Sunday, June 27, 2004

Wicked Cool Stuff!


I told you it was going to be "All Childe Hassam! All the Time!" One of the advantages to putting on an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is being able to roll out of bed and get reviews. As you might realize those reviews are not necessarily always going to be good, but then again Childe Hassam has been dead for almost seventy years, so it ain't like he's going to be having a hissy fit or anything.

But, beyond the standard issue reviews in the New York Times, or the New York Observer, I am seriously impressed, jealous, and my socks have been blown off because The New York Review of Books reviews the show, and they don't just get some nobody to put 2,742 words on paper. No, they take their stuff sorta seriously. They go out and get John Updike to pen the review. Very Cool! (Although I wonder if Mr. Updike had to pay the $12 admission fee? or if he was comped? or if he's a member?)

Now, unlike the Entertainment Weekly here in town called Voir, the New York Review of Books is a very appropriate place to name drop - from my superficial knowledge of the magazine, all of its readers know just about everything. Mr. Updike none-the-less does a superlative job of name dropping, check out this list:

Bonnard, Celia Thaxter, C├ęzanne, de Kooning, Edward Hopper, George Bellows, George Luks, Gustave Caillebotte, Jasper Johns, John Singer Sargent, John Twachtman, Monet, Pissarro, Puvis de Chavannes, Saul Steinberg, Seurat, Turner, van Gogh, Washington Irving, Whistler, William Dean Howells, and Winslow Homer - impressive, eh?

Then, he gets even better, in the New York Observer review, Hilton Kramer does not mention one painting by name, in the New York Times, Michael Kimmelman writes about one painting ("Room of Flowers") and to their credit, the New York Times does publish three reproductions. Mr. Updike on the other hand, mentions and discusses forty-two (by my count) of Mr. Hassam's paintings.

Now we go over to the dark side... From his writing, Mr. Updike views Mr. Hassam's work in a much more favorable light, he doesn't go overboard, but he doesn't diss like Kramer and Kimmelman. He does however have some particularly pointed comments about H. Barbara Weinberg. What is it about the art world that makes people get snippy? One of his remarks ("...chief curator of this exhibition as well as of the rather tendentious Realism and Impressionism show at the Met ten years ago...") leads me to believe that he holds grudges (what did Ms. Weinberg do to him, ten years ago? Maybe he DID have to pay the $12 admission fee) I am not certain if this is a good thing. He then goes on to call her a liar ("...in her remarks at the press preview described Hassam as the American painter who went to Paris and brought back Impressionism; yet the room devoted to his three years studying and living in Paris, from 1886 to 1889, does not seem especially Impressionistic.") Although, taking a step back, I'd be mighty impressed if John Updike called me a liar.

I gotta get back to work, now. With a little luck, nobody else will write about Childe Hassam for a while, and I can get back to blogging about stuff here in Montreal.

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