Art Stroll

Art Stroll: Alice Neel at Met Museum, NYC

Last weekend we were able to visit a museum in the first time in over a year. The exhibition “People Come First – Alice Neel” was calling us and after the first hesitation of the thought to be in a closed area with other people I bought some timed tickets for 10am on a Sunday morning. Boy was that the best decision ever. Besides the fantastic exhibition, this was a once in a life time experience at the Met …we entered almost every gallery alone …it was amazing and after such a long time of no artstrolls, seeing art in person was exhilarating. But let’s check out the fantastic Alice Neel exhibition.

“Fish Market”, 1947

Alice Neel was born in 1920 and died in 1984. The earliest of hier paintings in the exhibition was from 1920 and the oldest one from 1984. Alice Neel saw herself as a collector of souls – painting pictures of people not portraits. She was a political painter in the choice of who she painted, what she painted and the way how she painted.

“Mercedes Arroyo”, 1952

Mercedes Arroyo was a social activist in East Harlem. Neel declared in 1950 – echoing Arroyo’s principles “East Harlem is like a battlefield of humanism, and I am on the side of the people here”

“Futility of Effort”, 1930

This abstract painting is one of two experiences: of the loss of Neel’s daughter to diphtheria and a newspaper article Neel wrote about a mother who lost her child when sie was ironing in the kitchen next door, when her child choked on the bars of her crib. Motherhood and the struggles tied to it is a reoccurring subject of Neels paintings.

“Rita and Hubert”, 1954. Hubert Satterfield, a writer and his girlfriend Rita (we do not know what she did).

“Peggy”, 1949

Peggy was a victim of domestic abuse and Neel chose to represent her with the bruises and abrasions left by her boyfriend’s recent assault.

“Dominican Boys on 108th Street”, 1955

While we know those are boys I find them so adult-ish in their gaze and demeanor.

“The Black Boys”, 1967

Neel made this painting of the two young boys Toby and Jeff Neal and I love how you can see the boredom but also discipline to sit this through in those boys. I loved reading an article on how one of the brothers has just seen the painting of him in the very first time after it was finished at the Met and the background story.

“Richard Gibbs” 1968

So vibrant – what is he thinking?

“David Bourdon and Gregory Battcock”, 1970

Bourdon was an editor at Life Magazine, Battcock was an art critic. What a weird juxtaposition of someone in a suit comfortably sitting in an armchair and the other person in his underwear, on an ottoman.

“Jackie Curtis as a Boy” 1972.

Jackie Curtis was a prominent figure in Manhattan’s Lower East side and became very well known when entering the orbit of Andy Warhol. This painting was painted two years later than the one below. This painting reveals the other side of Curtis and play with gender.

“Jackie Curtis and Ritta Redd”, 1970

I love the torn panty hose showing the big toe!

Here you get an idea how empty the galleries were. It was amazing.

“Andy Warhol”, 1970

Andy Warhol was shot in June 1968 and he had many operations to save his life. He is exposing himself to the viewer – his scars, his corset, his eyes are closed, the man who always looked. A very vulnerable painting of Warhol.

“Nancy and Olivia”, 1967 – drawing from art history the subject of mother and child.

“Madame Roulin and Her Baby”, 1888

“Thanksgiving” , 1965

A funny painting and one that Americans well know! Neel was very well versed in art history – the reference below shows the same kind of loose brushwork and food painted into abstraction

“Still Life with Rayfish” ca. 1924 by Chaim Soutine

I did not only love how Neel captured her subjects but also how much humor there was in her paintings.

“Self-Portrait”, 1980

One of her only true self portraits where she is a main subject. Provocative to paint herself nude as an older woman. Neel emphasizes her professional identity by showing the tools of her trade in this painting as well.

“Black Draftee (James Hunter)”, completed 1965

Neel met Hunter on the streets of NY – he came for two sittings. The story goes that he was never able to return as he was called to the Vietnam War. Neel decided the painting is finished. This painting was so touching – for me today it told a different story as well .. the many unfinished lifes of Black Men in America!

“Nazis Murder Jews”, 1936

“107th and Broadway”, 1976

This a view of Neel’s final apartment on the the Upper West Side.I love this – the light, the shadow of the other building, the hint of the bodega on the corner. After looking at all the gazes of people Alice Neel painted, this gave me a little breathing time …maybe she used this view to rest a bit too from all the soul collecting she did, it must have been at times really exhausting.

A great exhibition – and if you are in the area, I recommend coming right at opening time of the museum with an already purchased timed ticket (New Yorkers of course for free). It was a wonderful experience and I felt safe the entire time.

Comments (3)

  • Jean Goza

    |

    Oh Nat. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful experience. I did not know much about Alice Neel. Her painting style and how she captures so much expression and emotion is just incredible. I loved the article about Jeff Neal and how he finally got to see his portrait hanging in the museum. One of the other paintings that really stuck with me was “Black Draftee” (James Hunter). It does seem appropriate that Alice Neel considered it finished in this state. Your comment about the unfinished lives of black men in America is so spot on.
    Thanks again for sharing. I always learn so much on your art strolls.
    Good health to you…

    Reply

  • Sue Clarke

    |

    What an amazing collection. Every person’s face tells a story ( most serious at that). I love the Black Boys…yes, the boredom and discipline you noted Nat.

    Reply

  • Rebecca Buchanan

    |

    I cannot thank you enough for sharing so many images along with your thoughts from this amazing exhibition. I had read about it somewhere else and do not think I would be able to come to see it in person. Thank you again!

    Reply

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 3 MB. You can upload: image. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop file here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Artist Quote of the Week – Alice Neel

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 3 MB. You can upload: image. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop file here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Currently Digging – June 2018 AIT

Once in a while I thought I would share with you some nifty finds – like an Artist who’s work caught my eye…, some Inspiration or the what, when and where that caught my eye and got my creative juices flowing, and Tools & Techniques I am currently digging like a new way to use a material or an application that I’m taking away. Hope you enjoy this.

Here we go for this month:

Last Wednesday my friends and I went to a MoMA opening which I will tell in a later posts about. They had opened another Gallery and my friend Adam pointed out this painting by Alice Neel.

To be honest, I had never heard about her but Adam talked in such a passion and with so much love about her work that I knew I had to check her out.

Her portraits strike something in me – they let you stop and feel with the person in the painting. Her life sounds interesting and I cannot wait to watch the movie about her. I hope you check her work out as well :)

With the better weather daily bike rides are back and on top of that my husband and I are also scouting out some other neighborhoods in the city. As most of you know I am always intrigued by old buildings especially if they also show a lot of patina like this one

I love this one so much with all the patina and also because you can see on the left and the right how it looks like when painted (restored?). All the intricate patterns in the tin, the lacy curtain -I wonder how this building looks like inside and who lived in this building, what stories could it tell.  I find this so inspiring and def. want to paint it some time.

As I have relentlessly mentioned (for the purpose of holding myself accountable to it- LOL), I am reorganizing my studio and while I was getting through one of my drawers I found one of my super super favorite tools again a woodgrain making tool.

I bought it about 15 years ago and have used it like a mad woman with modeling paste, heavy body paint, heavy gesso – oh man …anything that is a thicker paint medium. But then I kind of lost it in the move and when I found it again I jumped up and down and took it to town with my Gelli plate to make collage paper:

Twist, turn, drag …many options- oh Woodgrain tool – thank you for coming back into my life :) Now I am really excited about organizing my studio- who knows what else I re-discover- LOL

See you soon again with some new finds that I am currently digging !

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 3 MB. You can upload: image. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop file here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.