Art of the Week

Conrad Marca-Relli (1913-2000, U.S.)
Meeting Place, 1982
Lithograph on Somerset paper, 65 x 79 cm.
Gift of Kenneth L. Halsband ‘88

“Collage forces you to think and clarify ideas, with regard to both space and volumes. This discipline obliges me to think in terms of forms, outlines, real and imagined spaces, so as not to fall into the temptation of thinking that nature is a reality.” Marca-Relli

Conrad Marca-Relli was a Boston-born painter and sculptor who belonged to the early generation of New York School Abstract Expressionist artists. Following a period of painting Surrealist inspired imagery, Marca-Relli made a critical breakthrough with large-scale collage paintings that frequently drew inspiration from the human form to create abstract compositions of interlocking curves and angles. He is considered to be one of the first artists to raise the art of collage to a status comparable with monumental painting, which paved the way for the large “combine paintings” of the Neo-Dada artists of the 1960s.

Early in his career, Marca-Relli recognized that for abstraction to be emotionally moving, the use of psychologically affecting shapes and textures were necessary. Contours and shapes in his work were therefore based on imagined architectural themes or figure arrangements but were deliberately left ambiguous.

Marca-Relli took a constructive approach to image making, building up surfaces by cutting out and applying shapes to canvas or metal supports. He did not seek gestural movement or uncontrolled spontaneity, but sought to create controlled, complex compositions of interlocking forms.

Marca-Relli maintained strong links to Europe throughout his life and did not wish to break from the traditions of the “Old World” unlike many of his contemporaries. He lived and worked in France, Spain, and Italy and looked to European painters from the Renaissance, Cubism, and metaphysical movements for inspiration.

About this particular print:
Edition: 15/150; Signed
Workshop: American Atelier, NY
publisher: Transworld Art, Inc., NY
Authentication: Alex Rosenberg Fine Art, NY
The plate, screen or stone has been canceled, erased or destroyed.

Marca-Relli, Conrad Marca-Relli / New York : Whitney Museum of Modern Art, c1967. ND237 .M238 A62

Art of the Week

Chinese, Song (969-1279)
Bowl with Interior Floral and Leaf Designs
Celadon, 19 cm diam.
Gift of Dr. J. Philip Keeve ‘48

The Song Dynasty was the ruling dynasty in China between 960 and 1279; it succeeded the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, and was followed by the Yuan Dynasty. The Song Dynasty is divided into two distinct periods: the Northern Song and the Southern Song. The visual arts during the Song Dynasty were heightened by new developments such as advances in landscape and portrait painting. The elite engaged in the arts as accepted pastimes of the cultured scholar-official, including painting, composing poetry, and writing . In philosophy, Chinese Buddhism had waned in influence but it retained its hold on the arts and on the charities of monasteries.

Most later Chinese ceramics, even of the finest quality, were made on an industrial scale, thus few names of individual potters were recorded. Many of the most renowned workshops were owned by or reserved for the Emperor, and large quantities of ceramics were exported as diplomatic gifts or for trade from an early date. The city of Jingdezhen has been a central place of production since the early Han Dynasty. In 1004, Jingde established the city as the main production hub for Imperial porcelain. During the Song and Yuan dynasties, porcelain made in the city and other southern China kiln sites used crushed and refined pottery stones alone. Untouched by any impurities, the lotus symbolizes purity of the heart and mind and represents long life, humility, honor and tranquility.

Lee, Sherman E. A history of Far Eastern art / Upper Saddle River, N.J. : Prentice Hall, 1994. PERRY QUARTO N7336 .L43 1994       
Du Boulay, Anthony. Christie’s pictorial history of Chinese ceramics / Oxford : Phaidon : Christie’s, 1984. QUARTO NK4165 .D78 1984   
Tregear, Mary. Song ceramics / New York : Rizzoli, 1982. QUARTO NK4165.4.T7 1982
Sophistication of Song Dynasty ceramics. By: Mowry, Robert D.. Apollo (London, England), November 1983, Vol. 118, p394-402, 9p

Art of the Week

Samuel Bak (b.1933)
Landscapes of Jewish Experience: Study of Stars, 1992
Mixed media, 49 x 63 cm.
Gift of Samuel Bak

Bak was born in Vilna. A few years later the area was incorporated into the independent republic of Lithuania. He was eight when the Germans occupied the city. Bak began painting while still a child and, prompted by the well-known Yiddish poet Abraham Sutzkever, held his first exhibition (in the Vilna ghetto) in 1942 at the age of nine. From the ghetto, his family was sent to a labor camp on the outskirts of the city. Bak’s father managed to save his son by dropping him in a sack out of a ground floor window of the warehouse where he was working; he was met by a maid and brought to the house where his mother was hiding. His father was shot by the Germans in July 1944, a few days before Soviet troops liberated the city. His four grandparents had earlier been executed at the killing site outside Vilna called Ponary. After the war, the young Bak continued painting at the Displaced Persons camp in Landsberg, Germany (1945–48). He also studied painting in Munich. In 1948, he and his mother immigrated to Israel, where he studied for a year at the Bezalel Art School in Jerusalem. After fulfilling his military service, he spent three years (1956–59) at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He then moved to Rome (1959–66), returned to Israel (1966–74), and lived for a time in New York City (1974–77). There followed further years in Israel and Paris, then a long stay in Switzerland (1984–93). From 1993 Bak lived and worked outside Boston, in Weston, Massachusetts. In 2001 he published a detailed autobiography, Painted in Words: A Memoir (Indiana University Press).

Samuel Bak is arguably one of the two or three most important artists dealing with the Holocaust as an integral part of his work. On any list of five his name would appear. “My paintings,” Bak admitted more than a decade ago, “convey a sense of a world that was shattered, of a world that was broken, of a world that exists again through an enormous effort to put everything together, when it is absolutely impossible to put it together because the broken things can never be made whole again. But we still can make something that looks as if it was whole and live with it. And more or less, this is the subject of my painting, whether I paint still lives, or people, or landscapes, there is always something of that moment of destruction there. Even if I do it with very happy and gay colors, it has always gone through some catastrophe.” If he can be said to celebrate anything in this series, it is the stamina of the spirit of Jewish memory, affected and even afflicted by the powers of darkness, but never entirely annulled.

Painted in Words: A Memoir. Indiana University, 2001 (ISBN9780253340481)