From fun and games to moving statements
New York — Marisol's exhibition -- her first in six years -- at the Sidney Janis Gallery here is really quite an impressive show. Not only because it reveals that Marisol (she uses one name) is now well on the road to becoming an artist of real substance, but also because it indicates she is carrying three-dimensional portraiture into fertile new areas. She has stopped being "cute" -- at least that's the impression I received.
Her basic approach remains the same: a kind of collage effect in space which she produces by combining wood-carving, painted and drawn surfaces, and startling juxtapositions of incongruous flat and three-dimensional objects.
The work's intent, however, has changed rather dramatically -- from fun and games (and juxtapositions that often remained more clever than significant), to extemely moving statements of human character and worth.
Most of this is accomplished through portraits of artists. And she has chosen an intriguing lot: Picasso, Georgia O'Keefe, Virgil Thompson, Martha Graham, Willem de Kooning, Louise Nevelson, etc. All caught at unexpected moments, and all executed with compassion and concern.
Marisol's talent for making incongruities work for her is particularly evident in her two portraits of O'Keefe, and in those of de Kooning and Nevelson. In all of these, boldly carved wood, modestly painted surfaces, and such details as plaster cast hands, work toward not only the creation of striking likenesses, but also toward capturing and communicating much of the character of the artists and of their work.
The quiet dignity of O'Keefe, her combination of lyricism and formal severity are beautifully caught -- and the introduction of animals near her adds just the right touch of freedom and independence needed to round out a portrait of this woman.
De Kooning, sitting very formally in a massive chair and looking straight ahead, retains his youthful good looks and seems quite at peace with the world. I don't know why, but it seems perfectly appropriate that he should be portrayed with three hands.
But it is in her study of Nevelson that I found Marisol's special talents and interests fusing most successfully. The combination of low table, beautifully carved head, solid boards for the trunk area, and the two simple blocks of wood for her legs (plus, of course, the exquisite hands), all add up to a haunting and very moving image. It's a marvelous piece of work.
Her portrait of Picasso, on the other hand, doesn't quite make it, even though its carved head is one of the best heads in the show. I suspect that Marisol said everything she needed to (or could) say about this extraordinary genius in the carving of that head, that it ism Picasso, --and that all the other details, the chair, legs, feet, and four hands are all totally beside the point.
I thoroughly disliked her take-off on Leonardo, "Madonna, Child, St. Anne and St. John," not because I think Leonardo shouldn't be treated in this fashion, but simply because it doesn't work.
All in all, this is an exceptional show. It will remain on view at the Sidney Janis Gallery here through April 4. Inspired by music
Music, and the various activities associated with it, is the subject of a wide-ranging exhibition of 20th-century paintings, sculpture, watercolors, drawings, and prints being held at the Saidenberg Gallery here. Everything from the depiction of musicians and musical instruments to actual attempts to translate music into paint is included in this lively and well-chosen show.
Music, for Paul Klee, was as important as painting and drawing. He was not only a devoted listener, but also an accomplished violinist, and so it was only natural that he should seek some sort of creative parallel between these two arts. Two of his early attempts are included in this show, his 1914 "Organ Sounds," and the 1916 "Kleine Gemeinde," both watercolors, both very small, and both beautifully successful.
Brazue is also well represented by an excellent 1918 oil "Clarinette et cahiers de musique," and by the superb collage and charcoal "Bach Journal" of 1912. But Picasso, Braque's co-creator of cubism, and, with Matisse, his major professional rival, pretty much steals ths show -- if size and physical impact are the criteria. "Femme nue a'loiseau et flutiste" of 1967 is a large and powerful painting, not quite as successful perhaps as some of his magnificent prints on view, but very impressive nevertheless.
Also outstanding are Leger's drawing of "The Musicians," the tiny Dufy oil "Mozart," and works by Laurens. But only by a small degree, for this is a consistently excellent show. It will remain open to the public through April 11 . Other Shows
Also recommended: a small exhibition of drawings and watercolors by J. M. W. Turner, the great English painter of the first half of the 19th century, at Castelli Feigen Corcoran Gallery (through April 25); an excellent showing of works by Erich Heckel at the Serge Sabarsky Gallery (through April); a number of truly extraordinary landscapes by Neil Welliver at Fischbach Gallery (ends April 1); some lively paintings by Stephan Pace at A. M. Sachs (through April 2); and a delightfully fanciful exhibition of strange animals, places, and people by Igor Galanin at Aberbach Fine Art (closing indefinite).