between realism, surrealism and simplicity. Consider his photograph of a pencil. It is simply a pencil, but the morning shadows transform it into a magical tower.

Abelardo Morell – Pencil, 2000, Gelatin silver print.

One of the key images included in this exhibit shows the shadow of the artist’s house on the ground. A door, windows, and a fence have been drawn into the image, and his children pose, showing what might be going on inside or within. Reality merges with imaginary.

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Abelardo Morell – Laura and Brady in the Shadow of Our House, 1994, Gelatin silver print

SURREALISM

In “Still Life with Wine Glass”, which is a photogram, Morell has positioned the objects as a still-life. But with his artful magic and the use of water and glass, the result is surreal. The perspective is distorted, forcing the viewer to focus on the objects he has brought to the foreground.

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Abelardo Morell – Photogram on 20″ x 24″ Film, 2006, Gelatin silver print.

Morell also has a great talent for showing excitement. He is able to capture the unique behaviors and properties of motion, and several photographs in this exhibit are good examples of this talent. The “Motion Study-Hammer” gives the illusion that a hammer is coming down to hit the nail on the head, but in reality it is three impressions of a hammer in lead.

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Abelardo Morell – Motion Study of Hammer Impressions on Lead
2004, Gelatin silver print.

CAMERA OBSCURA

The Camera Obscura (Latin for “dark room”)  was one of the earliest methods of projecting an image. This was achieved by opening a small hole to allow light from the outside to penetrate into a darkened room. This technique would cast a faint, upside-down image of the outside scene onto the inside wall. This process helped early master artists such as Vermeer and dates back to the 10th century or perhaps even farther.

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Abelardo Morell – Camera Obscura: The Empire State Building in Bedroom
1994, Inkjet print.

In 1991, Morell started bringing the outside world inside with his use of the camera obscura. At home with his family was where he felt the most inspired, so he started blackening rooms of his house and, with his large format camera on a tripod, he set out to make the most enchanting and exciting photographs he had done in his life.

Using Kodak Tri-X film in a view-camera, these first camera obscura images required an exposure time of several hours. When the first image was developed it was an epiphany for him. The interaction between the projected, outside image, with the ordinary elements of the room inside, produced a truly unique mixture.

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Abelardo Morell – Camera Obscura: View of Central Park Looking North
Fall, 2008, Inkjet print.

Later, Morell started capturing these projections in color, and also devised a way to invert the image so that it would be seen right-side up. His retrospective at the High Museum displays the exciting evolution of these camera obscura photographs.

“A lot of my work tries to disorient you once you get invited in to something that seems normal.  I like to suggest that what may be empty is not. When you feel alone there is actually a lot more of the world coming into your space than you think.” 

– Abelardo Morell  –  http://shadowofthehouse.com/film.html

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Abelardo Morell – Camera Obscura:
View of Atlanta Looking South Down Peachtree Street in Hotel Room
2013, Inkjet print.

TENT CAMERA

The next venture for Morell was to make a portable camera obscura, and his “Tent Camera” was what came to materialize from this endeavor. With the help of a friend he placed a periscope on top of a darkened tent enabling him to project the outside images onto the ground inside, where there was already a natural canvas. With the advances in digital photography, the increased light sensitivity allowed Morell to make exposures more quickly.

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Abelardo Morell discusses the making of his image. Tent Camera Image on Ground:
View of the Golden Gate Bridge from Battery Yates, 2012, Inkjet print

“The added use of dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy on my cam­era lets me record visual moments in a much shorter time frame– for instance I can now get clouds and peo­ple to show up in some of the photographs.”

– Abelardo Morell  – http://www.abelardomorell.net/srcHTML/tent-camera-statement.html

Lib­er­ated now with his tent camera, he was free to experiment out in the world.

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Abelardo Morell – Tent-Camera Image on Ground: View of Old Faithful Geyser,
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, 2011, Inkjet print.

BOOKS, PAPER AND MONEY

In some of the other works on display, Morell uses a 35mm camera to capture his love for the simplicity of everyday things, such as Books, Paper and Money.  With this camera he achieves majestic close-ups, engaging the observer to realize the beauty in things we so often take for granted as mere objects.

In “Down the Rabbit Hole”, the rabbit, from “Alice in Wonderland,” struggles to peer down a hole made in a large book. This makes the viewer want to look inside and perhaps dream of what might be down there, and of possibilities to come.

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Abelardo Morell – Down the Rabbit Hole
(From Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland), 1998, Inkjet print.

In the image “Paper-Self” he has merely stacked up paper to create a profile of himself. The visual architecture of this photograph, with its detailed, contrasting highlights and shadows, is so well structured, it reveals his mastery and shows us the intricacy and pulchritude of his mind.

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Abelardo Morell – Paper Self, 2012, inkjet print.

PICTURING THE SOUTH

In 1996 the High Museum established “Picturing the South” an initiative commissioning established and emerging artists to make a body of work that would show off the south. Abelardo Morell is the latest artist to receive this commission. He chose for his subject matter, the trees of the southern landscape, and captured them in his somewhat whimsical, yet natural way.

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Abelardo Morell discusses his image: Cutout in Print with Pine Trees Behind
2013, Inkjet print

During Morell’s talk at the exhibition’s press conference, he describes his technique of hanging a large image of a wooded scene in front of the actual trees in the forest. He then cut out parts to expose the real landscape.

Like so much of this exhibition, this image offers us an interesting look into the way Morell continues to surprise us with each step he makes in his photographic journey.

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 “The Universe Next Door” runs through May 18, 2014 at The High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia.

LINKS:

High Museum Atlanta’s Website: www.high.org

Abelardo Morell’s Official Website: www.abelardomorell.net

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ALL TEXT AND “LABEAURATOIRE” PHOTOGRAPHS BY KAREN NURENBERG ROTHSTEIN
FOR LABEAURATOIRE ©2014

High Museum Atlanta hosts treasures from The Louvre & Tuileries Garden.

SEE PARIS ON PEACHTREE STREET!

Review by Labeauratoire US Correspondent Karen Nurenberg Rothstein

This week, I visited The Louvre and Tuileries Garden, an exhibit at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta Georgia, USA. It is showing through January 19, 2014. The Tuileries are on the must-see list of many who visit Paris. It is graced with Art that saturates the soul and bathes you in its beauty.

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The Tuileries started out as a private garden created by Catherine de Medici, as the garden of the Tuileries Palace in 1564. It was opened to the public for the first time in 1667. Later, after the French Revolution it was established as a public park and today it is still one of the focal points of the city.

The High Museum exhibit brings the wonders of The Tuileries to an American audience. It features more than 100 works, some never before seen outside of France.

If you get a chance, come down to Peachtree Street in Atlanta and take a walk through the picturesque, boxed holly trees in the High’s courtyard, and feast your eyes on bronze sculptures by Aristide Maillol, including “Mediterranean” (aka “Latin Thought”) 1923-1927.

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The Beauty in this piece lies in the simplicity of the work. The triangular limbs intertwine freely with one another to form the figure of a woman deep in thought.

Another Maillol bronze in the courtyard, “Venus with Necklace” 1928, is equally impressive. Don’t pass these by. Take the time to stop and enjoy their beauty.

Then, entering the ground floor of the exhibit, there are several more statues that leave you breathless. One example was François Joseph Bosio’s “Hercules Battling Achelous as Serpent” 1824 in Bronze.

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Another is the marble sculpture “Faun” by Antoine Coysevox from 1709.

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This has an adorable satyr on the opposite side.

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The second floor reveals the history of the Tuileries Palace and Garden. In addition to more sculptures, there are artifacts from the time of Catherine de Medici, including this “Mold for the bust of a Cloaked Woman” from the Workshop Of Bernard Palissy. ca. 1550-1570.

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Also included are items from the time of King Louis XIV, who expanded the garden, such as this wonderful tapestry “Procession of Louis XIV in front of the Tuileries Castle: October, The sign of The Scorption”  produced in the Gobelins Royal Manufactory (after a design by French painter Charles Le Brun.) This was one of 12 tapestries made to depict the French Royal House and the months of the year.

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This one represents October.  The zodiac sign is featured at top center and there are signs of autumn throughout. King Louis XIV is in the background with his procession, weaving through the Tuileries Garden away from the grand Palace.

There are several rooms to see on this floor, one of them provides comfortable seating to enjoy a contemporary video projected on three screens. This gives you the sensation of walking in the garden and passing people as they enjoy a lovely day in Paris. Do sit and take it in.

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Entering the third floor you see a large wooden model of the Louvre and the Tuileries Garden, in the background pictured on a partitioning wall is a scene filled with all the pageantry of a bygone era.

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Many artists were inspired by this great garden and its Tuileries Palace. My favorite painting is one by Pierre Tetar van Elven, a Dutch artist from 1828-1908.

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It is titled “Nighttime Party in the Tuileries, 10 June 1867, on the Occasion of Foreign Sovereigns to the World’s Fair ” 1867 (above), oil on canvas.  It really takes you into the lavish lifestyle.

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Several fabulous engravings and etchings are displayed. Especially interesting was this watercolor and etching on on laid paper (above) by an unknown artist from 1784. It documented the first manned flight in a hydrogen-filled balloon, which was launched from the Tuileries in December of 1783 by professor Jacques Charles with Nicolas-Louis Robert as co-pilot. They ascended to a height of about 1,800 feet and landed 2 hours and 5 minutes later.

Photography buffs will love the last room. It is filled with historic photos of the gardens by some of the great photographers of the world, including 13 prints by Eugène Atget, and others by Louis Vert, Andre Kertesz, Jaroslav Poncar and Henri Cartier-Bresson.

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“View from above the Tuileries Garden’s Parterre” 1975 by Henri Cartier-Bresson

"Merchant Selling "Coco" and toys in the Tuileries Garden" by Louis Vert circa 1900-1906, printed after 1930.

“Merchant Selling “Coco” and toys in the Tuileries Garden” by Louis Vert
circa 1900-1906, printed after 1930.

This is a once in a life time chance to experience the wonders and the beauty of The Louvre and Tuileries Garden right in your own backyard, Don’t miss it.

For more info visit http://www.high.org

The exhibition runs through January 19 in Atlanta and then will travel to the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio (Feb. 13-May 11) and the Portland Art Museum in Oregon (June 14- Sept. 28).

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All text and images by Karen Nurenberg Rothstein, a contributing writer for Labeauratore.


REVIEW: Girl with a Pearl Earring: Mauritshuis Masterworks at The High Museum Atlanta

Guest post by Karen Nurenberg Rothstein

Recently I had the pleasure of attending the Press Review for the exhibition: Girl with a Pearl Earring: Dutch Paintings from the Mauritshuis at the High Museum in Atlanta, Georgia, running through September 29, 2013

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This exhibit included Johannes Vermeer’s masterpiece “Girl with a Pearl Earring” along with 35 selected paintings by other 17th Century Dutch Masters such as: Rembrandt van Rijn, Jan Steen, Carel Fabritius and Frans Hals to mention a few. It is an extraordinary exhibit, and is the first time the “Girl with a Pearl Earring” has been viewed in the United States in 17 years. She has never before been exhibited in the Southeast.

Emilie Gordenker is director of the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis in The Hague, Netherlands. She traveled here with the exhibit and gave us a perspicuous idea of what it took to move these masterpieces and told of the renovation taking place at the Mauritshuis. This caused its closure until mid 2014, making it possible to lend such a large number of masterpieces at one time. When the presentation was over, all attending went up to view these prestiges works of art.

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Entering the exhibition you first see the Girl with the Pearl on a full panel wall as if to announce her presence inside, but before gazing into her eyes you’ll travel through four different genre of 17th century masterpieces: Landscapes, Still Lifes, Genre Scenes (scenes of everyday life), and Portraits. Each category will be a memorable one.

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Jacob van Ruisdael’s painting, “View of Haarlem with Bleaching Grounds” (oil on canvas ca. 1670–1675) was a most interesting painting because it revealed the historical techniques of bleaching linen, a major industry for Dutch Haarlem. The painting, which is viewed from atop the dunes, presents a scene looking down onto the fields, where strips of linen are spread out and basking in the sun after being soaked with buttermilk, a product that acted as bleach. Ruisdael excelled in Dutch landscapes, and it shows in his execution of light and dark tones which take your eyes where he wants to lead you. This artist has truly mastered the use of clouds, and it’s interesting that most landscapes of the time were done as sketches and then taken back to artists studios for painting. So getting these clouds to look as they do was truly a feat. Ruisdael leads the viewer’s eye from the fields of linen with workers, to the buildings where the fabric was soaked, onward to another field and upward to the city and the famed church of Saint Bavo with it’s steeple taking you up into the fabulous clouds of Heaven. Because Holland is a very low lying country, you’ll find that the sky took up 2/3 of most landscapes, giving clouds great importance. Take a bit of time to see how the clouds part, sending sunlight onto the canvas in the proper places. Today this patch of land, once covered with strips of linen, has been replaced by stripes of tulips.

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Pieter Claesz’s painting “Vanitas Still Life” (oil on panel 1630), shows a scene which includes a turned over glass, a burned out candle with an ever so delicate stream of fading smoke, a timepiece, and a pile of books with a scull and quill pen atop. The pictured items are all symbolic of time passing and would have carried an important and obvious moral message to the 17th century viewer. They would have seen this as a clear message: Don’t let vanity prevent you from leading a virtuous life. Claesz was a master at what he did, making each object he painted look so real, as if you could pick it right out of the painting. He was among the first to use muted colors, including shades of grey, brown, and yellow to achieve such a realistic effect. “Vanitas,” meaning “vanity” in Latin, was a genre of 17th century still-life painting portraying different collections of items which all held important moral symbolism. Each emphasized the transience of life and passing of time leading to inevitable death. There are several other examples of Vanitas in this exhibit. Many of the same objects appear in each of them, even though they are by different artists. This may seem strange, until one realizes the symbolism behind them.

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The Goldfinch by Carel Fabritius is a well known masterpiece and was conceived as a trompe l’oeil, meaning “deceives the eye.” This technique uses optical illusion to portray realistic images in a three-dimensional manner. In this exhibit the painting is framed, but it was originally intended to be hung high on the wall, perhaps even in an indented area, flush with the wall, appearing as a real pet on its perch. The brush strokes in the bird’s feathers make this famed little fellow look as if he just landed and has not yet settled his feathers. The Goldfinch is one of only several existing works by Carel Fabritius, as he came to a tragic death while in his studio painting, while still quite young. His death was caused by the well know explosion of the Delft powder magazine which destroyed most of the city of Delft in 1654. Many of his finished paintings were destroyed at the same time.

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Jan Steen, “As the Old Sing, So Twitter the Young”
Oil on canvas ca. 1668-1670
Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis

Jan Steen’s “As the Old Sing, So Twitter the Young,” is a wonderfully executed oil on canvas ca. 1668-1670. This masterpiece shows again, much of the symbolism which so often appeared in the paintings of the 17th century. When you first look upon this you might think it is just a merry family gathering, but looking closer one can see what the title implies, a family indeed showing bad judgement in their behavior. The objects and actions rendered by Steen tell us through the use of historic symbolism, that excessive drinking, smoking and a show of ones’ wealth, are not ways to lead a virtuous life, and sets a poor example for children. The grandmother falls right in alignment with the theme, for she is singing, and the words on the page are “zoo voer gesongen, soo na gepepen” which is a Dutch proverb meaning “what the parents do, the children will follow.” This painting takes a while to absorb, the artist has quite accurately shown why he is called a master in his field. Every item is minutely correct down to the luscious folds in the satin skirt and the softness of the velvet jacket worn by the mother wears. It is thought that this is the image of Steen’s wife. You can even see the coals in the foot warmer under her feet, and the little dog, who’s face is wonderfully filled with expression. The detail and color in this work is remarkable.

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Rembrandt Van Rijn – “Tronie” of a Man with a Feathered Beret
Oil on panel, ca. 1635-1640
Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis

Rembrandt van Rijn is represented in the exhibit by four works. The “Tronie” of a Man with a Feathered Beret, (oil on panel, ca. 1635–1640), shows a fine example of what a tronie is meant to be, a study that highlights facial expression and, if including a bust, most likely wears an exotic costume. Rembrandt made this type of work popular and in doing so, helped other artists of that period earn extra money by painting “tronies” when not working on a commissioned piece. This work is quite luxurious and shows that the artist was at times quite self-indulgent, for often he would use his own face for inspiration. The rich black of his cloak shows off the fabulous embroidered Gorget, which is a piece of armor originally worn in battle to protect ones neck, but here portrays wealth and distinction, as does the gold earring and fine feathered beret. Rembrandt also painted many self portraits and had them all over his studio. Many collectors bought exclusively portraits, while others liked having portraits of their favorite artists. There were so many because as he grew older he would have to keep them updated. There are more than 600 paintings, plus a multitude of sketches and drawings accredited to him. Along with his masterful brush technique, he expressed his feelings in his artwork and it shows. Rembrandt had a tragic life, the dark and depressing colors appeared in his paintings during the worst times. He was also known to be slightly sarcastic at times, in this painting the gentleman’s expression shows a bit of that feeling. Every stroke is placed with a precise eye for texture and detail.

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Vermeer – “Girl with a Pearl Earring”
Click photo to view a quality gallery image.

The “Girl with a Pearl Earring” (oil on canvas ca. 1665) is the most famous painting by this masterful artist, Johannes Vermeer. It is most likely what will bring viewers in hordes to this exhibit and it does captivate. When first seeing her, it’s the eyes that draw you in. Approach closer and you think she is looking directly at you. Then your attention is caught by the few illuminated strokes highlighting her eyes and lips and those that depict the legendary pearl. Those highlights are enhanced by Vermeer’s mastered effect of casting shadows. She can’t help but make you wonder who she might have been, for there is definitely a mystique about her. Her attire, from a different time period, is reminiscent of Vermeer’s early works, which were often biblical. She exhibits Vermeer’s technical talent, excessive use of paint and his fondness for cornflower blue and yellow pigments. There are only 36 paintings that can be definitively identified as genuine Vermeers. Only a few of those can be called a “tronie,” which in seventeenth century Dutch meant “face.” A tronie was not meant to be of any person in particular and usually sold on the open market. In 1881 art collector, Des Tombe bought the Girl for two guilder and 32 cents which today is about $1.50. He suspected it to be Vermeer’s work but couldn’t see a signature until after it was restored. What a purchase!

If you ever find yourself questioning why the paintings of the Dutch Masters have enjoyed almost 400 years of popularity, all you have to do is visit this exhibit. It will run through September 29, 2013.
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all text and images with “Labeauratoire” logo by Karen Nurenberg Rothstein  ©LABEAURATOIRE 2013

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Review: Frida & Diego at the High Museum Atlanta

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Frida & Diego exhibition at The High Museum.

Review: Frida & Diego at the High Museum Atlanta

Guest post by Karen Nurenberg Rothstein

I recently was submerged in a day of Passion, Politics and Paintings during a visit to the “Frida & Diego” exhibition at the High Museum in Atlanta, Georgia.

This is the largest collection of works by Mexican artists Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) and Diego Rivera (1886-1957) ever shown in the United States. It consists of about 120 works by the artists and includes many important photographs of them by several well-known photographers of the time (and some unknown photographers). If you are (or plan to be) in the area, don’t miss this wonderful exhibit running through May 12th, 2013.

Both artists are notorious for their communist beliefs as well as their passion for one another and for Mexico. While Frida is best known for her expressive self portraits of beauty and pain, and Diego is famous for his massive, politically charged murals, their range of talents far exceeded those preconceived molds and they supported each other’s work even when their relationship was turbulent and painful. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to peek into the couples’ tumultuous life and glimpse the full range of their talent.

Approaching the front of the High Museum from Peachctree Street, Frida’s well-known “Self-Portrait with Monkeys” entices all from a mural-sized announcement of the exhibit within. (see photo above)

Entering the lobby, you’re greeted by a life-sized, colorful “standee” of the dynamic couple that visitors can put their faces into for a memorable snapshot. It highlights the notable difference in their size and appearance.

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Frida & Diego exhibition at The High Museum.

When the elevator doors open on the exhibition, there they are: Frida and Diego blown-up on a freestanding wall and you are at once in their lives.

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Frida & Diego exhibition at The High Museum.

Beginning the exhibit are two self-portraits that really seem to encapsulate the stories of each artist.

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“Self Portrait with Wide Brimmed Hat” by Diego Rivera – 1907. On display at The High Museum.

In Rivera’s “Self-Portrait with Wide-Brimmed Hat,” (1907) we see a 21-year-old Diego projecting the rich mystique of bohemian Madrid. A four-year scholarship brought him from Mexico and afforded him access to the European avant-garde which proved very formative.

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“Self Portrait With Necklace” by Frida Kahlo – 1933. On display at The High Museum.

In Kahlo’s “Self-Portrait with Necklace,” (1933) she shows-off a string of vibrant, pre-Columbian, jade beads. Frida had an extensive costume jewelry collection, which figured prominently in her self-portraits. She loved bright clothes and used them to reflect the traditional dress and talents of her people and the place of her heart, Mexico. This painting was done while in Detroit as Diego was working on a mural at the Detroit Institute of Art.

The couple did not meet properly until a fateful party thrown by photographer Tina Modotti in 1928. Diego was 42 years old and had been painting since the age of 10. Frida was half his age and had just begun to discover painting while recovering from massive injuries resulting from a bus accident in 1926.

Rivera had been painting for more than 30 years before they came together, so the exhibit naturally begins with his earlier work. Surprisingly however, it continues to display the artist’s works in separate sections rather than showing their artistic progression side by side.

After 1907, Diego traveled around Europe, including a stop in Bruges, Belgium, where he studied the Flemish masters and met the Russian émigré artist, Angelina BeloffShe later became his companion and common-law wife when they set up residence in Paris around 1912. There, he eventually abandoned realist painting, and took up with the artists of the Cubist Movement. He did several well-known pieces in this style, some of which are included in this exhibit. A favorite of mine, although not the most widely known, is a 1915 oil on canvas called “The Flea Market.”

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“The Flea Market” by Diego Rivera – 1915. On display at The High Museum.

Also included in the exhibition is one of Diego’s most accomplished and better known works in Cubism, “Young Man with a Fountain Pen.”

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“Young Man with a Fountain Pen” by Diego Rivera – 1914.
On display at The High Museum.

Painted in 1914, it portrays his friend and fellow Mexican, Adolfo Best Maugard, who was also in Paris at the time. A year earlier, Diego did a more naturalistic painting of his friend. This portrait is not on exhibit but is pictured beside “Young Man with a Fountain Pen,” highlighting Rivera’s drastic shift in style toward Cubism.
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Another strong Cubist piece on show is “Knife and Fruit in front of Window,” from 1917.

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“Knife and Fruit in front of Window” by Diego Rivera – 1917.
On display at The High Museum.

It is said that this work “captures the vertical qualities of Paris” and was inspired by Paul Cézanne, who Diego admired. The round shapes and vivid fruit colors, contrast with the muted, angular, rooftops  to make this a lovely work. This moving piece was painted just three days after his firstborn son, Diego Junior had died, not yet two years old.

Another room displays some of Diego’s wonderful lithographs.

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“The Agrarian Leader Zapata” by Diego Rivera – 1932.
On display at The High Museum.

“The Agrarian Leader Zapata,” (1932) is a superb piece and reveals his political allegiances as does much of his work.

One of Rivera’s more famous murals is dramatically reproduced in a larger-than-life format among the lithos. Titled “In the Arsenal,” it is located in Mexico City at the Ministry of Education building and was painted in 1928. This mural has rich, bold colors and shows Diego’s activism as a member of the Mexican Communist Party.

Most of his murals portray his social and political beliefs, and this one is a fine example. Pictured in the painting are many of the people active in revolutionary Mexico at the time. In the center of this mural Frida Kahlo hands out guns to the workers. Other well-known activists depicted include Julio Antonio Mella, a founder of the “internationalized” Cuban Communist Party; Vittorio Vidale, an Italian-born Stalinist sympathizer; and Tina Modotti, an Italian photographer and revolutionary political activist.

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“In the Arsenal” (reproduction) by Diego Rivera – 1928. On display at The High Museum.

This piece really caught peoples’ attention at the High Museum.

In “Calla Lily Vendor,” (1943) an oil done on masonite (as several of the works in the exhibit are), Diego shows simple workers and every-day people. Many paintings done in the later years of his life turned to this style after the revolution was over.

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“Calla Lily Vendor” by Diego Rivera – 1943. On display at The High Museum.

In this one, you can see only the vendor’s arms and hat.  The Calla Lily is a recurring flower in Diego’s work. Some have proposed it is because he was influenced by Freud’s overtly sexual comparison to the female genitalia.

Perhaps Rivera’s most famous mural in the USA is one that was destroyed by Nelson Rockefeller, “Man at the Crossroads.” After commissioning the painting for his Rockefeller Center, the business magnate had it destroyed because Diego wouldn’t remove the image of the Communist leader Vladimir  Lenin. In 1934, Diego reproduced the mural in Mexico and called it “Man, Controller of the Universe.” In it were many well-known faces including Lenin and Leon Trotsky as well as Rockefeller holding a glass of champagne in one hand and a woman’s hand in the other (effectively portraying him as a drinking womanizer). Needless to say, Rockefeller was not pleased.  This recreated mural has a room all its own at the High. It is bold and quite fabulously exhibited. Take a while to examine it.

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“Man, Controller of the Universe” (reproduction) by Diego Rivera – 1934.
On display at The High Museum.

This final piece of Rivera’s work I have chosen is from his “Sunset” series of oil and tempera on canvas. It was painted in 1956, not long after Frida had died and Diego was diagnosed with cancer, a sad period in his life.  It reminds me of Vincent van Gogh’s work, the colors are wonderful and so striking.

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“Sunset” by Diego Rivera – 1956. On display at The High Museum.

Just one year later, in November of 1957, Rivera died in his Mexico studio.

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We now take a turn into Frida’s world and although for most of it, Diego and Frida are tumultuously intertwined, this painting called “The Bus” portrays an earlier time in her life.

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“The Bus” by Frida Kahlo – 1929. On display at The High Museum.

At age 18, after a pleasant day spent with a boyfriend, Frida and the young man boarded a bus for the journey home. In a life-changing accident, the bus collided with a streetcar and many were killed. Frida was found with a handrail piercing her body. Initially thought to be untreatable, she defied the odds but faced a long recovery in bed. During this time, she stopped studying to be a doctor and turned instead to painting. With paints given to her by her father (a photographer), she taught herself, creating many self portraits. Having a mirror attached to her bed, “Frida” was what she saw the most of.

“The Bus” an oil on canvas, was done in 1929 and shows Frida (at right) on the bus before it was hit. Seated beside her are a five others, portraying a range of people from Mexican society; a woman holding a shopping basket, a man in blue overalls, an indigenous woman dressed in rich colors, a young boy looking out the window and a well-dressed banker holding a sack of gold.  The museum’s multimedia guide suggests that the blue collar worker in bib overalls, may represent the man who actually removed the rail to help save her.

This accident caused her pain and heath problems throughout her life.

After marrying Diego in 1929, Frida accompanied him on many trips. In 1932-33 Rivera was commissioned to do his famous Detroit Industry frescoes and Frida went with him. Here she had a miscarriage, her second, and was admitted to the Henry Ford Hospital.

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“The Henry Ford Hospital” by Frida Kahlo – 1932. On display at The High Museum.

“The Henry Ford Hospital,” (oil on metal – 1932) is also known as “The Flying Bed.” It recalls one of the most traumatic moments in her life as she realized she couldn’t bear children and was hospitalized in a strange town. This is a small but horrifying look into Frida’s deep sadness. Frida is pictured lying in a pool of blood with six images surrounding the bed, all connected by red strands representing umbilical cords. The plaster female torso, the fetus, the snail, the machine, the orchid and the fractured pelvis, all symbolize aspects of the trauma she endured. She relied on her earlier medical training for some of the anatomical details. In the background, you can see the Ford family factories in the skyline of Detroit as she saw it. On the side of the bed are the words HENRY FORD HOSPITAL DETROIT.

Next I enjoyed these three works by Frida. They show her talent and versatility.

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“Portrait of Natasha Gelman” by Frida Kahlo – 1943.
On display at The High Museum.

The wonderful “Portrait of Natasha Gelman” is an oil on masonite from 1943. Natasha and her husband Jacques were supporters of Diego and Frida and accumulated a vast collection of Mexican art.

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“Lady Cristina Hastings” by Frida Kahlo – 1931.
On display at The High Museum.

This is a carefully and superbly executed colored-pencil drawing of Lady Cristina Hastings, done in 1931. She was the wife of Lord Francis Hastings. The couple often traveled with Frida and Diego in order to be close to great art. Frida liked Christina for her vibrant personality, and it is said that the two women likely had a romantic affair.

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“Still-Life with Parrot and Flag” by Frida Kahlo – 1951.
On display at The High Museum.

During another phase, Frida made several still-life paintings.  “Still-Life with Parrot and Flag”  is an oil on masonite from 1951. By this time, she was becoming quite weak and endured constant pain, though she was still able to execute this piece with great detail. It is said she turned to still-life because she wanted to see the beauty in life, for hers was so painful.
In 1950, Frida’s heath was deteriorating. She underwent several operations on her spine,  and after surgery, she wore this plaster cast which she painted.
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Many of Frida’s most famous self-portraits are shown together in this exhibition. “Self-portrait with Monkey” (oil on masonite – 1945) was my favorite in this room. In it, Frida shows herself with her favourite Xoloitzcuintli dog and her pet spider-monkey who peers out nervously from behind her shoulder. A pre-Columbian statue with a pensive appearance sits to the right and a golden ribbon connects them all with Frida’s signature and date encircled at top.

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“Self-portrait with Monkey” by Frida Kahlo – 1945. On display at The High Museum.

She painted many of her pets and loved having them with her, perhaps to take the place of the children she and Diego could never have.

She died in her sleep on July 13, 1954.

The last room displays an interesting array of photographs showing the couple together, with friends and separately. These are the four I chose to share:

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Frida Kahlo in her bedroom holding a baby goat. Photograph by Bernard Silverstein, 1940.

This bedroom is where Frida did so much of her work when she was ill.

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Frida with Cigarette in a photograph by Nickolas Muray, 1941.

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Frida and Diego at a Rally by an unknown photographer.

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Color photograph of Frida by Nickolas Muray – 1939.

Lastly, surrounded by these historic photographs, is a little painting showing a face that is half Diego and half Frida all framed with shells. Frida presented it to Diego on his 58th birthday. This special piece in its precious frame, shows how Frida always considered them one, and how even through their tumultuous relationship, neither could live with out the other. The snail and the scallop symbolize their union.

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“Double Portrait of Diego and I (I)” – 1944. by Frida Kahlo. On display at The High Museum.

This one touched me the most, as it seemed to embody the love she had inside her.

Of course this is only a fraction of  the amazing works on display in this exhibition. This is a show you don’t want to miss. It promises to enthrall all who attend.

Text and photographs by Karen Nurenberg Rothstein – April 2013.

IF YOU GO:

Frida & Diego – Passion, Politics and Painting runs through May 12, 2013

The High Museum Atlanta, Georgia, USA – Half-Price entry after 4pm on Thursdays!

Visit their website for hours, tickets and more information: http://www.high.org/frida-diego

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Denis Meyers in America

I was on a trip in the Southeast USA in late November. Here are some street art stickers by the talented Brussels artist Denis Meyers.

This is actually the backside of this very intricate, large sticker at a bus stop in downtown Atlanta.

Denis Meyers Sticker - Peachtree, Atlanta, Georgia

Denis Meyers Sticker – Peachtree, Atlanta, Georgia

Here’s the front side.

Denis Meyers Sticker - Peachtree, Atlanta, Georgia

Denis Meyers Sticker – Peachtree, Atlanta, Georgia

Here’s a sneaky little one on the emergency exit of a bus in Savannah.

Denis Meyers Sticker - Greyhound Bus, Savannah, Georgia

Denis Meyers Sticker – Greyhound Bus, Savannah, Georgia

This one was on a sign in Cabbagetown next to a large piece by Trek Matthews for the Living Walls Concept.

Denis Meyers Sticker - Cabbagetown, Atlanta, Georgia

Denis Meyers Sticker – Cabbagetown, Atlanta, Georgia

Denis Meyers Sticker - Cabbagetown, Atlanta, Georgia

Denis Meyers Sticker – Cabbagetown, Atlanta, Georgia

Denis Meyers Sticker - Cabbagetown, Atlanta, Georgia

Denis Meyers Sticker – Cabbagetown, Atlanta, Georgia

Here’s a nice pair in the parking lot of a trendy mall.

Denis Meyers Stickers - Lenox Mall, Atlanta, Georgia

Denis Meyers Stickers – Lenox Mall, Atlanta, Georgia

Denis Meyers Stickers - Lenox Mall, Atlanta, Georgia

Denis Meyers Stickers – Lenox Mall, Atlanta, Georgia

This one is on the head of a guy on a High Voltage sign in the parking lot of the Museum of Contemporary Art Georgia…

Denis Meyers Sticker - Parking Lot. Museum of Contemporary Art, Atlanta, Georgia

Denis Meyers Sticker – Parking Lot. Museum of Contemporary Art, Atlanta, Georgia

This one is actually on the restroom sign at the Official Florida Welcome Center at the Georgia/Florida state line.

Denis Meyers Stickers - Jennings, Florida

Denis Meyers Stickers – Jennings, Florida

And this lovely little group is in just about the last place you’d expect to come across artistic stickers…

Hudson Beach Park.

Denis Meyers Stickers - Hudson Beach, Florida

Denis Meyers Stickers – Hudson Beach, Florida

Denis Meyers Stickers - Hudson Beach, Florida

Denis Meyers Stickers – Hudson Beach, Florida

Anyway – hope you enjoyed seeing them as much as I enjoyed photographing them.
And please check out more from the artist himself at: http://www.denismeyers.com/

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all photos @ Lance Aram Rothstein for Labeauratoire.