Sunday, March 8, 2009

Recording America & Cornering the Art Market

THE RECORDING OF AMERICA: Prints from the Herbert D. Halpern Collection

It can be argued that there are really two kinds of history. The first, written by journalists and historians, appears in books recounting the events that shaped our view of the world. The second, by artists, reveals how the world looked and felt at those times. Perhaps because this nation dominated the latter-century art world, the American art from the first half of the 20th century has been overshadowed. A time profoundly shaped by world wars and the Great Depression, that America could seem remote—until recently. Now that bank failures and vanished fortunes are making the era of Hoover and FDR seem familiar once again, much of this Recording of America expo of 60 works on paper from the Herbert D. Halpern collection, can seem eerily resonant.
Of course, Manhattan always had its bright lights. In 2 A.M Saturday Night by Martin Lewis, it is 1932 and three post-flapper women are crossing Broadway as a street cleaner hoses it down, and while nothing much is happening, the buoyancy of the women amid the gloom of the street conveys a sense of the times. Less sanguine is Claire Leighton’s contemporaneous Bread Line, New York, a stark view of an endless queue of men huddled against the cold under jagged skyscrapers.

Ditto Mabel Dwight’s grimly colorful lithograph,
Derelict Banana Men, New Orleans, pictured, a view of ragged workers hauling produce in a scene that recalls some of Goya’s darker ruminations. Howard Cook’s stark Southern Pioneers etching of an Arkansas couple hints at Grant Wood and the great WPA photographers, but Raphael Soyer takes us back to Manhattan in his evocative, circa 1936, Dancers Resting litho, top, where the subjects are urbane, but the feel is no less austere, harking to Edward Hopper’s silences amid the cacophony. Here legendary artists such as Reginald Marsh, John Steuart Curry, George Bellows, John Sloan and Mable Dwight, among others, captured the spirit of their time no less than Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg decades later. –D. Eric Bookhardt

Through March 26

Diboll Art Gallery, Loyola University, 861-5456;

Cornering the Art Market:

Like Charles Saatchi in London, the Mugrabi's in New York buy and sell art like commodity traders trying to control the market in Warhols, Basquiats and Hirsts--a morbidly fascinating account of how the big time art market really works. Read it Here:

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