Art Stroll

Art Stroll: Where We Are – Whitney, NYC

A couple of weeks ago I went to the Whitney to see the Calder exhibition – which was fantastic- but I also took some time for the Where We Are exhibition with selections from the Whitney’s collection 1900-1960.

“Where We Are traces how artists have approached the relationships, institutions and activities that shape our lives. The Exhibition is organized in five themes: family and community, work, home, the spiritual and the nation. During the six decades covered in the exhibition, the U.S. experiences war and peace, collapse and recovery, and social discord and progress. The artists and their works suggest that our sense of self is composed of our responsibilities, places and beliefs. Where We Are is titled after a phrase in W.H. Auden’s poem “September 1, 1939”. The title of the poem marks the date Germany invaded Poland. While it’s subject is the beginning of the war, Auden’s true theme is how the shadow of a global emergency reaches into the far corners of everyday life. Where we Are shares Auden’s guarded optimism, gathering a constellation of artists, whose light might lead us forward.”

Ellsworth Kelly, 1961 – Red, White and blue – Oil on linen

Ellsworth Kelly’s earliest works of art were created in service to the United States, as part of a special camouflage unit in France during World War II. Kelly and his fellow artist-soldiers were tasked with fooling the Germans—using rubber and wood to construct fake tanks and trucks—into thinking the multitudes of Allied troops on the battlefield were much larger than reality. While this seems an unconventional early training for an artist, it proved a fitting one for Kelly. After his service, Kelly enrolled in the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. After knowing this – doesn’t the painting now feel like a camouflage flag? ;)

Herman Trunk, Jr., Mount Vernon, 1932.  Oil on canvas

Jasper Johns, 1958 – three Flags, Encaustic on canvas

Johns saw the American flag as a symbol that is usually “seen and not looked at, not examined”. The execution and composition of Three Flags encourages close inspection. What do you think, is the middle panel actually fully painted with the flag or not? Apparently it is still a bit of a mystery although infrared hints it is incomplete.

Jasper Johns, 1959, watercolor and graphite on fond paper

Having just seen the Rauschenberg exhibition at MoMA this made me excited – and I love the mail-art.

George Grosz, 1947-48, Waving the Flag, Watercolor on paper

Marsden Hartley, 1914-15, Painting, Number 5, Oil on linen

Marsden Hartley began this work before the First World War, during an extended stay in Berlin. The painting is a memorial to Karl von Freyburg, a young German officer whom Hartley loved and who was killed in battle soon after the war began. The way he painted has the effect of a collage.

Jacob Lawrence, 1946 and 1947- War series – Tempura on composition board

I had never seen the war series by Lawrence before and it really grabbed me. He painted the series while serving during WWII. These paintings are timeless and the narrative is ingrained in our heads with wars we have experienced or know about.

I would like to go back and see the other paintings in the gallery in this series with more time- but it was quite full that day.

Archibald Motley Jr., 1948 – Gettin’ Religion, Oil on linen

Archibald Motley’s primary artistic inspiration were the inhabitants of Chicago’s South Side, a culturally thriving neighborhood at the time. In this night scene he captured the full spectrum of urban experiences.

Charles Demuth, 1930- Buildings, Lancaster – Oil and graphite pencil on composition board

Louise Bourgeois, 1941 – Quarantania 1941 – painted wood

Soon after emigration from Paris to New York 1938 Louise Bourgeois made this sculpture. Quarantania resembles a group of standing figures huddled together and reimagines people she has left behind in her native France. Additionally the five elements might also evoke sewing needles or weaving shuttles, tools used in her family’s tapestry restoration trade.

James Castle, Interior with Stove and below Shed, Soot and spit on found paper.

I had never heard before of James Castle who lived from 1899-1977, but boy did his story and his paintings touch me.  Castle was profoundly deaf from birth.

He never learned to speak, sing, read or write; largely unschooled and self-taught he developed his own techniques for creating works of art and used his art as a tool for communcation. To make his black-and-white-drawings, he combined salvia with soot from a wood-burning stove and used sharpened sticks, sometimes fruit pits,  to apply the mixture to his paper.

James Castle, 1910- 77 , artist’s books with sooth and spit on found paper

In addition to the numerous works on paper, James Castle produced hundreds if not thousands of handmade books. Using commercial food packaging or heavy paper as covers, he stitched together blank pages and filled them with drawings of letters, pictographic symbols, collections of mock photos and sketches based on advertisements.

He frequently made use of both sides of papers he found around the house- flattened matchstick boxes, ice-cream carton lids, envelopes and even his niece’s old homework assignment. Amazing!


Andy Warhol, 1961 -$199 Television – acrylic and oil stick on canvas

I love this – it hints of things to come but still shows an artist hand – Warhol’s.

Minnie Evans, 1935 – My Very First and My Second

Minnie Evans crated both drawings on Good Friday when she was 43 years old. She said a spiritual force compelled her to begin drawing – these are her very first drawings hinting at the subjects of her later work – biblical imagery, plants and fantastical bests.

Morris Louis, 1958 -Tet – Acrylic on canvas

Morris Louis learned the method of staining unprimed canvas from fellow artist Helen Frankenthaler. He had a really small studio and this canvas is massive. For a long time no-one really could figure out how he made these big paintings. Conservators found out that he would roll the canvas in portions and pour, and then re-roll the canvas and dry and then continue. So he never saw the entirety of the painting while working on it.

Joseph Stella, 1939, The Brooklyn Bridge

This looks so timeless again – I love this painting of the Brooklyn Bride.

It was a great exhibition, thought provoking and interesting. It is open now and does not have an end date yet. Check it out when you are at The Whitney!

Comments (2)

  • Kim


    Wow! The technique used by Morris Louis was a surprise! How cool!


  • Sue Clarke


    The artist books by James Castle struck me the most. I can only imagine what it meant for him to be able to communicate through drawing.


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Art Stroll: Calder: Hypermobility at Whitney

Last Saturday my husband and I went to the Whitney museum to see the Calder: Hypermobility exhibition. In the early 1930s, Alexander Calder invented an entirely new mode of art, the mobile—a kinetic form of sculpture in which carefully balanced components manifest their own unique systems of movement. The exhibition showcases major examples of Calder’s work including early motor-driven abstractions, sound-generating Gongs, and standing and hanging mobiles.

We arrived right on time for one of the activations of the artwork which the Whitney performs on certain times throughout each day

and it was really my favorite to see these pieces in motion – check out the short one minute video below to see the two pieces above being activated:

Calder: Hypermobility from Nathalie Kalbach on Vimeo.

I loved the exhibition – there was something so playful and happy about all the pieces

and I was equally fascinating by the way they were assembled

the forms, shapes and use of color

as well as the really intriguing shadows

I loved seeing all generations being equally fascinated by the work.

and the shadows in motion

I loved the sculptures

and his use of different materials. BTW Calder called his non moving sculptures “Stabiles” .

Some of the pieces were electrical and I wished they would have been working at the the time I was there – guess I have to come back.

How does the one below not fall ….LOL- crazy !

All the elements and principles of art can be found in his work- it is so fascinating.

I loved this gigantic mobile on the wall

For a number of his work- like the one above – Calder intentionally designed the components to collide and even make a sound- which in I couldn’t hear in this one but assume it did make one :)

Each piece which didn’t move just by the moving air in the museum made me wonder how it would look moving. It is weird to see the work not in the way it is intended to be seen, at least once you realize it is intended to be moving…I wish there was a way to just keep them moving but I assume that from a conservatory perspective that would be really hard on the pieces.

I found the fish surprising in regards to the other work on display – but still cool- look at the two shadows

It was a perfect and wonderful day in NYC

The exhibition is on display until October 23, 2017 – make sure to check out the Whitney Website for the activation times – it is well worth to go and see this!

Hope you enjoyed the Art Stroll today!

Comments (4)

  • Florence Turnour


    Wow that looks like a fantastic exhibit. I love Calder’s work so much. There was (and maybe still is) a mobile having in the National Museum of Art in DC that I used to visit when I lived out there. Thanks for sharing these pictures. I wish I could go myself.


    • Nathalie Kalbach


      It was really awesome Florence. Oh – I have to go the National Museum of Art in DC when I am around that area again :) Thanks for checking the post out :)


  • Jean


    Another great Art Stroll. Have always been fascinated with the structure, balance and movement of mobiles. Thanks for sharing.


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Art Stroll: Making Space at MoMA

A couple weeks ago Natalya Aikens and I visited Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction is the title of a MoMA Exhibition open until August 2017. It features the work of female artists from 1945 to 1968 and shows artwork from MoMA’s collection from over 50 artists. Paintings, sculptures, photographs, drawings, prints, textiles and ceramics.

Helen Frankenthaler “Trojan Gates” (1955) Oil and Enamel on Canvas

Frankenthaler thinned her pigments with turpentine so that they would soak directly into the canvas and stain it.

Louise Bourgeois “Self Portrait as Bird” (1945) Oil and Ink on cut board with rivets

Louise Nevelson “Big Black” (1963), Painted Wood

To create this sculpture, Nevelson stacked boxes against a wall and filled each compartment with found wooden scraps. She then covered the entire assemblage with black paint.

Bela Kolarova “Five by Four” (1967) Wood, paint, and metal paper fasteners

I loved this piece!


Left- Elaine de Kooning “Bullfight” (1960) Acrylic on Paper

Yayoi Kusama “No F” (1959)

Look at the detail of the piece – makes you want to touch it.

Anni Albers “Tapestry” (1948) Handwoven linen and cotton

Sarah Grilo “Add” (1965) Oil on Canvas

First time on view at MoMA. It was one of my favorite pieces and it made me sad to think that this would vanish again after the show in a storage space.

Lee Bonticou “Untitled” (1961)

Lee Bonticou lived in NY above a laundry and found the conveyer belt there. I love the organic yet mechanical piece and you cannot help yourself but look into the dark void.


Carol Rama “Spurting Out ” (1967) – Ink, Gouache, shellac  and plastic doll eyes on paper

This was interesting …and eerie at the same time.

Several thoughts :

  • It was so prominent that a lot of the female artists were spouses of  “famous” and permanently displayed male artists – in a way it must have been an exciting time to be a female artist- but also so hard to break through and be heard.
  • Who inspired whom btw?
  • Mostly only one piece of artwork was displayed by the artists making it seem as that is all the space there is for their amazing work to be displayed
  • MoMA, why not making real space for those artists instead of just a temporary exhibition space. Just display more of this artwork in your permanent collection galleries.
  • More Female Solo Exhibitions would be great – a lot of those artists have quite some scope of work – “Where Are All the Women” by Jerry Saltz is still good and valid read.

I will definitely go back and see it more in depth but I had a great time with Natalya and enjoyed looking at some of the artwork with different eyes, given the different medium she works with .

Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction is on show until August 13, 2017 at MoMA


Comments (8)

  • Sue Clarke


    I just love “Add”…such a delightful piece. Maybe it can hang in my living room in between being out in the gallery?


    • Nathalie Kalbach


      Wouldn’t that be awesome to have? It should rather hang in our living rooms when vanish in the museum storage again.


  • Stephanie


    I heard about the exhibit on NPR. Looks like it was fab!


    • Nathalie Kalbach


      Oh I bet that was interesting -might have to see if I can still find it on NPR


  • Seth


    Thanks for taking us along on the ride!


  • Diane


    Thank you for this post. Most interesting. Also like your observations about women artists.


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Art Stroll: Rauschenberg Among Friends Part 2

As promised Part 2 of my visit of the Rauschenberg Among Friends Exhibition – you can read about Part 1 here. When you are reading this I have been already back to the show and have scheduled another visit next week …I am obsessed- HELP – LOL

“Ace”(1962) , Oil, paper, cardboard, paint-can label, umbrella, doorknob, fabric, wood, nails, and metal on canvas – on five panels

I love how reading the signage becomes the start of a scavenger hunt trying to find all elements mentioned on the panels.

“Black Market” (1961), Oil, watercolor, pencil, paper, fabric, newspaper, printed paper, printed reproductions, wood, metal, tin, street sign, license plate and four metal clipboards on canvas with rope, chain and wood suitcase containing rubber stamps, ink pad and typed instructions regarding objects to be given and taken by viewers

Black Market was first on view in Amsterdam in 1961 and viewers were invited to take out an object from the suitcase and replace it with their own and then make a drawing of their contribution on one of the clipboards. Unfortunately people were mostly just stealing the objects in the suitcase and so Rauschenberg withdrew his invitation. – I just love the concept and thought -so sad it didn’t work out!

“Pilgrim” (1960), Oil, graphite, printed paper and fabric on canvas with painted wood chair.

If you look closely you can see that Rauschenberg actually used the chair as a painting tool to drag down the paint in the canvas and then attached the chair as an collage element. It looks as if you are invited to take a seat to be part of the painting- but Natalya and I refrained from doing so – LOL.

Marcel Duchamp “Bottle Rack” 1960

Rauschenberg purchased this work for three dollars after he saw it in an exhibition, and then asked Duchamp to sign the work. Duchamp agreed and signed and left an inscription saying “Impossible for me to recall the original phrase” . Jokesters- LOL- I wonder how much this readymade art piece is worth nowadays.

I loved how the exhibition was laid out – and of course early morning hours are the best to ensure a more empty space.

“scanning” (1963) Oil and silkscreen -ink print on canvas

the canvas includes a photo of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company with Steve Paxton how lived with Rauschenberg when the piece was made.

The paw prints here were added by Sweetie, Rauschenberg’s pet kinkajou who strolled across the canvas while Rauschenberg was making it on the floor of his studio. He simply embraced the accident as part of the work. HA YES!

“Overdrive” (1963) Oil and silkscreen -ink print on canvas

I am so in love with this piece and the one below

“Estate” (1963) Oil and silkscreen -ink print on canvas

Rauschenberg started in the early 60s to use more and more readymade images into his paintings and visited Andy Warhol in the studio in 1962 to get an intro into the silkscreen technique. He had a friend destroy his stock of screens to avoid the pressure of repeating himself in his artwork.

I could look at them forever- and as you can see below the paintings are actually quite big.

“Volon” (1971)

Come on- admit…this makes you look at your boxes in a whole different way, no?

Untitled (1972) – Tape and cardboard boxes with rubber hose.

and so something that some people call trash becomes a piece of artwork – I love it!

“Sor Aqua” (1973) Wood and metal suspended with rope over water-filled bathtub with glass jug.

Rauschenberg found the inspiration for this piece in Venice – where he gathered found materials for a series of assemblages. The water- filled bathtub evokes the Venetian canals, the suspended tangle of rusted metal refers to aging, deteriorated surfaces throughout the city.

“Mirthday Man” (1997) Water-soluble inkjet dye and pigment transfer on plylaminate

You can find an x-ray of Rauschenberg which he called “self-portrait of inner man” and surrounded it with photographs he had taken over the year. Rauschenberg created this piece in one day on his 72nd birthday.

“Bible Bike” (1991) Tarnishes on brass, bronze and copper

The imagery and coloration in the metal painting series, Borealis, was produced through chemical reactions (which Rauschenberg called “corrosions”), sometimes with the addition of acrylic paint. Tarnishing agents, such as acetic acid and ammonium salts, are brushed or silkscreened onto brass, copper, or bronze surfaces, resulting in a muted range of colors: green, brown, or black, depending on the type of metal support. By painting or drawing with a tarnish-resistant medium before applying the tarnishing agent, the artist could create coloristic variations by contrasting the tarnished and untarnished metal.

I hope you enjoyed the Art Stroll- you can find all Art Strolls here on my website. But seriously if you are in NYC visit this exhibition – it is open until September 17, 2017.

Comments (1)

  • Sue Clarke


    I just love “scanning” and the pet paw prints!
    Thanks for all the photos.


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Art Stroll: Rauschenberg Among Friends Part 1

Last week Natalya Aikens, who is a wonderful artist, and I met at MoMA to see the Rauschenberg exhibition in the early hours. I have been looking forward to this exhibition for a couple months now since I am a huge admirer of Robert Rauschenberg’s work. That is also noticeable when you read my book Artful Adventures in Mixed Media as I have used some of his work in on of the chapters.

“Grand Black Tie Sperm Glut” (1987)

What I loved particularly about this exhibition was that it reflected the fact that Rauschenberg was a very social person and many of the people he met, artists, friends, lovers shaped his work and he fed off their company.

“Sue” (c. 1950), Exposed blueprint paper

The exhibition starts with blueprints created by and with artist Sue Weil, who was for a short while Robert Rauschenberg’s wife. One of them would lie down on a sheet of photo-sensitive paper and the other one would hold the bright lamp for a while to expose the image on the paper.

“Short Circuit” (1955), Combine: oil, fabric and paper on wood supports and cabinet with two hinged doors containing a painting by Susan Weil and a reproduction of a Jasper Johns Flag painting by Elaine Sturtevant

Rauschenberg was highly influenced by his teacher Josef Albers and the Bauhaus mentality to consider and focus on readily accessible and ordinary materials and to combine them.

“Charlene”(1954), Combine: oil, charcoal, paper, fabric, newspaper, wood, plastic, mirror, and metal on four Homasote panels, mounted on wood with electric light

Rauschenberg called those readily materials “real objects” – he included a letter from his mother and a man’s undershirt.

“Bed” (1955), Combine: oil and pencil on pillow, toothpaste, fingernail polish, quilt, and sheet, mounted on wood support
Rauschenberg recalled once that he could not afford to buy a canvas and so he decided to make a painting on a patchwork quilt given to him by the artist Dorothea Rockburne (she btw once said that when she was doing laundry she realized her quilt was missing and saw it later on again in this Piece :) ) . The pencil strokes on top of the pillow are very likely by Cy Twombly. Rauschenberg and Twombly were in a relationship and traveled together, making art.

“Rebus” (1955), Combine: oil, synthetic polymer paint, pencil, crayon, pastel, cut-and-pasted printed and painted papers, including a drawing by Cy Twombly, and fabric on canvas mounted and stapled to fabric
Rauschenberg gathered many of the materials in Rebus from and near his studio in Lower Manhattan. He used commercial paint samples, included a piece of a painting by Cy Twombly

and three of the drawings this series were also included in the exhibition

Cy Twombly

I loved seeing all the different materials and you really get a sense of a highly humorous person in Rauschenberg

a person who doesn’t take himself too serious- what a wonderful streak.

“Factum I ”  and “Factum II” 1957, Combine: oil, ink, pencil, crayon, paper, fabric, newspaper, printed reproductions, and printed paper on canvas
Rauschenberg created these two paintings, repeating the same falsely spontaneous brush strokes in both. Rauschenberg wanted to show that neither impulsive painting or planned painting alone make an artwork, but that it rather is a mix of intention and chance, impulsive gestures and thought.

“Monogram” (1957-59), Combine: oil, paper, fabric, printed paper, printed reproductions, metal, wood, rubber shoe heel, and tennis ball on canvas with oil and rubber tire on Angora goat on wood platform mounted on four casters
This mixture of a painting, sculpture and assemblage is probably one of the best known works by Rauschenberg, seeing it in person was definitely a treat as a picture is not really capturing it.

“Summerstorm” (1959) Combine: oil, graphite, paper, printed reproductions, wood, fabric, necktie, and metal zipper on canvas
I loved going to this exhibition with Natalya as she uses a lot of plastic and fabric in her artwork she was looking at all pieces in different ways then I did – and pointed out that the tie was not attached, she wondered if it was meant to be to flap in the wind – and once we saw a tie in this Combine – we saw ties in Rauschenberg’s work everywhere :)

“Painting with Grey Wing” (1959), Combine: oil, printed reproductions, unpainted paint-by-number board, typed print on paper, photographs, fabric, stuffed bird wing, and dime on canvas
This was one of my favorite pieces in the exhibition.

Niki de Saint Phalle “Shooting Painting American Embassy” 1961, Paint plaster, wood, plastic bags, shoe, twine, metal seat, axe, metal can, toy gun, wire mesh, shot pellets and other objects on wood.

“Each of the colours appears to have dripped down the canvas from a hole, which exposes a dark surface beneath the white. Saint Phalle made this work by shooting with a gun at bags of paint that were placed on the canvas. Before the shooting began, the surface was covered with white plaster and pigment to resemble a blank canvas. As the shooting commenced, the bags would be punctured and the coloured paints released to flow and splash.” The piece is part of a series and in which artist would shoot at the pieces as a performance. Robert Rauschenberg as well as Jasper Johns took aim at this painting.

And what is Natalya laughing about here? At a framed letter and the work is called “This Is a Portrait of Iris Clert if I Say So” (1961) Telegram

This telegram was Rauschenberg’s submission to a show of portraits of the Parisian gallerist Iris Clert in 1961. Rauschenberg realized about two works before the show, that he forgot to make the work. And so…he made a conceptual portrait via telegram sending it to Iris Clert, one whose maker shifts depending on the “I” who reads it. – CLEVER guy- LOL. I guess he got away with it ;)

Now there was so much more in the Art Stroll and since I am such a big fan of Rauschenberg I decided to show it in two parts- so another one on this is coming in a week. Hope you enjoyed the Art Stroll so far. If you are anywhere close to NYC go and see this exhibition – seriously! It is open until September 17, 2017.

Comments (2)

  • Sue Clarke


    I of course like “Sue” and have used that paper for flowers and shells but not people (too small).
    I love the story of the quilt. LOL


    • Nathalie Kalbach


      LOL- of course Sue ;) Oh how cool you used it before- I want to – I need to get this. Yeah the story of the quilt was hilarious – there were several of those stories that made me really laugh -he must have been such a funny- also the good kind of prankster :)


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Art Stroll: Whitney Biennal 2017

The 2017 Whitney Biennal, the 28th installment of a survey of American art, features sixty-three individuals and collectives with various art styles. This Biennal has been highly controversial and after much consideration I decided to not show any of the most controversial pieces …simply because I haven’t made up my mind about them myself and it is really complicated. All I can say is that the work in question in the article I linked up to made me sick to the stomach. So I keep this Art Stroll more on the inspirational and fluffy side.

These wall hangings and sculptures by collaborative duo KAYA, painter Kerstin Brätsch and sculptor Debo Eilers are made of of melted plastic, leather straps, oversized grommets, paint and stainless-steel towel bars.

I liked the connection of sculptural and painterly work and the mix of materials.

I found them intriguing even if some people called those wall hangings a hot mess.

The cabinet above was also by them – it reminds me of lockers in a gym as well as a swimming pool at the same time. Also the piece below- which I assume is made with resin .


Kaari Upson …yep these are paper roll towels. Kaari turns stained paper towel rolls and upholstered furniture with the help of urethane, pigment and aluminum into lush sculptures.

OK- I lied- not all inspirational – LOL- this one on the left was just weird and gross and I don’t care if that makes me an idiot. This installation by Pope.L’s with 2,755 slices of bologna with a photo pinned to its walls – I didn’t get the whole thing – the explanation with the artwork revealed at the same time as being done using “made up data”. What’s the point?

OK- now …back to inspiration …The paintings in the gallery below are by Sarah Hughes.

Most of the paintings are done with oil, acrylics, enamel and dye. I love the vibrant colors!

The next group of paintings are by Carrie Moyer.

She begins a painting often by creating small collages from cut paper, pours acrylic  and then mixes in glitter.

I loved the texture and colors and shapes

Definitely one of my favorite artworks of the show.

The window and sculptures in this room are by Raul de Nieves

For this site-specific wok de Nievies covered the windows with “stained glass” panels which he created using paper, wood, glue tape beads and acetate sheets.

The sculptures are based on shoes …and amazingly beaded and and put together.

It was weird and beautiful.

That was it …. a very soft art stroll of an exhibition that was filled with controversial discussions and artwork which I did not show here. If you are going…you will be seeing a lot of different things and if you went, I would love to hear your thoughts.

Comments (2)

  • Sue Clarke


    As I look at some of those wall hangings it occurs to me that I tend to look more deeply at art that disturbs me (that I’m not drawn to since it’s pretty and in “my” color schemes). These photos fit the bill. Disturbing art brings about some great discussions. TFS Nat.


    • Nathalie Kalbach


      Sue, I agree, that art that is unusual or disturbing invites for a longer dialogue with the viewer. Unless it is smelly bologna slices …then that is just gross and makes you run- LOL.


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Art Stroll: A Revolutionary Impulse – MoMA

A couple weeks ago my friend Julie Fei -Fan Balzer was in town and we had an awesome day filled with good food, chats, laughter and of course…Art. We went to MoMA to see A Revolutionary Impulse – The Rise of the Russian Avant-Garde – a title that couldn’t make it in it’s entirety into my blog title- LOL.

“During the early 1910’s under the tsarist autocracy (in Russia) that had ruled for three centuries, avant-garde artists sought to overthrow entrenched academic conventions by experimenting with complex ideas that would transform the course of modernist visual culture. In 1915 as World War I raged, an abstract mode of painting called Suprematism abandoned all concrete pictorial references….With the October Revolution of 1917, Lenin’s party took command. Avant-Garde artists put individual expression aside and developed a structured abstract language called Constructivism which they hoped could be embraced by the masses. Constructivists rejected easel painting in favor of practical objects like ceramics, posters and logos. …By the late 1920s, the government, now headed by Stalin, had placed restrictions on all aspects of life, including the arts, and was commissioning artists to produce propagandistic books, posters and magazines touting Soviet achievement….This exhibition spans the years 1912 to 1935…Conceived in response to changing socio-political and artistic conditions, these works probe the many ways and object can be revolutionary.” From MoMA’s wall text about the exhibition

Olga Rozanova, War, 1916 – Linoleum cut illustrations out of a a book with ten illustrations.

The imagery for those lino-cuts is influenced by the abstracted forms of Cubism and Futurism but also by traditional Russian motifs. I was intrigued by the very simplistic way she created figures with crosshatching and just some hints of form here and there which your eye completes yourself as a person or else.

Lyubov Popova, 1914, Subject from a Dyer’s Shop – Oil on Canvas.

Note that Lyubov is another woman …

Kazimir Malevich, Samovar, 1913, Oil on Canvas. “A year later Malevich was painting cubes and lines and circles and balancing them in ways that had no relation to anything but geometry and the will to make something new. Malevich called his art “Suprematist,” hoping that it would have supremacy over forms found in nature.”

Vasily Kandinsky, Improvisation, c. 1915 – Watercolor and pencil on paper

Various artist: Natalia Goncharova, Mikhail Larionov, Nikolai Rogovin, Vladimir Tatlin -Mirskontsa (Worldbackwards)-1912

These books were made with wall paper and I really love the shapes  too.

Natalia Goncharova Spanish Dancer –(c. 1914) . Isn’t this beautiful?

And then things changed…



Jean Pougny, Suprematist Relief-Sculptures, 1920s – Painted wood, metal and cardboard, mounted on wood panel. I did love this one – I wish it wasn’t behind a glass

Lyubov Popova, Six Prints ca. 1917-19 – linoleum cuts with watercolor and gouache additions

A pioneer of the avant-garde, Popova developed a style in the late 1910s that combined floating forms inspired by Cubist collage and by Suprematism. She called this print series – there are four more- “painterly architectonics” . She wanted to depict layered shapes, so that they seem to be continually shifting and rotating.

Varvara Stepanova, Figure, 1921 – This is in MoMA’s permanent collection and I always loved this one. BTW …another woman :)

Aleksandr Rodchenko, Non-Objective-Painting 1919, Oil on Canvas


I love the crosshatching and the expanding lines.

Naum Gabo, Head of a Woman, 1917-20 – Celluloid and Metal

Nikolai Suetin – 1923

In 1917 the Bolsheviks seized control of the government and took over the State Porcelain Factory which used to manufacture porcelain for tsars in Petrograd (now St. Petersburg). Suetin a Suprematist artist was invited to make decorative designs for existing porcelain found in the factory. These ceramics, once meant for imperial tables, were now reimagined for the proletariat.

I would totally wanna have this set and use it – and I find it so interesting how the forms and shapes painted on canvas speak so much more to me on this tea set.

How cool is this pop-up parachute ? The reflection of it is also a bit funny – guess I made Julie a new outfit ;)

I enjoyed this exhibition. The most eye catching fact for me was just how many women were in this exhibition since modern women artists are very underrepresented at MoMA. I regret that the exhibition is coming to an end, as I feel there is so much about this that I didn’t quite grasp and I more or less just floated around in this exhibition with a semi knowledge of the political time the art was created in Russia and a lacking mind for the ideas behind Suprematism and Constructivism. But you know what…I will be ok …I was still inspired ;)

Comments (2)

  • Sue Clarke


    That tea set is great and Julie’s new outfit is interesting. Glad to see that you two had fun with art again!


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Art Stroll: Matisse and American Art at MAM

A couple weeks ago my friend Heather pinged me on a Sunday morning and said “Hey, I need to see art today – let’s go to a museum”. I had seen a news report on the exhibition “Matisse and American Art” at the Montclair Art Museum and since I use Matisse as an inspiration for my classes sometimes, I convinced her to go there with me. It was soooo worth it!

The exhibition strives to explore Henri Matisse’s influence on American Artists from 1905 to the present. The list of profilic artists inspired and influenced by his work is immense and the exhibition showed in an interesting way how some artists explored some of his work  for a while and some of them took it even further and let it immerse into their own style.

Andy Warhol – Woman in Blue (After Matisse), 1985, synthetic polymer paint and silkscreen inks on canvas.

This painting by Warhol was directly inspired by the Woman in Blue by Matisse from 1937 and even though it is pretty much copied from Matisse down to the colors red, yellow, blue, black, and white, you can see the flatness of the painting so typical for Warhols techniques and the hand holding the necklace says Warhol to me.

Morton Livingston Schamberg- Studio of a Girl, ca. 1912 – Oil on Canvas

Schamberg traveled extensively in Europe and he must have seen many Matisse paintings during his time there. The paining reminds of Matisse’s painting Painting of Madame Matisse. The Green Line.

Roy Lichtenstein – Bellagio Hotel Mural: Still Life with Reclining Nude (Study), 1997 cut -and pasted, painted and printed paper on board.

Roy Lichtenstein had a longtime interest in Matisse and Picasso and many references to their artwork can be seen in his work like the simplification of form or direct references of elements in Matisse’s paintings. In this painting parts of his studio, the open window, the patterns.

Judy Pfaff – Six of One-Melone, 1987 – Color Woodcut

In her installations, prints and sculpture, Pfaff translates Al Held and Henri Matisse’s theories of color into her own visual language. Pfaff says that Matisse gave her “courage” and has been ” the source of how to teach and how to see”.

On a little side note: Heather and I saw this woodcut different than in the image above. It was hung upside down from what you see here and we remember this so well because Heather actually had a very strong reaction of dislike to the artwork and we stood in front of it discussing why. When we later talked about the exhibition and this piece with our friends we opened the exhibition catalogue to discover that it was displayed as above, and further research had me find it is also displayed differently on the artist website as well as on the MAM instagram account (I used their image above) . Heather like different display in the catalogue also way better than how we actually saw it.  So this haunted me for days and finally I wrote MAM and asked if there is a reason for hanging it the other way (artist instruction that it can be hung any way) or if this was an overseen mistake by the technical staff who hung the artwork. And here is their answer:

“Thank you for writing to the Montclair Art Museum. We had been in conversation with the artist about this issue since the exhibition installation, and have just now heard back. The image used in the catalogue and online was provided by and checked by Crown Point Press; when unpacked the artist’s signature placement indicated that it instead by installed as you saw it. Judy Pfaff has now confirmed that the way the artwork is hung is correct, and you’ll find that all publicity and use of the image going forward will be corrected.”

And so apparently the way we saw it as below – is the right way (btw- it is now changed on the Artist website as well) :)

Now which way does speak more to you? I actually liked it the “wrong” way in the catalogue and instagram page better than the way it is hung and apparently now supposed to be hung. the shapes feel more organically and right – and the forms are more balanced for me in the top version. But hey ….who argues with the artist. But I thought this was interesting.


Mark Rothko, No. 44 (Two Darks in Red), 1955 – Oil on Canvas

Mark Rothko called Matisse “the greatest revolutionary in modern art”. Rothko studied Matisse’s The Red Studio (1911) after MoMA had acquired it in 1949. He went to the museum and every day for several months just to stand in front of the picture. While viewing the painting he said ” You became that color, you became totally saturated with it as if it were music” .

William Baziotes, Toy Animal – 1947 – Oil on Canvas.

Baziotes was so inspired by his visit to the Matisse retrospective at MoMA in 1931 that he resolved to move to New York to study art. Baziotes’ basic shapes and luminous color recall many of the plant and human forms that populate Matisse’s work.

Al Held – The Space between the Two – 1992 – print

Al Held studied and used Matisse’s ideas about color, form, structure and scale.

Denice Bizot, Urban Flora, 2014 – 1960s Chevrolet truck hood cut with plasma torch

Bizot’s organic shapes are reminscent of Matisse’s paper collage cut- outs of the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Doris rosenthal, Gran Terrazo, ca. 1920-1922 -Pastel on Paper

This painting shows Rosenthal embracing Matisse’s vibrant color and idyllic subject matter. Matisse often used windows as a vehicle for exploration into color, light and interior versus exterior space.

Janet Taylor Pickett, Indigo Bottle Dress – Charms and Inspirations – Acrylic, digital photograph, glass bottles with written messages and twine on shaped Arches Paper.

Picket’s creative conversation with Matisse spans her entire  career.

Janet Taylor Picket, Dressing in Context 2, 2015  – Collage of various papers, thread and acrylic on Arches paper with grommets.

Janet Taylor Pickett, Me & Matisse, 2003 -04 – Handmade book

In this book, Taylor Pickett’s aspirations to become an artist are combined with her travels abroad to France and her longing for home, which she characterizes as “a metaphor, an idea for finding my voice as an artist”.

As you might imagine the books made me swoon and I want to do something like this !

It was an amazing and inspiring exhibition. I loved seeing all the different ways how other artists were inspired- and still are inspired by Matisse . I came home from the exhibition totally recharged and explored different – Matisse-inspired- things in my studio for several days.  It made me yet again so aware of our differences and our connections – magical! I was also surprised what a wonderful Museum this is and what a huge amount of artwork from even more than the shown well known artists (couldn’t show all) like Stuart Davis, Milton Avery, Richard Diebenkorn, Helen Frankenthaler, Hans Hoffman, Robert Motherwell and many more the museum was able to show for this exhibition. I for sure have this museum on my list and if you are in the New Jersey area- check out this exhibition which is still on view until June 18, 2017.

I hope you enjoyed this little Art Stroll and found some inspiration in it!

Comments (6)

  • Sue Clarke


    Indigo bottle dress is super cool and I would love to have it in my bedroom.
    As to Judy Pfaff’s – Six of One-Melone I do not like it hung the “correct” way…seems off to me.
    Funny how that works.
    I always enjoy strolling with you Nat.


    • Nathalie Kalbach


      I loved that dress too, Sue …I actually also want the red little alcove in my bedroom :) I agree with you on Six of One Melone! Have a gorgeous weekend!


  • Jean Goza


    Always enjoy your Art Strolls. Invariably I find new artists that inspire me. And Matisse has always been a favorite of mine so I enjoyed seeing other artist’s inspiration from his work. Regarding your question on Judy Pfaff’s Six of One Melone piece, I definitely like the “upside down” version better. The balance of the “correct” version feels off to me. It feels as if the larger components of the piece want to “collapse” into the small red and yellow area at the bottom. As you said, you can’t argue with the artist. It’s always fascinating to me the different emotional responses people will have to a piece of art.


    • Nathalie Kalbach


      thank you Jean! Yes- I agree on the composition and how it feels better the “wrong” way. I am also fascinated that people have different emotional responses to art – sometimes certain artists use symbols or subject matters that resonate differently depending if you have the same cultural background as the artist which I find very interesting to discover with friends when going into museums.


  • Bea


    Really interesting…thanks…


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Art Stroll: Francis Picabia at MoMA

Last month I went with some of my friends to the opening of Francis Picabia “Our Heads Are Round so Our Thoughts Can Change Direction” at MoMA

Dances at the Spring II

I had seen a couple of Picabia’s paintings before and love them a lot but to be honest, I didn’t know much of him. My friend Adam, was totally excited because he is a huge Picabia fan and told us, he was waiting for this exhibition for a long time.

I was pleasantly surprised and loved loved loved the exhibition. Every single one of the rooms in the exhibition offered something different in style and was often challenging.

Francis Picabia, 1913, Udnie (Young American Girl, The Dance), oil on canvas

The exhibition covered Picabia’s entire career. He was born to wealth in 1879 and apparently all he did was painting…and partying. He had a lot of humor and was by many, including himself called a Prankster.

Arriving in the next room all the artwork became very industrial, mechanical and added different materials to the flat canvas. He was also a big part of the Dada-Movement.

Très rare tableau sur la terre (Very Rare Picture on the Earth) (1915) Oil and metallic paint on board, and silver and gold leaf on wood, including artist’s painted frame

Amorous Parade, Francis Picabia, 1917- Oil, gesso, metallic pigment, ink, gold leaf, pencil and crayon on board.

And then just as you got used to it …everything changes once again

and again

Animal Trainer, Francis Picabia

The above painting is seen as one of Picabia’s typical jokes and mocking fine craftsman ship. The hand of the figure shows prominently bridges – a typical sign of using stencils – and the dogs as well are created with the use of stencils. This was frowned upon on when he painted this – which was in 1923 and not as he also placed as a joke onto the canvas in 1937. Also check out what the yellow dog is doing in the background.

I loved his playful use of unusual materials in the next gallery -like matches and canvas wedges, brushes, coins. It’s been all done before – it is fun – it is humorous and amazing.

Flowerpot , Francis Picabia, 1924-25. Enamel paint, Ripolin paint-can lids, brushes, wooden stretcher wedges, string and quill toothpicks on canvas.

One gallery was dedicated to his Transparencies 1927 – 1930. I also loved all the different frames- a topic I have talked about in many other posts . They are probably still original because museums weren’t that interested in his artwork up and until the 50s – and so fortunately they did not get destroyed to go with the “museum style frames”

Working in his large new studio in Mougins, Picabia painted his Transparencies by alternating layers of paint with layers of resinous varnish. This process allowed him to lay linear motifs atop one another while keeping them distinct. These richly layered, multi referential compositions interweave an often dizzying array of con tour images drawn from such diverse sources s Renaissance painting, Catalan frescoes, and the popular culture of the day.



Picabia’s unorthodox application of unusual materials sometimes resulted in surfaces that could be interpreted as damaged or in need for restoration. In fact, these effects were often deliberately induced by him. In Portrait of a Woman- shown below, Picabia enhanced some of the bumps with dark paint, purposefully amplifying the paints’s already pronounced topography.

Portrait of a Woman, Francis Picabia, 1935-37 -Oil on Canvas

Isn’t that amazing? And then…it changes again

Spring, Francis Picabia, 1937-38/c.1943 . Oil on wood

And again

The Adoration of the Calf, Francis Picabia, 1941-42, oil on board.

Although Picabia was a resolutely apolitical artist, it is difficult not to read this painting and its cynical vision of the worship of false idols as an engagement with contemporary politics.

Symbol, Francis Picabia, 1950, Oil on canvas

“If you want to have clean ideas, change them as often as you change your shirts.” (Francis Picabia). Our life changes, in that I guess we are consistent and so was Francis Picabia in his art.

If you are in the area make sure to visit this exhibition before it closes in March. I will definitely be back to see it once more :) I hope you enjoyed this little Art Stroll.


Comments (2)

  • Linda Faber


    Thanks, again, Nathalie, for a great tour of an intriguing exhibit. I love his abstract pieces! This artist is new to me and I wish I could get up to NYC (oh but it’s too cold for me now) to see it. And….last year you introduced me to Anselm Kiefer….whose name has been popping up in so many places, and is now on exhibit in Miami! As a retired teacher myself, I love getting these inspirations and knowledge from you….and I know it must be a kick for you as well.


    • Nathalie Kalbach


      thank you Linda, for joining me :) Ha- it is cold here right now …not my favorite thing about NYC ;) Ohhh I have to come to Miami for the Kiefer Show- he is one of my very very favorites!!! Have a gorgeous week, Nat


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