NYC-ARTS

S2020 E492 | FULL EPISODE

NYC-ARTS Full Episode: May 14, 2020

A tour of “Stretching the Canvas: Eight Decades of Native Painting,” on view at the National Museum of the American Indian. A visit to Neue Galerie to learn about the career of Madame d’Ora, an Austrian photographer whose work captured both the glamor and the darkness of her lifetime. And a look at John Durand’s “The Rapalje Children,” a treasure of the New-York Historical Society’s collection.

AIRED: May 13, 2020 | 0:28:15
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♪♪

>> Coming up on "NYC-Arts,"

a look at the exhibition

"Stretching the Canvas,"

now on view at the National

Museum of the American Indian.

>> I think it was that first

tempera paint on newsprint

in kindergarten

that said to me, "This is what

I'm gonna be doing

the rest of my life."

It was that action of the hands.

And I remember being 6 years old

or something like 6 1/2,

and thinking "I don't know,

this feels, I'm in my zone now."

And lightning hit me,

"This is what I'm gonna be doing

the rest of my life,"

and I'm still doing this.

And so I think you can be

born a painter sometimes.

>> And a visit to the

Neue Galerie for a look at the

career of Madame d'Ora,

the Austrian photographer

whose work captured

both the glamour and the

darkness of her lifetime.

>> Hats were the most important

thing for a woman.

So, you would buy the hat

before you buy the dress.

There are hundreds of hat

photographs by d'Ora,

but, of course,

they were fashion photographs

and used in the magazines.

And to stress

the fact of the importance

of the hat photographs,

"Paris Presse" had contemporary

artists come in

and make new hats,

inspired by the creations

that d'Ora photographed.

>> Funding for "NYC-Arts"

is made possible by...

This program is supported in

part by public funds from the

New York City Department of

Cultural Affairs, in partnership

with the City Council.

Additional funding provided by

members of Thirteen.

"NYC-Arts" is made possible in

part by First Republic Bank.

>> First Republic Bank presents

"First Things First."

At First Republic Bank,

"first" refers to our

first priority, the clients

who walk through our doors.

The first step?

Recognize that every client is

an individual with unique needs.

First decree?

Be a bank whose currency

is service in the form

of personal banking.

This was First Republic's

mission from our very first day.

It's still the first thing

on our minds.

>> And by

Swann Auction Galleries.

>> Swann Auction Galleries -- we

have a different way of looking

at auctions --

offering vintage books and

fine arts since 1941,

working to combine knowledge

with accessibility.

Whether you're a lifelong

collector, a first-time buyer,

or looking to sell, information

at swanngalleries.com.

♪♪

♪♪

>> Good evening, and welcome

to "NYC-Arts."

I'm Philippe de Montebello,

at the Tisch WNET Studios

at Lincoln Center.

On our program tonight,

we'll visit the Smithsonian's

National Museum

of the American Indian.

It is located downtown

in New York City,

at Bowling Green.

The museum's mission

is to foster a more informed

understanding of native peoples

of the Americas.

Currently on view is

"Stretching the Canvas,"

80 years of native painting.

It is a group show of work

by over 30 artists,

and they're all drawn from the

museum's permanent collection,

and created between 1940

to the present day.

The premise of the exhibition

is to challenge expectations

of what constitutes Indian art.

The works reflect a great

variety of color,

style, and subject,

from flat illustrative pieces,

that depict idealized scenes,

to large-scale abstract work,

that uses irony

to confront native issues.

The show hinges on the moment

when these artists broke through

to modernism.

>> I think it was that first

tempera paint on newsprint

in kindergarten

that said to me, "This is what

I'm gonna be doing

the rest of my life."

It was that action of the hands.

And I remember being 6 years old

or something like 6 1/2,

and thinking "I don't know,

this feels, I'm in my zone now."

And lightning hit me,

"This is what I'm gonna be doing

the rest of my life,"

and I'm still doing this.

And so I think you can be

born a painter sometimes.

>> We begin the exhibition

"Stretching the Canvas" in

this large salon-scaled gallery,

with some of our oversized

large paintings.

And the reason there is that

we felt that this work

was comparable to anything

you would see at the Whitney,

anything you would see

at the Museum of Modern Art,

and so we really wanted to put

sort of our best foot forward

and invite other museums

to imagine this kind of work

in their galleries.

Making paintings actually is not

so much a traditional art form.

There are traditions of painting

on hide or Kiefer paintings

and that kind of thing.

But most of the modern painting

sort of comes out of these

episodes in the 1900-teens

and 1920s,

when young native students,

particularly in the Southwest,

even in Oklahoma,

were learning sort of the basics

of art instruction

in their schools.

The schools encouraged this

American Indian art style

that was that flat illustrative

style, focusing on

Native American subjects.

Just to give our visitors

some sense of where

this is all coming from,

and the kind of foundation

from which this more

adventuresome work grew,

from there we investigate,

in a suite of galleries,

some of the themes that invite

an artist to think about

their art in a more broad way.

We have a small gallery

that looks at artists

who traveled to New York City

in the 1940s and 1950s,

and began to think about

themselves more as artists

on a world stage.

Some artists were inspired by,

you know, pop art,

and developments of the 1960s

and 1970s,

with their oversize canvases

and hot colors, and a kind

of more playful approach

to Native American subjects.

One of the things I think that

American Indians struggled with,

throughout the 20th century and

21st century

are these expectations

that they're not part

of the modern world.

So people express surprise,

"Well, American Indians use

cellphones or they drive cars,

or just ridiculous things like

that, but it's not as uncommon

as you might think.

So those artists are a part

of the contemporary world.

They're also part of their

traditional world

and communities, as well.

America Meredith, a Cherokee

artist, is really a polymath.

She's currently the editor of

a very influential art journal,

and she is also an artist,

a painter.

>> I went to graduate school

at San Francisco Art Institute,

and I actually had

fellow classmates say,

you know, "Why would anyone go

to grad school for painting?"

So I had a lot of time to,

you know, think, of like why is

painting relevant, is it passé?

And it's like, okay, human

beings have been painting for

the last 100,000 years.

So is dancing passé, is poetry

passé, is singing passé?

No, I think these are all just

intrinsically human expressions.

And I think painting is the core

if you're passionate about color

and texture.

Painting is so primeval,

I think.

This piece in the show,

it's from 2005.

The main character is this very

controversial Lakota medicine

man, John Fire Lame Deer.

And he's basically saying,

"Go out into the world,"

that you'll serve people better

if you go and fully live your

life, and don't try to live this

strict, pure, you know,

cloistered life.

But just go out and screw up.

The ledger design references

ledger art -- you know,

this kind of transitional art --

and that's an intersection, too.

When Western materials

came out to the Plains,

these old ledgers were used by

the artists who previously had

been painting on animal hides.

And I think it's one of

the greatest ironies,

is, if you paint on

this beautiful bimorphic shape,

this animal hide,

many people don't consider

that art with a capital "A.:

But if you paint on a rectangle,

and it's paper, then it's okay.

Norval Morrisseau invented

this incredible woodland style

that I'm referencing -- that

very abstract, heavily black

outlined snake and eagle.

So the flat stone in the corner

is what I grew up with in

Oklahoma, that Bacone school

painting style.

So, it's very flat,

it's heavily outlined.

It's kind of the Southwest

landscape,

but I use kind of pop imagery

and kind of children's imagery

as touchstones that I think

most people coming here

are sort of familiar with

Richard Scarry,

an amazing artist,

and then the Muppets,

so that's from my childhood.

We see a lot of control

in native art, and we don't

see people letting loose.

So, Mario Martinez

is a wonderful example

of someone who's letting loose

and being very free

and very spontaneous

with his imagery.

>> I've always

loved abstraction.

I have a proclivity to it.

I was drawn to it

because I understood

as a young kid that you didn't

do ceremonial imagery,

you didn't do cultural imagery

to benefit from your culture,

to benefit monetarily.

So, as a kid, I knew that

I couldn't use that imagery,

so I guess a great avenue out

would be what I fell in love

with in Western modernism.

But, in a pure sense,

in the more spiritual sense,

an energy sense,

abstraction is, I think,

for me, still the most

powerful language

and not quite as understood.

>> I think another theme

of the show is that

people being unconstrained.

So, you have a lot of people

looking outside

their tribal heritage

and kind of looking

at the broader world.

Kay WalkingStick was born in

New York, and she's still in the

Northeast.

She is Cherokee, but she very

seldomly uses any kind

of overt Cherokee imagery.

She's developed her own.

So, in this show,

she uses beautiful

Southwestern landscape.

And of course, native people

travel and, you know,

they see and respond

to different communities.

So, she has her own style

where she's using iconography

and then landscape.

So this kind of inner and outer

world -- the symbolic world

and the representational world.

And many of her works

are diptych,

so they're divided in two,

and that's just kind of

something she set for herself.

When I was a child, I lived

at Bacone College campus.

So, they had an art program

that was always -- it's unique

because it's always been run

by native art directors.

It started in 1935

and they actually have a piece

by the first director,

Acee Blue Eagle.

Dick West,

he was a director of Bacone,

and then he's Southern Cheyenne.

In the show, there's two pieces.

So, one is in the section

called "Training Ground," that

is considered the 20th-century

native way to paint,

where it's heavily outlined,

heavily contoured.

But, as you see,

he, in this painting,

it's very abstract,

he's playing with color,

he's playing with texture.

The fact that he really just

gave himself permission

to experiment

in many different ways.

And I think sometimes the art

canon doesn't really reflect

how free some

of these artists were.

>> We think one of the great

standouts of this exhibition

is James Lavadour,

his painting "Blanket,"

which is actually a series

of panels that suggest landscape

without really representing it.

What I particularly enjoy

about his work --

and I wouldn't say he's entirely

self-taught,

but he is not followed -- he

doesn't come out of a university

studio school system -- but he

has this wonderful insight

about the quality of paint

and its relationship to geology.

And that, you know, paint --

what is paint

but basically minerals

that are suspended in liquid?

So his insight is that painting,

in a sense,

is kind of act of geology.

By creating a painting, you're

almost mimicking geological

forces of hydrology

and layering and stratigraphy.

So he works with those pigments

on surface and manipulates them

until suggestions of landscape

begin to emerge,

as if he's not painting

an image of a landscape

but actually constructing the

land himself out of the paint.

Turns out that museums

across the country

are beginning to understand

that their representation

of American art history

is limited and constrained,

to a certain extent,

that is doesn't include the work

of some of these accomplished

artists who have been

working for many decades.

>> I'm very impressed with

the show because it really says

that, come attention or not,

come acceptance or not,

we were going to do

what we were going to do.

And we were as good

as anybody else.

It is proof that we are part

of the American

cultural experience.

♪♪

♪♪

>> Next, we visit the

Neue Galerie on

East 86th Street,

for a look at the work

of the Austrian photographer

known as Madame d'Ora.

It is the largest exhibition

of its kind ever presented

in the United States.

Born in 1881

to a wealthy Jewish family,

Dora Kallmus became

one of the premier photographers

of her day,

and was the first women

to open her own

photography studio in Vienna.

The exhibition follows

her career from Vienna to Paris,

from her time as a dazzling

high-society portraitist,

to her sombre career, after

the devastation of World War II.

Madame d'Ora captured

the glamour, creativity,

darkness, and upheaval

of her lifetime.

>> Madame D'Ora

was an incredible woman.

She opened her studio

in Vienna in 1906,

and stopped photographing

in 1957,

so we have 50 years

covered by photographs.

D'Ora took photographs

of many of the artists

that have been shown here

in the Neue Galerie,

like Gustav Klimt,

who was the first painter

she would photograph, in 1907.

By the way, the last painter

she photographed

was Picasso in 1955,

so we have quite a range here.

This is the first

monographic exhibition

dedicated to a woman here,

so it's about her being a woman

and being so successful

as a photographer.

Her aim was to adapt amateur

photography, which had come up

only 10 years ago,

to professional photography.

So she tried very much

that, in her studio, people

would feel at ease,

would feel at home.

Soon she became well-known

for the fact that she made

people much more beautiful

than they would see themselves

in the mirror.

And this, most probably,

is the cause that even

high aristocracy

would turn to her studio.

These high aristocrats tended

to have very many children,

so it was difficult to make

an original group photograph.

We have one photograph

with the Archduke,

with the daughters --

I think, five -- around him.

She was a very clever woman,

and she was also a very

good businesswoman.

Already in the portraits,

in the later years

of the First World War,

you can see the worry of

the world falling into pieces.

You can see this

in these fashion shots

that seem a little eerie.

Because, you know, in 1916,

things were already very bad.

But, in Vienna, one tried to

keep a touch of normality.

But, by the end of the war,

all this was gone.

So she decided

to move to Paris,

where she thought things

would be easier for her.

You could say

she is the inventor

of a very successful idea.

You have a well-known actor,

you have a well-known

fashion house,

you have a well-known

photographer,

and this image you can sell

easily to the illustrated press.

And this is a recipe

that still works.

And she did this in Paris.

You can see in this exhibition

that she had dresses by Patou,

worn by Josephine Baker,

which, of course, would be much

more fun than Patou dress

just by an unknown moniker.

It's difficult to imagine today,

but hats were the most important

thing for a woman.

So, you would buy the hat

before you buy the dress.

There are hundreds of hat

photographs by d'Ora.

But, of course, they were

fashion photographs

and used in the magazines.

And to stress

the fact of the importance

of the hat photographs,

"Paris Presse" had

contemporary artists

come in and make new hats,

inspired by the creations

that d'Ora photographed.

Dora Kallmus was Jewish.

She was endangered in Paris,

where the Nazis came in 1940.

She was in hiding, in a small

village in southern France.

She waited for the arrival

of her sister, who was still

in Austria at that time.

And this

turned out to be a disaster.

The sister never could leave

Austria, and died

in a concentration camp.

In 1945, she went back to Paris.

She had to start completely

anew,

She was over 65 at this time.

But it was her aim, after the

Second World War, was just work

she did in refugee camps.

She did not only cover survivors

of the concentration camps,

but also old German ladies

who had been deplaced,

and women with little children

who evidently have

no future in front of them

but to stay in these camps.

And the other very important

work for her was to go

to slaughterhouses

and to take photographs there.

Already in her diaries,

in the 1940s,

she compared the fate of Jewish

people in Europe

with the fate of animals

in the slaughterhouse.

They had no choice.

They only can wait to be killed.

She had her plans --

the same plans she used to have

in the '20s and '30s.

I think, so fascinating in her

late portraits,

is that, you know,

she always used to set

people out at their best.

And now, suddenly, she is

confronted with old people --

old as she was herself.

And this specific photograph

of Colette is one of the last

that was taken of the author,

shortly before her death.

Evidently, feeble and very old,

and you have the impression

that this an incredible woman.

What you can see

in the work of Madame d'Ora

is kind of a mirror

of the changing culture

in Austria and France,

during the 20th century,

from the aristocratic public,

around the turn of the century,

to the fancy artists

and fashion world

of the 1920s and '30s,

to the complete change

of attitude,

after the Second World War.

♪♪

♪♪

>> Welcome to the New York

Historical Society,

the city's oldest museum,

founded in 1804.

My name is Roberta Olson,

and I'm curator of drawings

at the Society.

I'd like to introduce you

to "The Rapalje Children."

We have Garret, George,

Anne, and Jacques.

They were painted by John Durand

in 1768.

And it's an incredible portrait

for a number of reasons.

Durand, who was probably

a Frenchman,

is really unknown until 1766.

He comes from Virginia

to New York,

for the Beekman family.

And for the Beekmans, he paints

six portraits of their children,

and of course gains

an incredible reputation.

The Rapaljes, who were also

a mercantile family of New York,

hire him to paint the scions

of their family.

This portrait of the four

siblings is an example

of early Colonial portraiture,

and it's only of the many

stellar examples in our amazing

collection of this genre.

Now, this is very different from

most portraiture of the time,

because there's no landscape,

no background, and you have

these four siblings,

who to my mind look

very contemporary.

They are painted by Durand

in this style that is

somewhat flat for the time.

He depends a great deal

on outline,

and these bold, flat colors.

They are posed in such a way

that they look assured.

One has his hand in his coat,

which was, again, a typical

posture for a gentleman.

The young lady, Anne,

has this beautiful choker,

this double strand of pearls

around her neck.

She is holding a rose,

which is a symbol of love

and also fertility.

She would be of marriageable age

soon.

Durand cuts the painting,

which is again a very

20th-century,

late-19th-century technique,

so that we don't see the feet.

It's not really

a full-length portrait.

It's a three-quarter portrait,

which implies a relationship

with us, as though

we can exchange space with them.

But there's something

wonderful -- the dynamics

amongst the four of them.

The four are unusually

self-possessed, for adolescents.

They gaze directly at us,

and, in fact, we feel as though

we communicate with them.

Their eyes grab us

and their smiles engage us,

and we feel as though

we could have a conversation.

I hope you've enjoyed

your experience at the

New York Historical Society, and

hope that you'll come back and

visit us again, to explore the

riches of the collection.

♪♪

>> Thank you for joining us

this evening.

I'm Philippe de Montebello at

the Tisch WNET Studios at

Lincoln Center.

Good night.

And see you next time.

>> Next week on "NYC-Arts,"

a conversation

with world-renowned

celebrated pianist

Leif Ove Andsnes.

>> So full of passion

of a young man

wanting to conquer the world.

And at the same time,

it has this innocence, beauty,

melodies that comes from

the sort of folk song tradition.

They speak very directly to our

hearts, and it's very intimate.

♪♪

>> And a visit

to The Frick Collection,

for a look at three paintings

by the Dutch master Vermeer.

>> We also have another fabulous

painting, by Vermeer, and it's

"Officer and Laughing Girl".

And it was purchased by Frick

in 1911.

And just to give you the sense

of how Vermeer's star has begun

to rise at this point,

Frick paid $225,000

just 10 years later.

So he's obviously not only

very interested in Vermeer,

but also recognizes the quality

of this particular work.

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

>> Funding for "NYC-Arts"

is made possible by...

This program is supported in

part by public funds from the

New York City

Department of Cultural Affairs,

in partnership with

the City Council.

Additional funding provided

by members of Thirteen.

"NYC-Arts" is made possible

in part by First Republic Bank.

>> First Republic Bank presents

"First Things First."

At First Republic Bank,

"first" refers to our

first priority, the clients

who walk through our doors.

The first step?

Recognize that every client is

an individual with unique needs.

First decree?

Be a bank whose currency

is service in the form

of personal banking.

This was First Republic's

mission from our very first day.

It's still the first thing

on our minds.

>> And by

Swann Auction Galleries.

>> Swann Auction Galleries -- we

have a different way of looking

at auctions --

offering vintage books and

fine arts since 1941,

working to combine knowledge

with accessibility.

Whether you're a lifelong

collector, a first-time buyer,

or looking to sell, information

at swanngalleries.com.

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