Lady In Red: Alex Katz, Brisk Day

Alex Katz_Brisk Day

(left) Alex Katz, Brisk Day, 1990. Woodcut, 36 in x 29 1/8 in. Gift of Fenner Milton, 2013. (middle) Alex Katz, Brisk Day, 1990. Aquatint, 35 3/8 in x 28 1/2 in. Gift of Fenner Milton, 2013 (right) Alex Katz, Brisk Day, 1990. Lithograph, 36 in x 29 in. Gift of Fenner Milton, 2013

These three portraits, recent acquisitions for the museum, are currently the only thing displayed in a small gallery at the Phillips. Take a moment to look at each one. What are the similarities? What are the differences?

It’s not until we look at the labels that we realize what creates the small nuances in color and line between the three works—each one is a different form of print. Artist Alex Katz is known for his arresting simplicity of line and form, bright, flat colors, and a powerful graphic punch that link them to commercial art and popular culture. By generalizing the features of a sitter or a landscape, and removing any expressive or emotional content, Katz focuses instead on formal properties of light, scale and color.

Examining Art and Activism

Anne Monahan will be giving a lecture about Faith Ringgold’s mural Die at The Phillips Collection Center for the Study of Modern Art on Thursday, September 11, at 6:30 pm.

Anne Monahan and Faith Ringgold's Die

(Left) Anne Monahan, 2014-15 Postdoctoral Fellow (Right) Faith Ringgold, Die, oil on canvas, 72 x 144 in. © Faith Ringgold

I first became interested in Faith Ringgold’s strategic marriage of art and activism in the 1960s—then an under-examined aspect of her project—while working on my dissertation. Just a couple of years ago, I was prompted to see her ambitious painting Die of 1967 with fresh eyes when a friend asked if it represented stages in a sequential narrative. That question prompted me to think more deeply about the painting’s formal and conceptual ambiguities and how they operated in the political, racial, and aesthetic discourses of its charged moment. As a result, Die and its reception figure in my book Radical/Chic: Race, Politics, and the Legacy of Social Realism in Art of the 1960s as a key example of the shifting dynamics by which racial politics influenced a politics of style.

—Anne Monahan, 2014-15 Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for the Study of Modern Art / The George Washington University

Mining the Archives

Pavlovic_Phillips Flashback

(Left) Vesna Pavlović, Untitled (Swiss Peasant art exhibition, 1957.4), (2014). Courtesy of the artist and G Fine Art (Right) Vesna Pavlović, Installation view of Untitled (Annex, Giacometti exhibition, 1963), 2014. Photo: Mica Scalin

Intersections artist Vesna Pavlović, whose installation Illuminated Archive opened at the Phillips last week, mined the museum’s archival materials to create new works exploring the idea of transparency. The works above feature photographic negatives from exhibitions throughout Phillips history, altered in a variety of ways and to varying degrees.

What I love most about the work at right, a 35-foot curtain made up of digitally manipulated negatives from a 1963 Alberto Giacometti exhibition, is how necessary uncontrollable elements—weather, sunlight, time—are to the viewer experience. Pass by this work at high noon on a sunny day, and the curtain is nearly clear. Chance upon it at dawn or dusk, however, and the details of light and shadow are revealed. It feels like a secret, intimate moment shared between viewer and artwork; a playful approach to the idea of transparency and our perception of it.

Amy Wike, Marketing Manager