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Lynette Yiadom-Boakye and Art News of the Week 14 – 21 December 2020

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Fly In League With The Night. Photo: Tate
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Fly In League With The Night. Photo: Tate

“Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Fly In League With The Night”, a revealing retrospective that shakes the Tate Britain out of its comfort zone is on display at Tate Britain until May 9, 2021. Roland Reiss died on December 13 in Los Angeles at the age of ninety-one. Reiss was best known for his dioramas of the 1970s and 1980s. Reid Mitenbuler’s new book “Wild Minds: The Artists and Rivalries That Inspired the Golden Age of Animation” tells the history of the early days of animation, in the first decades of the 20th century.

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s Revelatory Retrospective

December 16, 2020 – Via artnet.com

“Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Fly In League With The Night” is on display at Tate Britain until May 9, 2021. This show is a revealing retrospective that shakes the Tate Britain out of its comfort zone. The artist’s black figure portrait style takes the portrait tradition to new extremes.

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye is a British painter and writer born in 1977. Her work has contributed to the revival of black figure painting. She is known for her portraits of imaginary subjects painted in muted colors.

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Passion Like No Other. Photo: Tate

“Fly In League With The Night” is perhaps the exhibition of African heritage art that visitors need to see. The exhibition helps to appreciate the joys, anxieties, problems and all their complexities of the characters in Yiadom-Boakye’s painting.

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye was born in London, UK, where she currently lives and works. She attended Central St. Martins College of Art and Design and then Falmouth College of Art where she obtained her BA in 2000. She then went on to do a master’s degree in the Royal Academy schools in 2003.

With this new exhibition, you can appreciate the merits of Yiadom-Boakye in contributing to the representations of black people in art. The British artist succeeds as a figurative painter, regardless of her chosen theme.

The figures in the paintings are creations of Yiadom-Boakye’s imagination. The works on display span almost two decades. Included are some recent paintings done during the confinement that investigate the principles of chiaroscuro and work with darkness.

The exhibition has timeless characteristics. The black figures have suffered manipulation and were generalized subservient to art scholars. This exhibition, however, encourages visitors to see without preconceived notions, to break stereotypes and to see everything with new eyes.

Important works such as Wrist Action (2010) and Bound Over To Keep Faith (2012) can be seen in the exhibition. Some critics have criticized Yiadom-Boakye’s characters calling them illusory or monotonous. But after the proliferation of black figuration in contemporary art, the British artist offers stories of authentic beings.

Yiadom-Boakye states in her writings in an adjacent room that “we have always been here […] self-sufficient, outside of nightmares and imaginations”. His representations are a claim to place black art outside the canon.

In A Passion Like No Other (2012) he shows a character from a Jacobean revenge drama, a disturbing figure made with somber brushstrokes. Despite this singularity in approach, the theme is not repetitive and is full of life.

The Stygian Silk (2019) ends the exhibition. An emotional portrait of a reclining figure surrounded by a pack of black dogs. The title is inspired by the river Styx in Greek mythology, a place of torment and calamity. In this work one can appreciate the symbolism of the black dogs associated with depression, and the central figure expressing hope. This work allows it to be read within a contemporary reading in the context of this year.

Roland Reiss (1929–2020)

December 17, 2020 – artforum.com

Roland Reiss died on December 13 in Los Angeles at the age of ninety-one. Reiss was best known for his dioramas of the 1970s and 1980s. His works encompassed the visual arts, abstract expressionism, and representational painting.

Reiss researched different modes of fabrication and was a prolific artist in the avant-garde until the end of his life. His work was known for examining the human condition and modern culture.

He spent his last twenty years painting almost exclusively large stylized flowers. Critic James Scarborough described these works as “not still lives but Vanitas paintings for a digital age.”

Roland Reiss. Photo: artforum.com

Reiss was born in Chicago in the midst of the Great Depression and moved with his family to Pomona, California during World War II. He attended the American Academy of Art in Chicago, graduated from Mt. San Antonio College in Pomona.

After this Reiss was drafted into the army during the Korean War. But upon returning home he enrolled in the GI Bill at UCLA while returning to civilian life. He earned his master’s degree in art in 1956.

Reiss accepted a job as a professor of painting at the University of Colorado, Boulder that same year. In 1971 he returned to California, where he directed the graduate art program at Claremont Graduate University for thirty years.

During all those years he developed a community-minded approach that gave the program national recognition. There he mentored generations of students in an innovative program that set a standard for graduate art education.

Throughout his sixty-year career, Reiss exhibited his work at the 1975 Whitney Biennial and at Documenta 7 (1982). In 2010, a funded art chair was established at the university in his name.

He received fourteen individual museum exhibitions, including “Dance Lessons”: 12 sculptures (1977) at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). A 2014 retrospective at Cal State Fullerton’s Begovich Gallery highlighted his career of continuous self-reinvention.

His works are in the permanent collections of the LACMA, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Hammer Museum, all in Los Angeles; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Orange County Museum of Art, Santa Ana, CA; and the Palm Springs Museum of Art, California, among others.

Wild Minds: The Artists and Rivalries That Inspired the Golden Age of Animation

December 16, 2020 – Via nytimes.com

Walt Disney’s “Fantasy” premiered at the Broadway Theater in Manhattan on November 13, 1940. Reid Mitenbuler tells in his new book “Wild Minds: The Artists and Rivalries That Inspired the Golden Age of Animation”, that what had begun as an animated short film to revive the declining career of Mickey Mouse, ended up becoming a long animated film.

“Wild Minds” tells the story of the first half century of animation. It explains to the reader how “Fantasy” marked a turning point in American culture. It became an attempt to reconcile artistic ambition with the demands of mass consumption.

Wild Minds – The Artists and Rivalries That Inspired the Golden Age of Animation By Reid Mitenbuler. Photo: nytimes.com

“Fantasia” represented at the time what Disney Studios was becoming: “a holder of awesome power”. Mitenbuler’s narrative has the history of Disney Studios at its core because Disney became the formidable force that other animation studios looked to, faced, and competed with.

Max Fleischer, the studio owner responsible for Popeye and Betty Boop, complained in those years that Disney’s “Snow White,” released in 1937, was “too artistic”. However, the wife of one of the Fleischer brothers said that they should be careful: “Disney is making art, and you keep hitting the characters in the ass with sticks!”

But Mitenbuler suggests that those slapped butts were part of what made animation so revolutionary in the first place. “Wild Minds” begins with the early days of animation, in the first decades of the 20th century, when moving image technology was still beginning.

The work created within the animation industry was often blithely dismissive of anything that aspired to good taste in those early decades. This was until the film studios themselves began self-censoring in the early 1930s to avoid government regulation. Because until then, animators followed a single rule: “Everything is valid”.

Mitenbuler suggests in the prologue of “Wild Minds” that this story goes from rude to rarefied. But one of the most fascinating things he says is that animation, like so much of American culture, has continually mixed all kinds of categories and expectations.

He tells how many of Disney’s creations were joyous configurations of dark European fairy tales. “Wild Minds” also tells how the Fleischer brothers made a film featuring an animated Teddy Roosevelt representing stories from “The Canterbury Tales”.

In the decades that followed “Fantasy”, while Disney Studios continued to make animated films, Walt Disney insisted that his films were not intended for children, and strove to use adult audiences for the advances.

Even so, Disney could not protect the animation industry from the inexorable forces of television, where the real money was in caring for children. “Wild Minds” ends with Disney’s death in 1966. That same year, Mitenbuler writes, “the three main TV channels turned their Saturday morning programming into cartoons”.

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