§ Thoughts Left Visible: Unfinished & Baseball Opening Day is Nearly Here!

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Breuer is open

30 Lafayette Ave, Brooklyn

Recap: Whitney moves to Chelsea, Met buys Whitney Breuer building, remodels & creates modern & contemporary art venue, opens with a somewhat unusual show plus a dynamic exhibition of a lesser known but brilliant Egyptian artist. An unschooled writer compares the Unfinished show to baseball and spring training.

Elizabeth Peyton Napoleon
Elizabeth Peyton’s Napoleon as modern rock star

I start here with the Unfinished exhibit and add something on the terrific Nasreen Mohamedi in a later post. So, Unfinished has gotten universally meh reviews. I’ve linked to some of the reviews at the end here, but basically for the critics it is a swing and a miss. Some say “a wild, swinging strikeout”, others call it “a weak dribbler to first” while some admit that, while not pretty, “a broken bat single is still a hit.” Heads up: I’m glass more than half full and I highly recommend a visit. The bad misses are more than made up for by wonderful and very fun doubles off the wall followed by a homer or two.

September Update: The recent NYT End of the Show article is fun, with non-experts giving their thoughts on specific pieces. A number of the comments were quite perceptive. So here are some more of my equally non-expert thoughts.

I went back to Unfinished two more times and it is a show, like a good September baseball game, where new discoveries are everywhere. There is a one room with a number of JMW Turner landscapes that astound. The Cezanne dazzles. The Ferdinand Holder is powerful: The End of Show article commenter William Meyerhofer said ““There was something about coming out as a gay man in the ’80s and seeing so many of my friends dying that reminds me of this.” Yes.

And last, for those who complain, the Twombly is impressive. The individual panels don’t make an impression but the panels as a whole, with the paint dripping down the frames, do. It is an experience to walk by the piece, seeing it from various angles. One man’s opinion: this is good.

Maybe I’ll go by today or tomorrow before it closes. Depends on whether there’s a good baseball game on.

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Okay, back to your regularly scheduled review…..

I loved it while still understanding the complaints. The curators stretch the concept, meander, throw some wild pitches, and generally play a bit sloppy. Mixed metaphors and rookie mistakes abound (sounds like this review). Still, it’s mostly an ungainly rookie who’ll make it in a couple of years. Think Nuke LaLoosh tied to the bed listening to Annie read Walt Whitman and then reaching the bigs later and winning a Cy or two.

I mean how can you hate seeing the amazing Alice Neel portrait you see top left? It’s a great and melancholy story but James Hunter Black Draftee is a brilliant piece and really a perfect encapsulation of the conceit of the show. It basically answers the question “Is unfinished really a bad thing?” with a resounding “No!” Who decides anyway? In this case the US government, the draft, serendipity, and Alice did. Grand slam to right!

Without going into too much detail and analysis let’s look at a few and see if they make a visit seem worth it:
Rembrandt unfinished




The Rembrandt to the right reflects a beautiful casualness. Perfection is not the goal but emotion might be. The luminous knife and stunning facial richness makes this piece for me. Is it unfinished? Hard to tell. Triple off the wall for van Rijn!




Freud Self-Portrait Reflection, Fragment





How about this rad Lucien Freud? Double down the line scores two!




Kerry James Marshall




Kerry James Marshall rips a solid single up the middle.




White Painting




Rauschenberg’s creatively titled White Painting? Strikeout on a 3-2 pitch in the dirt with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth. Admittedly the shadow of the woman walking by and ignoring it does help.

Anyway, go see Unfinished with an open mind and a bag of Cracker Jacks.

Other artists featured: Pollock, Twombly, Marden, Mondrian, Newman, Johns, Lewitt, de Kooning, Picasso, Degas, Cezanne, Renoir, Van Gogh, Warhol, Titian, Turner, Bourgeois, Manet, Monet, Giacometti.

Other, more erudite and less obsessed with spring training reviews.

NYT, first Roberta Smith and then Holland Cotter:
Boston Globe

and Hyperallergic:

The Met Breuer Traces the Unfinished to the Deliberately Incomplete in Western Art

§ Lexington Glassworks & Arts-Driven Economic Development in Asheville

Asheville is a gorgeous small city in the mountains of North Carolina. It’s known for ThomLexingtonStudioGlass - 1 (2)as Wolfe, great weather, wonderful outdoor options, good beer and food, and more and more as the western NC center for arts and fine crafts.

The downtown area is full of galleries including Blue Spiral, one of the best in North Carolina, as well as top restaurants, an excellent art museum, and terrific shopping. Though Asheville is not a SmART Initiative, the community is using the arts-driven economic development strategies that are hallmark of the initiative.

One of the characteristics of successful art and cultural communities is that the private sector, at some point, fully buys into the process; that all of the galleries, restaurants, clubs, etc. help each other by building critical mass that floats all boats.

Downtown Asheville has a terrific example, Lexington Glassworks. LG is the product of two young
entrepreneurial artists/craftsmen. They chose to renovate an old building on Lexington, a street in downtown that was still quite sleepy as compared to Patton and Biltmore avenues and College and Market streets.

They believe that Lexington Ave is destined to join the party that is downtown Asheville, but they also believe it will take more than just another gallery selling glass. So instead they embed the glassmaking process into the gallery itself as you can see above right.

Lexington Glassworks is the creation of two friends, Geoff Koslow and Billy Guilford, who met at Alfred University in upstate New York. They both later took classes at the Penland School of Crafts and ultimately settled in Asheville. They do good work.LexingtonStudioGlass - 1 (3)LexingtonStudioGlass - 1 (1)

But I’m more interested here in their strategy in developing the Glassworks. They feel that a studio that involves visitors is key to their success.

They’ll talk to you as much as you want. They can focus on the pure artistic angle but also discuss more commercial or design oriented questions. But they also let you watch them make their glass while describing the processes. The Laurel of Asheville has a terrific article on them and their business.

I’ll end with a short video I made of Billy making a piece. It’s from an iPhone and my video editing skills are not great, but you’ll get a feel for how they bring the customer into the process. Just click here or on the image of Geoff below.

LexingtonStudioGlass - 1