Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Jackson and Charles Pollock - VISIBLE ENERGY in Venice

Charles Pollock
Jack [Jackson Pollock], 1935
Smithsonian American Art Museum
(Venice, Italy) Before Peggy Guggenheim proclaimed that Jackson Pollock was "the greatest artist of the 20th century," his oldest brother, Charles, sketched him strumming a banjo at age 23. For it was Charles who first left the family of five brothers to head East to New York City to study painting, inspiring his siblings to follow in his footsteps.

Pollock family, Chico, California, ca. 1918
Sanford LeRoy, Charles Cecil, LeRoy, Stella, Frank Leslie, Marvin Jay, Paul Jackson.
Private collection
There is a Pollock Party going on over at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection with three exhibitions here in Venice -- JACKSON POLLOCK'S MURAL: ENERGY MADE VISIBLE, CHARLES POLLOCK: A RETROSPECTIVE and ALCHEMY BY JACKSON POLLOCK: DISCOVERING THE ARTIST AT WORK -- zapping the walls of Palazzo Venier dei Leoni with the visible energy of a mid-western American family that wrote poignant letters to each other as they struggled through two World Wars and a Depression, and rocked the art world to its core.

Jackson Pollock
Going West, ca. 1934-35
Smithsonian American Art Museum.
The Charles Pollock Retrospective puts his kid brother, Jackson, in an entirely different light. Charles was born on Christmas Day, 1902; he died in 1988. Jackson was born on January 28, 1912; he died in 1956. In between there were three more brothers, Marvin (1904-86), Frank (1907-94) and Sanford (1909-63). Whenever he was asked what he would like to be, Jackson would reply, "I want to be an artist like brother Charles."

Charles Pollock
Self-Portrait, 1930s
Private collection
LeRoy Pollock, their father, was born a McCoy whose mother and sister died when he was an infant, and whose father gave him to local farmers named Pollock. LeRoy supported his family with odd jobs: farming, working as a land surveyor and a dishwasher. Stella, their mother, was a talented seamstress and weaver. Both parents were amazingly encouraging and supportive of their sons; Charles described them both as "gentle" people. Touching letters and personal photos are sprinkled throughout the exhibit. Some of Stella's potholders are on display.

Stella Pollock’s potholders
I would suggest visiting the Charles Pollock Retrospective first, which winds its way through his life from figurative works to the abstract -- including what he worked on before and after Jackson crashed and died --and concludes with a video installation of how the haunting Alchemy by Jackson Pollock was restored, and new revelations about how the artist worked.

Jackson Pollock
Murale / Mural, 1943
The University of Iowa Museum of Art, gift of Peggy Guggenheim
Then head over to the main palazzo where you will find the famous Mural that Peggy Guggenheim commissioned for her townhouse in 1943 -- the largest painting that Jackson Pollock ever created -- which "has exerted a seismic impact on American art down to the present day" in the same room as the real-life Alchemy blazing with restored colors. 

Jackson and Charles Pollock, New York, 1930
Private collection
After I visited the excellent exhibitions, I concluded that there would have been no Jackson Pollock without brother Charles first hacking down the brambles along the path. 

April 23 – November 16, 2015
Curated by David Anfam

April 23 – September 14, 2015
Curated by Philip Rylands

February 14 – September 14, 2015
Curated by Luciano Pensabene and Roberto Bellucci

Go to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Two Venetian Artists in Paris - Paolo and Marcello Leoncini

Malamocca by Paolo Leoncini (2012)
(Venice, Italy) Paolo Leoncini paints because he loves the raw, natural world of the Venetian lagoon, finding inspiration from the original Architect of the Universe. When he was just a small boy, he would go on fantastic adventures with his father, the artist, Marcello Leoncini, as he captured images of Venice on his sketchpad.

Paolo remembers the first solo exhibition his father had in at the Opera Bevilacqua La Masa in Piazza San Marco in August, 1947. Paolo was not yet seven-years-old, but the excitement of the opening left an indelible memory. As soon as he could hold a brush, Paolo, too, began to paint. It seemed that artistic talent ran in the family.

Cupola of San Simeon Piccolo by Marcello Leoncini (1956)
Marcello Leoncini was born in Florence on December 9, 1905. He grew up in Sulmona in Abruzzo, Ovid's hometown, where he got his degree at the Istituto d'Arte. After his beloved mother died in 1929, Marcello made his way to Venice where he found a job working for the Water Authority as a designer. He quickly established himself on the local artistic scene, participating in a group exhibit at the Bevilacqua La Masa in 1933, where he would remain a vital presence until 1950.

La Spiagga (The Beach) by Marcello Leoncini (1948)
In October, 1942, Marcello qualified as an art teacher and immediately quit his job working for the Water Authority. After WWII, he became an active member of the cultural association, "Gruppo dell'Arco," a group of Venetian intellectuals who sought to revitalize the cultural climate, exhibiting in the Galleria dell'Arco at the Palazzo delle Prigione. The visionary film director Pier Paolo Pasolini praised Marcello's Ritratto d'uomo (Portrait of a Man), which won the Premio Mogliano at the Triveneta in Udine in 1947. As an artist initially from the regions of Tuscany and Abruzzo, Marcello was winning acceptance in the Veneto -- not an easy achievement.

The year 1948 started off with a bang -- Marcello was invited to participate in the 24th Venice Biennale International Contemporary Art Exhibition, as well as the Quadrennial in Rome, and the National Exhibition of Contemporary Art, "April in Milan." On November 28, 1949, the Minister of Education bought Marcello's Natura morta con i pesci (Still Life with Fish) for the Ca' Pesaro museum, Venice's International Gallery of Modern Art.

Maternità by Marcello Leoncini (1956)
In the 50s, Marcello disagreed with the direction the creative community in Venice was taking, and withdrew from exhibiting, concentrating instead on his students, and working in seclusion. It would not be until 1975 that he would again exhibit his work, nearly 30 years after his first solo exhibition.

In 1992, two years after Marcello's death, the City of Venice mounted a retrospective entitled, Marcello Leoncini. Works from the '30s to the Postwar.

Paesaggio con mezzaluna (Landscape with Half Moon) by Paolo Leoncini (1978)
Paolo Leoncini was born on December 7, 1940, two days before his father's 35th birthday. He began painting as a young boy, guided by the hand of Marcello. But Paolo was more interested in nature than in the human figures that inspired his father.

Instead of going to art school, Paolo got his degree in Humanities and became a respected critic and professor of contemporary Italian literature, while still focusing intensely on his art. Diego Valeri, the poet and literary critic, wrote about Paolo Leoncini: "in his double-act" -- artistic and critical -- "there is no trace of amateurism because his commitment is the most serious and profound of those working in these difficult fields."

Spaccato collinare (Hillside cutaway) by Paolo Leoncini (1979)
Paolo began exhibiting in 1971. Henri Goetz, the acclaimed French American artist and engraver, delighted the crowd at Paolo's first solo exhibition in April, 1974 by making a surprise appearance at Galleria Segno Grafico. In the same circle as Picasso, Braque, Brancusi, Kandinsky, Gonzalez, Picabia and Max Ernst in Paris, Goetz had invented carborundum printmaking, opening up another universe to artists, and Paolo had studied his method.

Lunar Carnival by Paolo Leoncini (2004)
Throughout his life as an artist, Paolo has traveled through different mediums and methods -- black and white, colored inks, mixed, tempera, oils and engraving -- as he expanded his voyages throughout Italy and Europe, visiting hills, mountains, forests and streams, and capturing nature on his canvas.

Girasole (Sunflower) by Marcello Leoncini (1973)
Fifteen years ago, father and son began exhibiting together for the first time. In 2010, the Galleria Perl'A in Venice presented an exhibit entitled A Family of Artists: the Leoncini, featuring the work of both Marcello and Paolo Leoncini. In 2012, the National Museum of Oradea in Romania presented 100 works by the duo called, Two Venetian Artists: Marcello and Paolo Leoncini. In 2014 Effata published a volume called I due Leoncini a Venezia, which literally means "two lion cubs in Venice" -- "Leoncini" is Italian for "lion cubs" and, fittingly, the symbol of Venice is a winged lion. The volume featured 50 works by both Marcello and Paolo Leoncini, with a text by Domenico Carosso.

Now Paolo's journeys have led him to Paris where he will once again share the stage with his father, Marcello, at La Capitale Galerie, a gallery that also represents the work of Henri Goetz. From April 28 to May 23, 2015, La Capitale presents Marcello et Paolo LEONCINI, deux vénitiens à Paris, or Two Venetians in Paris. The vernissage is on Tuesday, April 28 at 6:00 p.m.

April 28 to May 23, 2015

La Capitale Galerie
18 Rue du Roule
75001 Paris, France
Tel: +33 1 42 21 19 31
This is a sponsored post.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Thursday, April 16, 2015

VOTE FOR THE WONDERS OF VENICE! Virtual Treasures of San Marco

Lion of San Marco
(Venice, Italy) A super-cool new 3d interactive website called the Wonders of Venice, or Meraviglie di Venezia, Sacred and Profane Treasures in St. Mark Area launched yesterday, April 15, 2015. In 10 languages, it is the first virtual museum that zooms in on some of the stash that Venice has collected over the centuries. You can go on virtual tours, view nearly 400 virtual objects, go backstage and watch the camera drones buzz over Piazza San Marco, and visit 2 museums that no longer exist but have been reconstructed in cyber space. You can spin round and round, or fly up to the ceiling and examine an object in minute detail. They even put the statues back in the Tribuna of Palazzo Grimani!

The Triumphal Quadriga - The Horses of San Marco (detail)
The Treasure of San Marco is the most important treasure in the world in terms of rarity and type of objects it contains. Just the four Horses of San Marco are priceless beyond imagination. Even France returned the beloved Triumphal Quadriga, the imperial symbol par excellence, after Napoleon had plundered the astonishing horses and put them on top of the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel. Of course, Venice herself had looted the horses from the Hippodrome when she sacked Constantinople in 1204 during its realm as the capital of the Roman Empire. The Venetians mounted the powerful quadriga on the facade of the Basilica in Piazza San Marco; there are copies there today. The original ancient horses are now inside the Basilica, which protects them from pollution and makes them a bit more difficult to loot:)

Leda and the Swan
And now to the VOTE. Europa Nostra, "the voice of cultural heritage in Europe," has chosen WONDERS OF VENICE: VIRTUAL ONLINE TREASURES IN ST. MARK’S AREA as a winner in the Research and Digitization category. Venice wants to win the Public Choice Award. That's where you come in. It's relatively easy to vote if you remember it is a European contest:) For instance, it says you "can" vote for 3 winners. In reality, you "must" vote for 3 winners. Just be sure that one of your votes is for Wonders of Venice, which is about three quarters of the way down the page. You can't vote for the same country twice. After the third vote, click "complete." Next fill in your name, country and email, and then confirm the email. The deadline is May 31.



Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Designer Glass from Finland - the Bischofberger Collection at Stanze del Vetro, Venice

Designer: Tapio Wirkkala
Jääpala (Chunk of Ice) - Bowl, 1950
Company: Iittala

(Venice, Italy) Finland is a land of the Midnight Sun, covered with lush forests and more than 180,000 pristine lakes born from glaciers. Lapland, in the north, lies within the Artic Circle where the reindeer roam. Helsinki is the second most northern capital in the world after Reykjavik, Iceland. In ancient times, Finns believe that each tree was ruled by a spirit, and that certain wise old trees were sacred. So it is no wonder that much of the glass designed by the Finns was inspired by ice with a touch of whimsy from the woodland nymphs.

Designer: Alvar Aalto
Vase, 1937
Company: Karhula
Bruno Bischofberger, the Swiss art dealer and gallerist, and his wife, Christina, collect glass art objects from the most important Finnish designers of the 20th century. On display for the first time in Venice are over 300 works of art that reflect the soul and spirit of the collectors -- the Bischofbergers are passionate about magical, mystical Finnish glass.

Rågåkern / Ruispelto (Rye Field)
Vase, 1937
Company: Karhula
In the early 1920s, after becoming independent from what was about to become the Soviet Union, Finland used design as its manifesto in an attempt to establish its autonomy and cultural sovereignty. Some of the country's greatest designers began to use glass to create works of art that blended tradition, experimentation and technique. Unlike Venice, Finland had no tradition of glass blowing, but it did have one important element needed to create the blaze that melts glass -- wood, and plenty of it. Finland is the most forested nation in Europe; 76% of the land area is covered with trees. The decision to concentrate on the production of glass was pragmatic for a country rich with wood but without fossil fuels and other natural resources; to hire artists, architects and graphic designers to design the glass was divine inspiration.

Pitcher, Mug, Tumbler 1932
Company: Karhula
Finnish glass came on the international scene in the 1930s, after five top Finnish names designed glass objects for the first time. The impulsive Alvar Aalto (1898-1976) was Finland's most widely known architect; his realistic wife, Aino Marsio-Aalto (1894-1949) was also an architect, and worked in her husband's office -- the two opposites balanced each other. Arttu Brummer (1891-1951) designed furniture and glass, but was more influential as a highly-regarded teacher of design, spawning a pack of uber-cool future designers like Goran Hongell, Kaj Franck, Gunnel Nyman, Timo Sarpaneva and Tapio Wirkkala. Goran Hongell (1902-1973) was an interior designer before becoming a pioneer in Finnish glass design. He was the very first designer hired by a Finnish glassware company, Karhula-Iittala, to give the everyday piece of glass a lift. Gunnel Nyman (1909-1948) majored in furniture design, but started working with glass in her student years, and would become the most widely known Finnish glass artist in the late 1940s. These five designers would put Finland on the map when it came to visionary Scandinavian glass design.

Finnish troops during the Winter War
Then came World War II. Once part of the Russian Empire, Finland had dicey relationships with both the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany -- it did not declare war on Germany, its former partner, until March 3, 1945 when the war was winding down; it would lose 10% of its territory to the Soviet Union. After three personal wars during the Second World War: two with the Soviet Union -- the Winter War, which the vastly outnumbered Finns fought on skis with reindeer, and the Continuation War -- and one with Germany, the Lapland War -- Finland need good publicity to illustrate that their sympathies were with the West, and they decided to use glass as the medium. Glass was beauty; glass was hope; glass was peace.

After the war, Finnish glass design had two different perspectives: as high quality art objects and as industrial products. During the press conference, the curators, Kaisa Koivisto and Pekka Korvenmaa, said that Finns are a practical people, and an object must be useful, so a glass sculpture that served no useful purpose was greeted with skepticism. While Italy has "always appreciated beauty for beauty's sake," in Finland, "first you take care of your basic needs."

Designer: KAJ FRANCK
Pitchers, 1954
Company: Nuutajärvi
The 1950s saw the beginning of the Golden Age of Finnish glass. Tapio Wirkkala (1915-1985), Timo Sarpaneva (1926-2006), Kaj Franck (1911-1989) and Oiva Toikka (1931-) burst on the scene, creating beautiful glass sculptures that served no useful purpose, as well as industrial objects such as practical drinking glasses, but with a flair. In Finland, glass designers were considered artists; the companies they produced for used their names to market the glass; they achieved cult status. You already know who Tapio Wirkkala is because he designed this bottle:

Wirkkala began his career as a commercial artist, and served at the front during the war. After the war, he married artist Rut Bryk. In 1946, he entered the Iittala glassworks design competition and won first prize.The international Milan Triennial in Italy was the Olympics of design, attracting top designers from all over the planet, and in 1951, Wirkkala won three Gran Premios, putting himself and Finland firmly on the globe. He and his wife loved Lapland and its Artic indigenous people, the Sami, in the north, and acquired a summer residence there; the magic of Lapland had a profound influence on his work. A highlight of the exhibition is Pilkkiavanto, or "Hole in the Ice," which the city of Helsinki commissioned in 1970 for the 70th birthday of Urho Kekkonen, the President of Finland. Wirkkala was inspired by the chunk of ice cut to form the hole for ice fishing.

Pilkkiavanto (Hole in the Ice)
Plate, 1970
Company: Iittala
Long before Apple started making iThings, Timo Sarpaneva created the i-glass collection for Iittala division of Karhula-Iittala, which focused on Art glass, while the Karhula division of the company focused on mass production. The i-glass logo turned Iittala into a coveted brand. Like Tapio Wirkkala before him, Sarpaneva won the Gran Premio for glass design at the Milan Triennial of 1954, transforming him into an internationally known glass artist. The Finns were the rock stars of glass design just about the same time Elvis became the first rock star. Both Timo Sarpaneva and Tapio Wirkkala would go on to work with the renowned Venetian glass company, Venini, here on Murano.

Designer: Timo Sarpaneva
Kajakki (Kayak) - Bowl, 1953
Company: Iittala
During the 60s and 70s, Finnish glass focused on color and energy like most of the rest of the world. The last designer of renown, who is still working today, is Oiva Toikka, whose fanciful Birds series became a popular gift item and collectible, and kept the Nuutajärvi glassworks in operation for several extra years.

Designer: Oiva Toikka
Kiikkuri (Red-throated Diver) - Sculpture, 1975
Company: Nuutajärvi

The Bischofberger Collection ends in 1973, when Finnish glass ceased to flourish due to international reasons. The energy crisis hit the glass industry hard, Finland and the Nordic countries in particular, which were known for handcrafted art and glass design.

Bowl with lid, 1936 
Company: Riihimäki
Personally, I would love to see a time when glass designers were rock stars once again and our everyday glassware had a little touch of soul.

IMAGES COURTESY:  Bischofberger Collection, Switzerland
Photos: Rauno Träskelin

Glass from Finland in the Bischofberger Collection
curated by Kaisa Koivisto and Pekka Korvenmaa  
3 April 2015 – 2 August 2015
For more information: STANZE DEL VETRO
on the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A Castle in Venice? San Pietro di Castello

Basilica of San Pietro di Castello
(Venice, Italy) The Basilica of San Marco is Easter headquarters here in Venice, but it wasn't always that way. Before there was a basilica in Piazza San Marco, Venice's cathedral was located on San Pietro di Castello, an island off the eastern tip of Venice, orginally called Olivolo. Castello means "castle," and there once was a castle on the Island of Olivolo, which then morphed into the Island of San Pietro di Castello.

Castle of Olivolo by Francesco Nardo (2014)
The first church on the island was built way back in the 7th century and was dedicated to the Byzantine saints Sergius and Bacchus, officers in the Roman army on the Syrian frontier who refused to sacrifice to the pagan god Jupiter because they were Christians, and were martyred for their defiance. The new church dedicated to St. Peter the Apostle was built in the 9th century; the one that stands today dates to the end of the 16th century.

Many years ago, when I wrote for the International Herald Tribune's Italian supplement, Italy Daily, I wrote a sidebar about the church, which was first published on November 8, 2002. Here it is again, slightly edited:

San Pietro di Castello by Francesco Guardi (1712-93)

By Cat Bauer

Once the cathedral of the Republic, this church played a central role in Venetian history. San Pietro is situated on the island of Olivolo, a name that, perhaps, originated from the numerous olive trees that once stood there. Doge Pietro Tribuno (888-912) built a castle there for the defense of the city; hence the name "di Castello."

Olivolo was the first settlement in the lagoon and was once the center of religious, commercial and political life in the city. From 775 to 1451, San Pietro was a Diocesan Church under the patriarchy of Grado, a town on the Adriatic Sea north of Venice.

In 1451, the Grado patriarch merged with the Episcopal see of Venice, and Venetian nobleman Lorenzo Giustiniani (1381-1456), who is buried in the church, was named the first Patriarch of Venice. Back in 1433, Pope Eugene IV, who was also Venetian, had made Giustiniani the Bishop of Castello. Pope Alexander VIII (1689-91), who was also Venetian, then made him a Saint.  

St. Lawrence Giustiniani adoring the Baby Jesus by Luca Giordino (17th C)
The current building was started during the time of Patriarch Vincenzo Diedo, dating to 1594-96, and is the result of Andrea Palladio's project, realized years after his death by his follower Francesco Smeraldi. The architect incorporated a family chapel from the late Gothic period that had been commissioned by Bishop Marco Lando (c.1425), who is buried in a tomb in the floor.

The Lando Chapel boasts an impressive ensemble of sculpture and decorative elements spanning an entire millennium. The oldest work of art (dated to between the second and fifth centuries) is a decorative Roman mosaic embedded in the floor in front of the altar. The large marble slab supporting the top of the altar, carved on both sides, is from the ninth century.

Other examples of Veneto-Byzantine architecture are two freestanding columns from the 11th century that were probably part of the old baptistery, flanking a bust depicting San Lorenzo Giustiniani, the first Patriarch of Venice (1381-1456). The mosaic "All Saints" altarpiece is by Arminio Zuccato from a cartoon by Tintoretto. Near the entrance to the Lando Chapel is an altarpiece attributed to Paolo Veronese, "St. John the Evangelist, Peter, Paul."

Madonna and Child with Souls in Purgatory by Luca Giordano (1650)
The prolific Neapolitan artist Luca Giordano painted the brilliantly colored "Madonna of the Carmelites with Souls in Purgatory" inside the Vendramin Chapel. The painting was stolen in 1994, but found six weeks later in a garage in Mestre on the mainland.

Throne of St. Peter, Venice
The "Throne of St. Peter" made of marble with decorations in Arabic patterns and writing from the Koran was probably assembled in the 13th century, and incorporates an Arab funerary stele. Also in the right aisle is Tizanello's "God the Father Eternal in Glory." To the right of the presbytery is Pietro Liberi's masterpiece, "The Plague of Serpents," painted in 1660.

Campanile San Pietro di Castello
The impressive campanile, the bell tower in Istrian stone, was almost completely rebuilt between 1482 and 1488 by Mauro Codussi, who also built the Clock Tower in Piazza San Marco.


Well, I just learned something new when I wrote this post based on an article I had written almost 13 years ago. Lorenzo Giustiniani, the first patriarch, who is buried in the church and was made into a saint, was in power when Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Empire. Giovanni Giustiniani (1418-1453) part of the Genoa branch of the family, personally financed, organized and led 700 professional soldiers to Constantinople to help defend the city, but he died after being wounded by an Ottoman cannon. Almost overnight, the Eastern capital of Christianity turned into the Islamic capital of the Ottoman Empire. Constantinople morphed into Istanbul -- and dramatically altered the core of a major Venetian trading partner. Interesting.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog