Top 5 Monday, Mar 18–Sunday, Mar 24
During the period between 100 B.C and 250 A.D., Rome and the Parthian Empire (situated in today’s Iran) clashed over control of the lucrative trade routes and territories of the Middle East. Between them laid the local civilizations of the region, which assimilated certain stylistic aspects of the art and architecture of both hegemons, while also maintaining their own cultural uniqueness. This round-up of period treasures—some 190 works in all—from museums in the Middle East, Europe and the United States—offers viewers a glimpse into the richness of this period in history.
Cutler’s surreal allegories on paper are executed with a jewel like precision that recalls Persian and Indian miniatures, and similarly evoke a world both exotic and alien—in Cutler’s case, a dreamlike landscape of women whose interactions appear to symbolize the travails of being female. Masks are a frequent motif, reflecting, perhaps, the societal roles imposed on women. Elsewhere, subjects have had their faces replaced by cavities crowded inside with objects or other people, suggestion various states of self-abnegation. Cutler is usually known for her colorful use of gouache, though this show also include graphite drawings that render her themes in stark black and white.
The four artists in this exhibit (some self-taught, others art-school educated) represent different degrees of outsider art as seen in the work of Joe Coleman, Felipe Jesus Consalvos, Henry Darger and Duke Riley. Darger (1892-1973) is the most famous of the lot, and is even featured as the subject here of a gonzo painting by Coleman paying homage to the creator of the Vivian Girls. Riley, who once built a working recreation of the Revolutionary War-era submarine, The Turtle—is known for maritime themes, evinced here by a huge rendering of a fanciful ship. Consalvos (1891-1960) made his Dadaist collages out of cigar boxes and bands for good reason: He was a cigar roller for most of his life, both in his native Havana and in the United States after he immigrated here in 1920. Together, the artists in the show (named for the title of one of Consalvos’s contributions) should indeed elicit amazement from the viewer.
China’s tumultuous transition to modernity during the 19th- and 20th-centuries is the subject of these paintings by veteran artist Gang Zhao, who pitches his canvases somewhere between the artistic traditions of East and West. Zhao’s scenes, which span the years between the late Imperial period and the Communist era, suggest that despite major upheavals, Chinese history has maintained a remarkable continuity.
Among America’s postwar artists, Horace Clifford Westermann (1922–1981) was easily one of the most idiosyncratic. His work whirled together texts, cartoonish graphics and folk art craftsmanship into a stew that was as surreal as it was sui generis. Though wildly exuberant, Westermann’s works were often haunted by intimations of death—due, in no small part, to his service in the Pacific during World War II aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Enterprise, which endured waves of kamikaze attacks during the battle for Okinawa. Though Westermann is most often associated with eccentric sculptures that looked liked they’d escaped from a demented woodworker’s shop, this show focuses on his equally mad drawings.