Covet This: Limestone Planters That Channel Irish History

The “Fearn” collection features three planter shapes, each engraved with symbols from the Ogham Irish alphabet.

Article by By Megan O’Sullivan

Orior's Fearn collectionOrior's Fearn collection, featuring three variations of sculptural planters. Each is made from Ireland-sourced stone and marble, paying homage to the design studio’s Irish history. Photograph courtesy of © Simon Watson.

Orior, a family-owned design studio, often returns to its Irish roots. Founded in 1979 in Newry, Northern Ireland, by Brian and Rosie McGuigan, it’s now run primarily by their son, Ciarán, with a workshop in Newry and a showroom in New York City. The company works with many of the same artisans it did four decades ago, sourcing materials such as Connemara marble and Irish crystal to build modern credenzas and tables, and producing chairs and sofas in Ireland’s signature green. Orior’s latest collection, Fearn, consists of sculptural planters made from three Irish limestones: Armagh, Kilkenny and Lecarrow, each named for its native city. “Taking these raw blocks of materials that are extracted from the earth in their purest form and reimagining them into a new shape is part of our practice,” Ciarán says. “It’s about mixing materials and introducing curvature and detail.” There are three planter shapes, though each has a stone base that features engraved symbols from the Ogham Irish alphabet (Fearn is the third letter). On top is a hand-sculpted marble basin, meant to resemble centuries-old waystones that were once placed in front of homes to welcome visitors.

The Fearn collection is available now from $12,250, oriorfurniture.com.

See This: A Painter’s Show of Faceless Portraits in Venice

“Ewa Juszkiewicz: Locks with Leaves and Swelling Buds” reimagines works by 18th-century painters.

Article by By Kin Woo

Ewa Juszkiewicz’s “Red Dress” (2024); Juszkiewicz’s “Portrait in Venetian Red (after Élisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun)” (2024).From left: Ewa Juszkiewicz’s “Red Dress” (2024); Juszkiewicz’s “Portrait in Venetian Red (after Élisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun)” (2024). Credit: © Ewa Juszkiewicz/ photograph courtesy of the artist and Almine Rech.

For over a decade now, the Polish painter Ewa Juszkiewicz has been recreating portraits of women by painters from the Renaissance era to the 19th century, with one significant intervention: She variously obscures the sitters’ faces with fabric, hairstyles and extravagant arrangements of flowers and foliage. The artist’s subversive approach arose from a desire to disrupt an “idealisation of the female image,” she says. Juszkiewicz’s work draws from wide-ranging sources, including the fashions of the Middle Ages and those by contemporary designers like Simone Rocha and Rei Kawakubo. The painter then gathers an assortment of wigs, textiles and old jewellery, builds installations and employs models to serve as references. She paints in a classical European style, using layers of oil paints. The 15 pieces in her new show, “Locks with Leaves and Swelling Buds,” opening at the Palazzo Cavanis in Venice, reimagine works by 18th-century painters like Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun and François Gérard. “I want to challenge existing canons and build my own story based on them,” she says.

“Ewa Juszkiewicz: Locks with Leaves and Swelling Buds” is on view at Palazzo Cavanis, Venice, from April 20 through Sept 1. fabarte.org.

A New Way of Looking at the Nude

The artists redefining portraits of the human body for a more inclusive age.

Article by Julia Halperin

Sasha Gordon’s “Trimmings” (2023).Sasha Gordon’s “Trimmings” (2023). Credit: © Sasha Gordon, courtesy of the artist, Matthew Brown, Los Angeles, and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London and New York. Photo: Todd-White Art Photography.

The artist Paul Cadmus was flipping through Modern Maturity, the AARP’s official magazine, in 1991 when he saw something that made him angry. A disgruntled reader had written a letter to the editor slamming the publication for reproducing the Italian Renaissance artist Masaccio’s famous painting of Adam and Eve without including the fig leaves that church officials later added to cover their genitals.

In response, Cadmus, then 87, created a drawing, titled “Shame!,” which was recently on view at New York’s DC Moore Gallery as part of the first major solo exhibition of the artist, who died in 1999, in more than 20 years. It shows a lithe white man, woman and child standing tall and naked, arms intertwined. At their feet, a cluster of grotesque, clothed figures, including a hooknosed priest and a mother covering her child’s eyes, writhe in disgust. Cadmus, who is best known for homoerotic images that relish the male form, later wrote that the letter’s author had provided “a profound definition of the word ‘pornography’: a naked man and woman.” In an ironic twist that surely would have provoked the artist’s ire, it’s impossible to access a reproduction of “Shame” online today without clicking a “N.S.F.W.” button.

Paul Cadmus’s “Shame!” (1992).
Paul Cadmus’s “Shame!” (1992). Credit: © Paul Cadmus, courtesy of the DC Moore Gallery.

Nudes are one of the oldest and most stubbornly provocative tropes in Western art. Today, anyone with an internet connection can see a naked body at a moment’s notice (even if they have to press an extra button to do so). But the world in general, and the art world in particular, has remained largely conservative about what kinds of bodies it chooses to depict, celebrate and immortalise. In an age when Instagram polices nipples even as television shows like Euphoria traffic in erotic drama, a new generation of artists are mining this irony and working to broaden the aperture, breaking away from the idealised (usually white and thin) forms that have pervaded art for most of its documented existence. Instead, they are conjuring nudes that reflect a more fluid, more inclusive and fuller understanding of the body. At the same time, scholars and collectors are taking a new look at artists who were previously excluded from the canon because of the naturalistic, warts-and-all approach they took to the nude.

Fresh interpretations of the nude are front and centre in a wave of exhibitions on view in New York this spring. At Bortolami gallery, there is Philip Pearlstein, whose dramatically cropped, unsentimental figures were profoundly unfashionable when he introduced them in the early 1960s. Gagosian is presenting its first exhibition of the photographer Francesca Woodman, who, before her death in 1981 at 22, created hundreds of strange, haunting photographs in which she used her naked body as a prop. Then there is Emily Coan, 32, at Dimin Gallery and Clarity Haynes, 52, at New Discretions, part of a group of contemporary artists who are using their own bodies and those of their friends to explore how femininity, gender identity and queerness can breathe new life into this often-vexing tradition.

Philip Pearlstein’s “Female Model on Deck Chair” (1978).
Philip Pearlstein’s “Female Model on Deck Chair” (1978). Credit: © Philip Pearlstein, courtesy of the artist and Bortolami, New York. Photograph courtesy of Guang Xu.

The story of the nude in Western art begins in ancient Greece, where sculptors sought to pay tribute to the gods by capturing them in idealised human form. When Renaissance artists revived interest in classical antiquity, the nude came along for the ride, mostly as a vessel to idealise the figures of the Christian faith and the Roman Catholic Church, which dominated Renaissance Europe. Some of these works had the suggestion of sensuality or, in the case of Donatello’s sculpture of St. Jerome, deflated classical beauty by focusing on a body in decline. Such notions violated the conservative sensibilities of the church, but it wasn’t until the 19th century when the nude truly began to skirt the borders of taste and propriety. Edouard Manet’s “Olympia” was a sensation. The combination of subject (a prostitute in the classical pose of a reclining female nude) and style (brushwork so flat that it highlights the artificiality of the image) was so shocking that visitors to the Paris Salon of 1865 tried to stab the canvas with their umbrellas. The painting was recently on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York — only the third time it has ever left Paris, though it cast a wide influence on the next century or so of nudes, from the frankness of Gustave Courbet’s “Origin of the World” (painted the year after the debut of “Olympia”) to Picasso’s 1932 series about his mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter, which brought explicit nudity into the world of abstraction.

Michaelina Wautier’s “Bacchanal” (before 1659).
Michaelina Wautier’s “Bacchanal” (before 1659). Photograph courtesy of Vienna Art History Museum.

Today’s artists embrace the nude for reasons ranging from the political to the personal to the practical (several mentioned that clothing automatically dates a painting).

When Sasha Gordon, 26, was assigned to sketch her own body in a college anatomy class, the teacher didn’t know what to make of her billowy form. “The professor had a hard time stepping away from the European way of thinking, with all the certain muscles and bones that you could normally see in a leaner body,” says Gordon, whose mother is Korean.

Francesca Woodman’s “Untitled” (circa 1979-80).
Francesca Woodman’s “Untitled” (circa 1979-80). Credit: © Woodman Family Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, courtesy of Gagosian and the Woodman Family Foundation.

Today, Gordon places her own body — rendered in hyperrealistic detail — front and centre in surreal scenes. (Her work was recently the subject of a solo show at the ICA Miami.) In “Trimmings” (2023), a nude Gordon uses garden shears to create a larger-than-life hedge version of herself. Looking out impishly at the viewer mid-snip, it’s as if she had broken into the pristine European-style garden to leave her mark. In a metaphor for her larger body of work, she makes herself into a monument without asking for permission.

Artists who seek to imbue the nude with new meaning still encounter some resistance. Doron Langberg, 38, whose lyrical portraits of queer lovers with their underwear around their ankles are rendered with the same gauzy reverential treatment as Claude Monet gave to the water lily, says that sexually explicit works still remain a hard sell to many institutions. (He is heartened, however, that the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Kunsthal Rotterdam are currently showing his erotic paintings.) Clarity Haynes, who is best known for painting the torsos of cancer survivors, queer and trans people, recalls a group of outraged museum donors walking out on her presentation of such works at the NADA art fair in Miami in 2018. And Emily Coan, whose witchy nude doppelgängers huddle around fires, drink and have sex with one another, notes that she and many of her contemporaries are unable to promote their work on Instagram because of the platform’s nudity policy.

Clarity Haynes’s “Dani (Study)” (2023).
Clarity Haynes’s “Dani (Study)” (2023). Credit: © Clarity Haynes, courtesy of the artist and New Discretions.

Even within the feminist art community, disagreements remain over whether certain kinds of nudes are objectifying or empowering. An earlier generation of painters who dealt with explicit imagery, including Joan Semmel and Betty Tompkins, received similar pushback in the 1970s, criticized for appealing to the male gaze even as they tried to subvert it. What makes this moment different is both the wider spectrum of bodies taking up space on the canvas and the sheer delight, playfulness and weirdness with which they are represented. Many of the artists engaging with the nude today grew up taking photos of themselves and posting them on the internet. They are comfortable toying with images of the body because they know what it’s like to be looked at — not only by someone on the subway or at the grocery store but by everyone all at once online.

Doron Langberg’s “Bather” (2021). Credit: © Doron Langberg, courtesy of the artist and Victoria Miro.

What artists playing with the unclothed human form today share in common is a fundamental lack of shame. For Haynes, the act of painting the nude is, more than anything else, an antidote to shame. Before she turned her focus on her community, she started out in 1997 depicting her own torso. It was a way, she recalls, to reacquaint herself with her body after getting sober, leaving her job as a stripper and recognising how much of her existence had been informed by being sexually harassed on the street. “I thought I would see an exaggerated sexy person,” she says, “and what I saw was just a human being. I saw myself as a human being for the first time.”

Covet This: Hand-Painted Folding Screens Inspired by Pompeii and Elsa Schiaparelli

London-based decorator Gergei Erdei’s new collection features six designs that stand at seven and a half feet tall.

Article by Kate Maxwell

Gergei Erdei’s hand-painted designs.Gergei Erdei’s hand-painted Peace (left) and Pompeii screens, which stand seven and a half feet tall. Photo courtesy of Wanda Martin.

“They’re movable pieces of art,” says Budapest-born, London-based decorator Gergei Erdei of his new collection of hand-painted folding pinewood screens. Part of his Objects of Desires series, the six designs include trompe l’oeil columns, wing-footed mythological figures and interlinked geometric shapes. Erdei found inspiration for his pieces, which are over seven feet tall, in a recent retrospective of the Italian couturier Elsa Schiaparelli’s works at Paris’s Musée des Arts Décoratifs and in the lacquered screens of multimedia Art Deco creator Jean Dunand; Pompeii’s crumbling frescoes and ancient mosaics informed the mythological design’s soft, ocher hues, which were achieved through multiple coats of acrylic paint. “I keep coming back to Pompeii in my work,” Erdei says. “I find the layers faded by time so beautiful, like veils of history.”

Thought to have originated during China’s Han dynasty, screens became popular decorative pieces in Europe in the 17th century, when they were used for privacy and to divide rooms and block drafts. A couple of centuries later, Coco Chanel lined her Paris apartment with black-and-gold lacquer Coromandel screens. Erdei, who once worked as a women’s wear designer at Gucci in Rome, also wants his screens to stand out. “I see them used as a theatrical background behind a bed or a sofa, or either side of a fireplace,” he says. A bespoke screen will also make an appearance, alongside his signature acrylic murals, in his next project, the interior design of a private riad turned hotel called Le M, opening in Marrakech’s medina this summer. Objects of Desire screens from $6,700, gergeierdei.com.

Louise Bourgeois Takes Centre Stage This Summer

Explore the fearless creativity of the artist Louise Bourgeois in a groundbreaking exhibition this summer.

Article by Victoria Pearson

1990_LOUISE BOURGEOIS BY YANN CHARBONNIERLouise Bourgeois, 1990 © Yann Charbonnier. Courtesy of the Art Gallery of NSW.

Visitors are invited to embark on a journey into the strange beauty and emotional power of the famed French–American artist Louise Bourgeois (1911–2010) at the Art Gallery of New South Wales this summer. The major exhibition, titled “Louise Bourgeois: Has the Day Invaded the Night or Has the Night Invaded the Day?”, is an exclusive offering as part of the Sydney International Art Series 2023–24.

Curated by the Art Gallery’s head curator of international art, Justin Paton, and in collaboration with The Easton Foundation, New York, this exhibition is a tribute to Bourgeois’s influential career. Born in Paris in 1911 and later residing in New York until her passing in 2010, Bourgeois delves into themes such as family, motherhood, sexuality, and mortality with daring creativity.

Louise Bourgeois_5
Installation of Louise Bourgeois 'Maman' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, November 2023, photo © Art Gallery of New South Wales, Felicity Jenkins.
destruction of the father-0019-RA-1_LG
Louise Bourgeois 'The Destruction of the Father' 1974, archival polyurethane, resin, wood, fabric, red light, 237.8 x 362.3 x 248.6 cm, Glenstone Museum, Potomac, Maryland © The Easton Foundation, photo: Ron Amstutz.

Spanning more than 120 works, this exhibition marks the largest and most comprehensive display of Bourgeois’s work in the Asia-Pacific region. Rarely seen pieces, including the iconic spider sculpture “Maman” and works such as “The Destruction of the Father” and “Clouds and Caverns”, make their Australian debut.

The curating traverses two distinct spaces in the gallery’s new North Building, with ‘Day’ and ‘Night’ offering a chronological exploration of Bourgeois’s seven-decade career. The presentation includes projections of Bourgeois’s psychoanalytic writings by the text-based artist Jenny Holzer and a musical contribution by the composer Kali Malone.

Louise Bourgeois_3
Louise Bourgeois 'Arch of Hysteria' 1993, bronze, polished patina, 83.8 x 101.6 x 58.4 cm, Collection The Easton Foundation, New York © The Easton Foundation, photo: Christopher Burke.
Louise Bourgeois_4
Louise Bourgeois 'Untitled (Broom Woman)' 1997, steel, steel welds, wood broom head, fabric, 162.6 x 61 x 33 cm, private collection, courtesy Hauser & Wirth Collection Services © The Easton Foundation, photo: Christopher Burke.
Louise Bourgeois: THE COUPLE
Louise Bourgeois 'The Couple' 2003, aluminium, 365.1 x 200 x 109.9 cm, private collection, New York © The Easton Foundation, photo: Jonathan Leijonhufvud.

Supported by the NSW Government and part of the Sydney International Art Series, this retrospective showcases Bourgeois’s ceaseless exploration of life’s extremes. Alongside the exhibition, a free film series, “Louise Bourgeois goes to the movies”, curated by the Art Gallery’s film curator Ruby Arrowsmith-Todd, unveils Bourgeois’s lesser-known passion for cinema.

This ambitious exhibition, open now until April 28, 2024, not only pays tribute to a groundbreaking artist but also pushes the boundaries of art exploration at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Purchase tickets here.

Australia’s Largest Kandinsky Retrospective Is Now Open

The 50-piece exhibition, hosted by the Art Gallery of New South Wales, is curated in collaboration with New York’s Guggenheim museum.

Article by T Australia

Kandinsky_1Kandinsky with his painting 'Dominant curve (Courbe dominante)', Paris 1936, photo: Boris Lipnitzki © Boris Lipnitzki / Roger-Viollet. Courtesy of the Art Gallery of NSW.

The Sydney International Art Series 2023-24 has officially unveiled “Kandinsky,” a landmark exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, curated in collaboration with the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. A visual feast, the exhibit brings forth over 50 works – the largest of its kind in Australia – that trace the remarkable artistic journey of Vasily Kandinsky (1866-1944).

Kandinsky_3
Vasily Kandinsky 'Composition 8' July 1923, oil on canvas, 140.3 x 200.7 cm, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Founding Collection, by gift, photo courtesy Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.
Kandinsky_4
Vasily Kandinsky 'Landscape with rain' January 1913, oil on canvas, 70.5 x 78.4 cm, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Founding Collection, photo courtesy Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.

This extensive exhibition offers a profound exploration of Kandinsky’s extraordinary life. From his creative origins in Munich to his return to Moscow during World War I, followed by the interwar years at the Bauhaus in Germany and a concluding experimental phase in Paris, “Kandinsky” unveils the evolution of this influential European modernist.

Curated by Megan Fontanella and Jackie Dunn, the exhibition draws on the Guggenheim’s extensive Kandinsky holdings, presenting celebrated masterpieces like “Blue Mountain” (1908-09) and “Composition 8” (1923). Most notably, these works, integral to the iconic Guggenheim Museum, are making their Australian debut, ensuring a one-of-a-kind experience for Sydney patrons.

Kandinsky_5
Vasily Kandinsky 'Capricious forms' July 1937, oil on canvas, 88.9 x 114.8 cm, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Founding Collection, photo courtesy Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.
Kandinsky_2
Vasily Kandinsky 'Painting with white border' May 1913, oil on canvas, 140.3 x 200.3 cm, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Founding Collection, by gift, photo courtesy Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.

Beyond the canvases, “Kandinsky” offers a multi-sensory experience. The exhibition delves into Kandinsky’s profound relationship with music, paralleling his groundbreaking visual artistry with auditory exploration. Additionally, a specially commissioned artist project by Desmond Lazaro promises to immerse visitors in the ideas that influenced Kandinsky, creating a wondrous and interactive experience for all ages.

Alongside “Kandinsky,” the Art Gallery will present an adjunct exhibition, “Invisible Friends,” showcasing spirit drawings by British medium Georgiana Houghton. Running from November 4, 2023, to March 10, 2024, this exhibition provides a rare glimpse into Houghton’s works, underlining the significant role spiritualism played in early modernism.

The exhibition reflects the ongoing commitment of the Art Gallery to engage with European modern artists, marking a new chapter in their exploration of influential figures in modernism.