contemporary art, exhibition, Lisbon, modern art

(Portuguese) Art Began in 1965!?

1 Joaquim Rodrigo, SA Estaçao, 1961

Joaquim Rodrigo, SA Estaçao, 1961

Lisbon’s Museo do Chiado has put forward an interesting initiative: under the title “Avant-garde and neo-avant-garde” (June 17, 2016 – June 17, 2017), it has elected to display the 20th– and 21st-century artworks of its collection, despite being almost exclusively known for its 19th-century pieces. However, at the risk of provoking my Portuguese friends’ outcries, I will say I was deeply bored visiting the rooms leading up to 1965. Not that I am not interested in movements like Futurism, Cubism, Surrealism or abstract art —far from it. But at the Chiado I saw mere adaptations, variations, imitations. I looked in vain for some unsettling, stimulating instances of creativity, only encountering earnest, well-rounded artworks that might have encapsulated what each of these movements were about, but that never really stood out on their own. (In the adjacent rooms, there is a dithyrambic exhibition on Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso, “greatest artist of the century,” a hidden gem finally revealed —like at the Grand Palais, I couldn’t appreciate it without taking into account the historical and cultural context.) Is this informed by Parisianocentric disdain for provincial follow-the-leader endeavors? Maybe, but then again I don’t have the same feeling of déjà-vu in front of Italian artists of this era, for instance.

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Arles, exhibition, modern art

van Gogh and the Independence of Drawing

Vincent van Gogh, Vieillard buvant du café [Old man drinking coffee], November 1882, 49x28.3cm

Vincent van Gogh, Vieillard buvant du café [Old man drinking coffee], November 1882, 49×28.3cm

The exhibition of drawings by van Gogh at the Fondation van Gogh in Arles, France (visited between two photography exhibitions; running until September, 20) puts an emphasis on a lesser known dimension of the painter, and especially on the first years of his learning how to draw. Rather than becoming classically trained in formal nudes, van Gogh collects prints, cuts out engravings from newspapers, and constitutes reference albums for himself in doing so. For instance, William Small’s etching from his London Sketches, A November Fog (below) creates a sort of floating, equivocal reality through the treatment of the fog, and of the plumes of smoke coming from the torches or the horses’s breaths. Moreover, one can imagine van Gogh being fascinated with the curvilinear and blurred lines of this drawing – in the same way he appreciated Japanese engravings and drawings. Continue reading