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Benny Andrews and Art News of the Week 31 November – 06 December 2020

Benny Andrews. Photo: macdowell.org
Benny Andrews. Photo: macdowell.org

The exhibition “Benny Andrews: Portraits, a Real Person Before the Eyes” includes the largest number of Benny Andrews’ works that have been shown together and that represent a period of work of 35 years. Suh Se Ok was an artist and teacher who helped guide the path of contemporary art in South Korea for decades after the country emerged from colonialism and war. Tracey Emin/Edvard Munch: The Loneliness of the Soul, was planned to open the Munchmuseet in Oslo earlier this year.

Benny Andrews: A life in portraits

December 4, 2020 – Via artdaily.com 

“A desire to represent a real person before the eyes”, this was how Benny Andrews defined once his artistic ambition. The phrase is now the subtitle of a significant exhibition at the Michael Rosenfeld Gallery in Manhattan. The exhibition is called “Benny Andrews: Portraits, a Real Person Before the Eyes”.

This exhibition count with 28 representations of the artist’s family, friends and colleagues. The largest number of Benny Andrews’ works that have been shown together and that represent a period of work of 35 years.

All these works were made with a technique that he called “raw collage”. They form fascinating images that combine painted motifs with added pieces of printed fabric, canvas, paper and clothing fragments, all carefully placed.

Andrews was a painter, printmaker and collage creator born on November 13, 1930, in Plainview, Georgia, U.S. His father was a poor sharecropper from Georgia who taught him to draw as a child. He didn’t go to school for helping his father with his work. But drawing and art became essential tools that accompanied him throughout his life. He practiced drawing biology projects, flat geometry and anything else teachers asked him to do.

During the 1950s, he studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he began to take an interest in painting. He wanted to paint in a representative manner, although he disliked the constant refinement that realism implied.

After serving in the Korean War, he studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and was attracted to the abstract expressionist style. In 1958, he moved to New York City to do artistic and activist work.

Boris Margo’s valuable artistic advice

Benny Andrews (1930-2006), Portrait of the Portrait Painter, 1987. Photo: Roberta Smith.

His instructor Boris Margo gave him valuable artistic advice. He told Andrews to paint what he knew best and was interested in. After receiving this advice, Andrews created his work “Janitors at Rest” which was his first attempt into raw collage.

In it, he portrayed three men on a break; one reading, the other two perhaps talking. Andrews splashed the surface with pieces of paper like the janitors might sweep, perhaps to introduce some crudeness and avoid refinement.

In “Portrait of the Portrait Painter” the scene is imbued with pleasure and anticipation. One can feel the joy of being both an artist and a subject. In this work an artist (probably Andrews) sits in front of a beautifully dressed woman.

It seems that Andrews took Margo’s advice to heart, describing what he knew and cared about.
This concept carried him into several areas of his life and his activism. His loved ones, his fellow artists, as well as human suffering and social injustice. Eventually, he portrayed his world and values, which may be the most one can ask of any artist.

Benny Andrews married Mary Ellen Jones Smith, a photographer, in 1957 and had three children, Christopher, Thomas and Julia, before separating in 1976 and officially divorcing in 1986. Andrews died of cancer on November 10, 2006, at the age of 75.

Artist Suh Se Ok, Pillar of Korean Contemporary Painting, Dies at 91

December 5, 2020 – Via artnews.com 

Suh Se Ok was an artist and teacher who helped guide the path of contemporary art in South Korea for decades after the country emerged from colonialism and war. The artist died on November 29 at age 91, according to Lehmann Maupin, his gallery in New York.

Suh Se Ok was born in Daegu City in 1929. In 1949, while still at university at the age of 20, he won first place in the first Kukjon art competition of the Korean government. He graduated from Seoul National University with a degree in painting in 1950. He taught there for decades and it was there that he founded Mungnimhoe.

Suh Se Ok. Photo: Lehmann Maupin, New York.

In late 1959, Suh formed Mungnimhoe, the Ink Forest Society (a group that continued until 1964). It became the first Korean avant-garde group based on ink painting. Suh was trying to take this traditional medium into original territory in abstract works. Perfecting the practice with its raw, essential ingredients and prints with an ink and water brush or lines on handmade mulberry paper.

Suh and the Mungnimhoe Society were determined to forge an experimental form of totally Korean ink painting. They wanted to avoid the use of Japanese techniques that had prevailed during their colonial rule on the peninsula, which ended in 1945.

An experimental form of totally Korean ink painting

They were always in dialogue with the post-war American and European abstract painting movements, such as Art Informel. But they rejected their tools, unlike many of their Korean contemporaries. Suh defended their use of ink in a debate in 1966, explaining that “if the Korean experimental artists continued to appropriate the Western experimental artists, it would soon lose its understanding of art completely.”

Suh generated a work with great amounts of visual energy and drama, with a minimum of materials. In his most famous series, “People” it can be seen constellations of interconnected human figures. These symbolic people hold each other in tenuous chains, forming solid walls as they kneel, stand or dance.

Suh exhibited widely, participating in the 1963 São Paulo Biennial. He was the subject of an exhibition held as part of the 2000 Gwangju Biennial in South Korea. Suh made two solo exhibitions with the Seoul National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in 2015. He also held four solo exhibitions at the Hyundai Gallery in the Korean capital. In 2012, he received the Order of Cultural Merit of South Korea at the silver level.

Suh Se Ok will surely be remembered as an artist who gave new life to a medium with potentially deadly connotations. Ink painting may seem outdated in an era of radical change in world art, but this practice, that dates back a millennium in the past, is still alive.

Tracey Emin/Edvard Munch: The Loneliness of the Soul

December 3, 2020 – Via theguardian.com 

Tracey Emin/Edvard Munch: The Loneliness of the Soul, was planned to open the Munchmuseet in Oslo, in the city’s harbour earlier this year. But the Covid-19 has once again forced changes and the exhibition now opens in London.

In London, the exhibition occupies three rooms. When it goes to Oslo next summer, it will also include Emin’s My Bed, his 1998 film Homage to Edvard Munch and All My Dead Children, and a series of expanded and insomniac self-portraits.

Munch’s The Death of Marat. Photo: Munchmuseet

Tracey Emin has been an important figure in contemporary art for over 25 years and a pioneer of a radical new style. In this historic exhibition, Tracey Emin selects masterpieces by Edvard Munch to be shown alongside his most recent paintings.

Tracey Emin has long been fascinated by the Norwegian expressionist and painter of The Scream, Edvard Munch: in his words, “I have been in love with this man since I was eighteen years old”. In 1998, she created a video piece filmed on the same dock in Oslo that was the site of many of his well-known works.

This is an example of how Tracey Emin, like Munch, embraces even the most painful experiences to create art. The exhibition features more than 25 works by Emin, including paintings, some of which will be on display for the first time, as well as neon and sculpture.

These works, which explore the solitude of the soul, have been chosen by Emin to sit alongside a careful selection of 19 oils and watercolors drawn from Munch’s rich collection and archives in Oslo, Norway.

This is an opportunity to see Emin’s work in a very personal exhibition. The selection reveals not only how Munch has been a constant inspiration through his deep portraits of women. It also shows Emin’s wide range of skills as an artist, often intertwining painting, drawing and writing.

Seen together, the dark territories and raw emotions through which both artists navigate will emerge as a moving exploration of grief, loss, and longing. In his work, Munch recorded and dramatized his life, his miseries and psychological state, his difficulties with women and drinking.

Emin’s work is no less autobiographical and confessional. She is a storyteller that tells stories with her paintings. But it’s often the titles that carry much of the emotional weight. She does not have the theatrical, sometimes filmic, melancholy sense of Munch’s atmosphere. Emin’s paintings seem to me more like an act, a performance, than a representation. In other words, they are not paintings like Munch’s.

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