The best thing about art is discovery. Seeing an artist that I have never heard of interpreting their world is never uninteresting. I learn something new, experience something different, and connect a few more dots in the art-history timeline. This year I have seen three retrospectives devoted to singular artists that have been around for over forty years that I was clueless about.
In January, I caught the Isa Genzken show at MOMA. She is from Germany, now about 65 years old. In her youth, she was married to the polymathic artist Gerhard Richter. Over the course of a 40-year career, she has explored photography, sculpture, painting and assemblage. From the sleek, refined and earthy totemic spears that open the show, to the untamed sculptures of passionate aliveness in concrete, steel and epoxy, to the final full-room installation that grapples with the madness and rage of 9/11, she is out there – fierce and fearless.
In Naples, the repository of art dates back to the fourth century B.C. When I was there last month, I was consistentIy fascinated by the fine art in each museum and church we visited. But I also put the MADRE, the city’s modern art museum, on my must-do list.
A show was up on an Italian artist named Vettor Pisani. He was born in Bari in 1934, and died in Rome in 2011. He assembled photographs and figures and furniture and channeled his observations, and emotions, through mannequins and silk screen prints and films. His art covered politics and gender and war and peace.
And two weeks ago, I caught a show at PS1 in Queens on an Austrian artist called Maria Lassnig. It focused on her self-portraits. She’s about 90 years old, and reminds me vaguely of Alice Neel. Not just because of her longevity on the scene, and her refusal to shrink from who she is at any stage of life and in any mood, but because every mark is purposefully made with an invitation to keep looking at the color and depth and length and strength of it. She paints only with naked spirit.
As it is said, “the more you see, the more you see.”