Egon Schiele at the Neue Galerie

Egon Schiele_Portrait of Dr. Erwin von Graff_1910  schiele self-portrait with arm above head

Up through the holiday weekend, “Egon Schiele: Portraits” at the Neue Galerie was a surprising favorite show of mine last time I was in NYC: surprising because it’s not my era or area of interest. But Schiele’s portraits stand in graphic, psychological counter to the museum’s stunning portrait of Adele Bloch Bauer by Gustav Klimt. Klimt’s ornately decorative mode gives way to a bare, introspective style by Egon Schiele, who looked up to the older artist as both a father figure and a rival who he must supplant, as is appropriate given the theories Freud was elaborating on, also in Vienna, at this time. Room after room of portraits provides insight into Schiele’s interests (people, preferably lean and contorted) and working methods (a traditional command of draftsmanship and anatomy pointedly given over to more expressive lines). Well-worth a look if you have a chance this weekend.

Gustav_Klimt_Portrait of Adele Blauch Bauer




Three New York Exhibitions to Catch Over the Holidays


In New York over Thanksgiving, I saw so many great shows, much of which I want to write about in more depth, and missed so many that I wanted to see. To save you from a similar fate of missing shows in the holiday chaos, allow me to point out three exhibition that will be closing soon after the New Year. Of the shows that I did see, these three stuck out as being well-worth the effort of seeing over the holidays.


Chris Offili: Night and Day was the biggest (pleasant) surprise for me. I was familiar with the British artist’s work, from his original controversial dung paintings to his red, green, and black makeover at the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, but I hadn’t realized how lush and sensuous his large, detailed paintings could be. This gorgeous visual quality was apparent overall, and highlighted by the way they were installed in the museum. Especially in his most recent blue paintings, the viewer gets the rather rare experience of painting as one would with Rothko: an intense bodily confrontation and visual experience that grows over time. However, the subject matter quickly pulls it away from the sublime and into the lyrical.


I, being an ignoramous, or perhaps merely too young, was not familiar with Gober’s work and wasn’t sure what I would make of the artist’s sinks and other examples of warped domesticity at Robert Gober: The Heart Is A Metaphor. What I found was pleasantly tactile work whose logic proceeded like that of dreams, intuitively making sense. It was odd, touching, bizarre–and images of it stick. I only wish I could walk through it again.


Finally, Egon Schiele: Portraits is a beautiful and thorough show of this Viennese Expressionist painter’s work. The collection overall makes clear the stark break a young Schiele made with Gustav Klimt’s decorative style in favor of the psychological, in a city where Freud was doing his pioneering work in psychoanalysis. Remaining stylized, Schiele veered toward an expression of the inner mind, in ways that feel freshly startling. Similarly, his drawings, sometimes conventional, show his precocious skill as a draftsman.