Selecting the best of New York City’s arts scene
The Art Students League is unique among the many educational facilities in New York City in that it is simply a place to learn and practice the skills needed to become an artist. Anyone can enroll in classes directed by instructors who are free to set methods and standards of progress for the students. It’s a program modeled after the 19th century French atelier system allowing a pupil to gain experience without being forced into a specific method or artistic ideology, resulting in the creation of an individual style. Another benefit to this type of education is how it tended to even out bias towards women artists in the 20th century (although there was still enough to make a professional career extremely difficult). But despite a lack of recognition from critics, galleries, and institutions, many women continued working within and outside of the multitude of post-war art movements. The new exhibit at the League, Postwar Women (in the ‘Opening This Week’ section), displays works from over forty alumnae of the school, tracing their influence in North and South America, as well as Europe, and highlighting their professional connections to each other and later generations of artists. Each person has a fascinating back story and we recommend Googling them all – but after looking at the work.
At Fergus McCaffrey, Japan Is America (in the ‘Opening This Week’ section) looks at the postwar period as well, from the viewpoint of each nation’s avant-garde. Thirty artists represent movements such as ‘American Style Painting’, abstract expressionism, anti-art, conceptual art, improvisational and performance art, to name just a few. The gallery has chosen some excellent examples to illustrate the history of this little known cultural exchange, especially regarding the Japanese artworks. We wouldn’t be surprised if this exhibit ends up on many top ten lists of gallery shows for 2019 or even becomes a future show at MoMA or California’s SFMOMA or MOCA.
The Jewish Museum is featuring Edith Halpert and the Rise of American Art (in the ‘Gallery Shows’ section), an examination of the career of one of New York City’s first women gallerists, and an early leader in promoting 19th and 20th century American art at a time when European works were dominating the market and public taste. She brought the selling of art into the modern age by applying techniques learned during her career in business, such as creating an annual December show of artists’ prints for sale or allowing customers to pay on the installment plan. By showcasing a variety of styles and artists, she kept people coming back to her gallery to look and to buy. It was a winning formula for over forty years, and one that has never been repeated in quite the same way.