Art Buzz February 7, 2012: Spellman Museum of Stamps displays mini works of art, history



Travel: Spellman Museum of Stamps displays mini works of art, history

Inside the Spellman Museum, the world’s first stamp is on display, an 1840 1-cent stamp with the image of Queen Victoria.


For The Patriot Ledger

In 2012, the U.S. Postal Service commemorates the centennial of the gift of more 3,000 cherry blossom trees from the city of Tokyo to the city of Washington D.C., with these two beautiful stamps.

Many people pay attention to stamps only when the postage cost increases.

That’s too bad, according to stamp lovers, who say these tiny graphic designs chronicle what’s important: individuals, history, the arts, nature, science, sport, even abstractions like love.

“We take them for granted, but they’re miniature works of art and give people a glimpse into the past and the present,” said George Norton, curator of the Spellman Museum of Stamps and Postal History at Regis College in Weston, Mass.

There’s no better proof of that than the museum, which has rotating stamp displays about love, snow sports, the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and even owls, inspired by the release of the final “Harry Potter” film.

“There is virtually no topic or theme that I can’t create an exhibit around,” Norton said. “Name your interest, and we can show you stamps.”

What’s in a stamp?

The wide range of interests is one reason why the old-fashioned pleasure of stamp collecting has not gone the way of the Pony Express. While stamp collecting is not as popular as it was, an estimated 22 million people collect U.S. stamps as a hobby and/or investment, according to the Postal Service.

President Dwight Eisenhower collected, and his stamps are part of the Spellman collection. An estimated 200 million people worldwide collect stamps. And there’s plenty to collect. About 7,000 new stamps are released each year from around the world, Norton said.

Getting your face on a stamp affirms that you are a national treasure. In the Postal Service 2012 Stamp Program, baseball star Ted Williams, film director John Huston, dancer Isadora Duncan and poet E.E. Cummings are all honored. So, too, are significant moments in American history. Two of the prettiest stamps are the Cherry Blossom Festival Centennial and the Love stamp, a yearly release since 1973. Other 2012 issues recognize a cause, such as heart health, or an art, such as bonsai….READ MORE


Art Buzz February 6, 2012: Peter Wood: Duke University professor to discuss his book “Near Andersonville: Winslow Homer’s Civil War” & role of art



Duke professor to discuss his book, role of art Tuesday

Source: The Gainsville Sun, 2-6-12

When Peter Wood taught his graduate seminar at Duke University he’d ask his students how many people enjoyed history in high school. No response. Then he’d ask how many liked it in college as undergraduates. A hand or two might have been raised.


If you go

What: Historian Peter Wood discusses his book “Near Andersonville: Winslow Homer’s Civil War.”

Where: Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art.

When: 6 p.m. Tuesday.

“That’s the problem,” he said. “It’s our job as historians is to make it exciting.”

Wood, a professor emeritus at Duke University, will speak at the University of Florida on Tuesday at The Harn Museum about his book, “Near Andersonville: Winslow Homer’s Civil War,” and about what people can learn from art to get a better understanding of American history. His talk is part of the Black History Month celebration.

Wood will be paid $1,000 by a grant through the Oral History Program.

Paul Ortiz, director of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program at UF, was a graduate student at Duke University and had Wood as a professor and considers him a role model.

“He brings a passion about history that’s infectious,” he said.

Originally, Wood was supposed to speak just to Ortiz’s class, but word got out he would be on campus and students wanted to hear from him.

Ortiz said Wood is the kind of person who can engage his students and an audience. He knows you can’t tell history without visuals.

The book’s title comes from Winslow Homer’s 1865-66 painting “Near Andersonville.” In the painting, Homer, a 19th-century American landscape painter, depicts an enslaved woman stepping out of her home as Union soldiers are marched to the Andersonville prison camp by Confederate soldiers in the background.

What Wood says is so important about the painting is Homer’s depiction of African-Americans. Unlike his predecessors, he painted the enslaved woman as she would be in real life and not as a caricature.

Ortiz said it’s amazing what people can learn about American history during the Civil War.

“Long before Facebook and YouTube, they had to communicate the epic events happening right in front of them,” he said.

He said they did this through art.

Wood also will speak with students at Pugh Hall at 1:55 p.m.

Tuesday night, he’ll show a number of paintings during the Civil War period and explain the historical context of each piece, from landscapes to battle scenes. Ortiz said Wood believes the real history of slavery hasn’t been told yet because of its brutality.

He said people should come prepared to change the way they think about what they’ve been taught about the Civil War…..READ MORE — Next Page

Art Buzz February 6, 2012: Joseph Siry: Professor’s Bookshelf — Interview with Professor of Art History at Wesleyan University



Professor’s Bookshelf: Professor of Art History Joseph Siry

Source: Wesleyan Argus, 2-6-12
Professor Joseph Siry is the chair of the Art and Art History Department, as well as a professor of modern architectural history. This semester, he is teaching Architecture of the 20th century. Outside of his role as a professor, he has published several books on modern architecture, including his most recent “Beth Sholom: Frank Lloyd Wright and Modern Religious Architecture.” Professor Siry sat down with The Argus to discuss his colossal collection and the research presented in his new book.

The Argus:
So, what’s on your bookshelf?

Professor Joseph Siry: Virtually everything on this bookshelf has to do with the history of architecture, almost entirely European and American topics from Greek antiquity to the present. This is a set of books that I’ve put together over 30 or 35 years. I even still have some of my high school textbooks—history, physics.

A: Your department just moved from the Davison Art Center to 41 Wyllys Avenue—were you able to bring all of your books with you?

JS: Everything that is of even the remotest utility is now over here. I brought over a lot of student theses. I have my notebooks from my undergraduate and graduate courses, journals that I subscribe to, art bulletins, and the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians.

A: Which books do you always find yourself returning to?

JS: There are so many excellent authors and studies represented on these shelves. It depends on which course I’m teaching and what topic I’m working on. If I’m teaching the general introductory course on European architecture, I’m thinking of a book like “Architecture and Meaning on the Athenian Acropolis” by Robin Francis Rhodes, or William McDonald’s book on the Pantheon. For someone in a very early stage or first course in the field, these are stimulating, and very beautifully written.

In my mind, there are so many authors here who are models, who wrote books that represent just the very best work in the field. Their lucidity, their depth of learning, their level of insight—it’s that set of qualities that you want to emulate in your own work.

A: Do you ever use your own writing in your classes?

JS: Oh, yes, sure. I particularly use my writing on Frank Lloyd Wright in my courses on American architecture.

A: You just published a new book on Frank Lloyd Wright. Could you talk about what you address in the text?

JS: Basically, it’s a book about the history of his involvement with religious architecture. I published an earlier book on his first major church building, Unity Temple. He was a Unitarian. He had a very broad engagement with comparative study of religion, because that is an emphasis in Unitarian denominational culture.

This [new work] is a book that deals with the history of his development as an architect for worshipping communities, but mainly focuses on his one synagogue, which was designed from 1953 to 1959: the Beth Sholom congregation in Elkins Park, Pa. He had a very close working relationship with the rabbi. They had a rich exchange of ideas about the history of Judaism, its symbolism, and the appropriate architectural space for a modern Jewish community.

The building itself is a wonderful space for worship. It’s a tall, glass-enclosed tetrahedron, with about 1,200 seats with a focus on the arc. The communal self-awareness in the room is very strong, and metaphorically it’s supposed to allude to Mount Sinai—to represent Mount Sinai as the source of the Ten Commandments. This is a very self-consciously modern and American synagogue for the period. It’s not at all traditional.

A: What sort of research did you conduct for this book?

JS: Oh, there were a number of sources. The rabbi’s papers and correspondence are partially at the synagogue and partially at the Jewish theological seminary in New York. Frank Lloyd Wright’s drawings and correspondence are at his archives, outside of Scottsdale, Ariz. The other chapters deal with churches in Florida, Kansas City, and Wisconsin. I went to all of those places—and a number of others—where there were records of these institutions, their clerical leaders, and the urban and historical context.

A: You visited all of these sites? How long did that take?

JS: This project started in 2003. I started working on the Pfeiffer Chapel at Florida Southern College. I went down there in 2003, and the book came out in December 2011. The work on Beth Sholom started in 2005.

A: What draws you to Frank Lloyd Wright’s work?

JS: Well, he is very well known, but the more you study his work, the more exceptional it is. He had an extraordinary mind, particularly in terms of the geometric and structural forms of architecture. These are very unusual spaces in terms of their geometry and construction. There is no other building, so far as I know in the world, that is really like Beth Sholom, and that’s true of a number of his other well-known buildings, such as the Guggenheim Museum. He had this capacity to imagine highly original possibilities for different types of buildings.

A: Do you have a favorite building of Wright’s?

JS: I’ve been very involved with Beth Sholom. Unity Temple is another that seems very meaningful. These are worshipping communities, and the strength and continuity of the religious traditions really comes through. It’s partially a question of social history and religious history, and how he’s able to create forms with modern materials that speak to the people who are commissioning and using them.

A: What about Wesleyan’s architecture? Are there any buildings here that you especially admire?

JS: I really like Olin library, particularly the original part of the library. I love its material details and its monumental presence in that part of the campus. Over the years, I’ve really also come to admire the Center for the Arts. In fact, I recently wrote a letter to Kevin Roche (the architect of the CFA) telling him how much I like it. He wrote back right away.

Art Buzz February 3, 2012: Louis Kahn: Can You Tell An Architect Is Jewish By His Style of Building?



Can You Tell An Architect Is Jewish By His Style of Building?

Source: Philly Curbed, 2-3-12


Louis Kahn’s illustration of his design for Mikveh Israel via Louis I. Kahn Archives at Penn

Professor of Visual Studies at California College of the Arts Mitchell Schwarzer reviews Gavriel Rosenfeld‘s latest book, Building After Auschwitz: Jewish Architecture and the Memory of the Holocaust—and finds its “shaky thesis” is largely unsubstantiated. Rosenfeld claims that American Jewish architects in the 20th-century architecture have been markedly influenced by their Jewish identity, creating a “new Jewish architecture.”

Schwarzer is unconvinced. He assesses a few of the architects profiled—like Louis Kahn—and sees little evidence of Jewish thematics in their work.

Schwarzer writes:

It is only when the book reaches Louis Kahn that readers are asked to detect, and then only slightly, a Jewish building sensibility. Yet where does Kahn’s architecture show that sensibility? … We read that Kahn, though not a practicing Jew, visited Israel. This correlation seems a stretch.

In fact, the question of Kahn’s relationship to Judaism and architecture has been asked before. In Louis I. Kahn’s Jewish Architecture: Mikveh Israel and the Midcentury American Synagogue, Susan G. Solomon uses Kahn’s (later abandoned) plans for Philadelphia’s Mikveh Israel to broach a larger conversation about the evolution of synagogue architecture. When the book came out, in 2009, it was Rosenfeld who reviewed the book for The Forward:

Does a building’s Jewishness lie in its form, its function, its designers’ personal background, its clients’ program? Solomon does not explore these questions in much detail, and so it remains difficult to glean exactly how Kahn injected “Jewish content.”

Apparently, he thought he could probe the subject more thoroughly than Solomon did, but according to Schwarzer, he’s failed to persuade.

REVIEW: MITCHELL SCHWARZER / Building After Auschwitz [Places]

Art Buzz February 2, 2012: Vincent van Gogh: In the Eye of His Storms “Van Gogh Up Close” at the Philadelphia Museum of Art




In the Eye of His Storms

Source: NYT, 2-2-12

Cincinnati Art Museum

“Undergrowth With Two Figures,” from 1890, part of the 45 paintings by van Gogh in a show at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. More Photos »

Vincent van Gogh was shaken but also calmed by nature. The natural landscape inspired some of his most implacably innovative paintings, roiled of surface, ablaze with color and steeped in feeling. They are blunt, irresistible instruments for seeing. Yet nature — and its tiniest details in particular — also sharpened his visual acuity and soothed and comforted his often unstable personality.

In the catalog to “Van Gogh Up Close,” a succinct, revelatory exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the art historian Anabelle Kienle notes van Gogh’s repeated references in his letters to “a blade of grass,” “a single blade of grass,” “a dusty blade of grass.” He not only thought that something this small and modest was a worthy subject for art — as demonstrated by the spare works of the Japanese artists he so admired — he also invoked it as a kind of centering technique for regaining concentration. Writing to his sister-in-law, he recommended focusing on a blade of grass as a way to calm down after the tumult of reading Shakespeare.

“Van Gogh Up Close” has been organized by Joseph J. Rishel and Jennifer A. Thompson, curators in Philadelphia, working with Ms. Kienle, a curator at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, and Cornelia Homburg, an independent scholar. It examines van Gogh’s relationship to nature at its most intimate, cutting a narrow path through his achievement, with 45 often small, sometimes seemingly tossed-off paintings. In doing so it manages to lead us to the fullness of his achievement along a fresh and eye-opening route….READ MORE

Van Gogh Up Close 

WHEN AND WHERE Through May 6. Philadelphia Museum of Art, 26th Street and Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

MORE INFORMATION (215) 763-8100,

Art Buzz February 2, 2012: David Resnick: The Amir Center — a mixed modernist message — known as Jerusalem’s ugliest building now might be torn down



A mixed modernist message

The Amir Center was known as Jerusalem’s ugliest building, but the publicity won its architect a raft of projects. It now might be torn down.

Source: Haaretz, 2-2-12

In 1958, shortly after going out on his own, Architect David Resnick was asked to design a new residential building at the intersection of King George and Agron streets in the heart of Jerusalem. The plot chosen was surrounded by several buildings of historical and architectural value such as the Terra Sancta building and the American consulate.

But in the spirit of the times, Resnick decided to build a daring modernist response across from those structures: a square high-rise sitting on a commercial space and flashing its innovation in every detail.

Amir Center -  From the book 'David Resnick, Retrospective' The Amir Center in the 1960s. Its unusual facade won fans.
Photo by: From the book ‘David Resnick, Retrospective’

The residential building known as the Amir Center (sometimes referred to as Beit Agron or the Supersol Building ) recently marked its 50th anniversary. Over the years, it has become one of Jerusalem’s best-known residential buildings thanks to its location, unusual facade and design innovations.

Veteran Jerusalemites still remember the steel crane brought over from Sweden specifically for this project; it hoisted up the prefab parts. Yet the Amir Center is now threatened by an evacuation-construction plan promoted by a group of residents and welcomed by the municipality. Given the renewal marathon underway in downtown Jerusalem, there’s a chance the building will be razed to make way for a luxury high-rise.

“For me, it was very important to have modern construction in Jerusalem, but most of the people opposed my building and said it wasn’t in the Jerusalem tradition,” Resnick said this week.

The Amir Center indeed sparked an intense dispute, and in a series of street interviews earned the dubious honor of “Jerusalem’s ugliest building.” In hindsight, this too is a form of public relations. In the week of the dispute, Resnick was commissioned for a variety of projects all over the city. “When you do something that’s disputed, it sometimes yields good results,” he adds….READ MORE

Art Buzz February 2, 2012: Henry Taylor: A Visual Equivalent of the Blues, in Warm Shades on Exhibit at MOMA




A Visual Equivalent of the Blues, in Warm Shades

Source: NYT, 2-2-12

Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times

Henry Taylor This show of works by Mr. Taylor at MoMA PS1 includes the sculpture “Rock It” and the paintings “Warning Shots Not Required,” left, and “Peanuts.”

The putative gap between art and life is a pernicious myth. Painting in a studio is no less a form of life than, say, occupying Wall Street. Consider the exuberantly vital art of Henry Taylor, whose paintings are in an exhibition named for him at MoMA PS1.

Mr. Taylor, who lives in Los Angeles, paints fast, loose and sensuously on canvases great and small. Portraiture is his work’s center of gravity. His subjects include friends, relatives, acquaintances from the art world and off the street, and heroes from the worlds of sports and politics. Along the way he takes in downbeat cityscapes patrolled by cop cars and envisions allegories of spiritual trauma in the Land of the Free.

It is not incidental that most of his subjects are African-Americans, like himself. The opposite of an abstractionist, Mr. Taylor is a Social Realist in the best sense of that oft-maligned term. He paints roughly the rough world of his own experience, but he does so with a rare spirit of generosity and love. Visual equivalents of the blues, his paintings may resemble those by an Outsider, but they also call to mind Alice NeelRobert Colescott and Bob Thompson, among others….READ MORE

Art Buzz February 1, 2012: Art historians find copy of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa — Reveals new details



Mona Lisa copy reveals new detail

Source: BBC News, 2-1-12

The Mona Lisa and the replica The restored painting (right) offers more detail than the original (left)

A painting thought to be the earliest replica of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa has been discovered at Madrid’s Prado Museum.

The Prado said it did not realise its significance until a recent restoration revealed hidden layers.

The artwork features the same female figure, but had been covered over with black paint and varnish.

The painting is thought to have been created by one of Leonardo’s students alongside the 16th century original.

There are dozens of surviving Mona Lisa replicas from the 16th and 17th centuries.

Mona Lisa replica
The Prado’s copy of the Mona Lisa had been overpainted black

The Art Newspaper, which reported the discovery, said the “sensational find will transform our understanding of the world’s most famous picture”.

The original painting, which currently hangs at the Louvre in Paris, is obscured by several layers of old, cracked varnish.

However, cleaning and restoration is thought to be too risky because the painting is fragile.

The Art Newspaper said the removal of the black paint on the replica had revealed “the fine details of the delicate Tuscan landscape”, which mirrors the background of Leonardo’s masterpiece.

Martin Bailey, who reported on the discovery for the paper, told the BBC: “You see Lisa’s eyes, which are quite enticing, and her enigmatic smile. It actually makes her look much younger.”…READ MORE

Art Buzz February 1, 2012: Boston College’s McMullen Museum of Art: Days In The Lives McMullen exhibition shows artists’ interest in 19th, 20th century rural Ireland



Days In The Lives

McMullen exhibition shows artists’ interest in 19th, 20th century rural Ireland

Source: Boston College, 2-2-12
“Rural Ireland: The Inside Story,” which will run through June 3, is an exclusive exhibition that introduces American viewers to many recently discovered genre paintings of 19th-century rural interiors.
The lives of 19th-century Irish country people — how they worshipped, mourned, conducted business, arranged their homes, and educated and entertained themselves — will be the subject of a new McMullen Museum of Art exhibition opening Feb. 11.

“Rural Ireland: The Inside Story,” which will run through June 3, is an exclusive exhibition that introduces American viewers to many recently discovered genre paintings of 19th-century rural interiors. It also offers new visual evidence about the varied lives of a politically marginalized population.

Inspired by recent scholarship, “Rural Ireland” reveals that artists working in 19th and early 20th-century Ireland frequently turned to the lives of the country’s rural poor for subject matter — thus challenging assumptions that artists working in Ireland painted only the “big houses” and landscapes of an Anglo-Irish elite society.

Although the works on display reveal poverty and deprivation during the Famine era, they convey aesthetic pleasures, spiritual satisfactions, and tenants’ negotiations with a growing consumer economy.

The museum will hold a free opening celebration for the Boston College community and general public on Feb. 13 from 7-9 p.m.

The exhibition comprises outstanding works of art from such lenders as the National Gallery of Ireland, the Crawford Art Gallery, Cork, the National Library of Ireland, the Ulster Museum, the National Gallery of Scotland, as well as from a range of smaller public and private collections in Ireland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

“The McMullen Museum is pleased to present this examination of paintings, many recently discovered, and of newly-collected artifacts from Irish rural life,” said McMullen Museum Director and Professor of Art History Nancy Netzer. “The exhibition tells the ‘inside story’ of Ireland’s country people through its selection of outstanding genre interiors, most never displayed in North America.”…READ MORE

Art Buzz February 1, 2012: ‘Making History: Antiquaries in Britain’ at Yale University’s Center for British Art



‘Making History: Antiquaries in Britain’ At Yale

Magna Carta, Local Domesday Book, Bronze Age Shield Among Items On Display

Source: The Hartford Courant, 2-1-12

"Saint Augustine's Gate, Canterbury"

“Saint Augustine’s Gate, Canterbury” by J.M.W. Turner, 1793, watercolor and graphite on cream wove paper. (Yale Center for British Art / February 1, 2008)

History is changing all the time. A new artifact is discovered that shines a light on a previously murky period of antiquity. Then new details are learned about that era, altering how we perceive that artifact. Real history is revealed, myths fall away. The cycle of discovery and rediscovery is neverending.

These themes come to the fore in the new exhibit at the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven. “Making History: Antiquaries in Britain” is a celebration of the Society of Antiquaries of London, the 205-year-old organization dedicated to preserving documents and relics from all eras of British history.

“Things are constantly being rethought by archaeologists,” said John Lewis, co-curator of the exhibit, while pointing to a Bronze Age shield, circa 1300-1100 BC. “Swords, shields and spears can develop myths and lineages of their own.”…READ MORE