The National Catholic Review

Art

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  • November 28, 2016

    Kerry James Marshall (b. 1955) has a vocation within a vocation. For 30 years he has worked to fill a gaping hole in the Western art tradition, a virtual absence of black people featured in the works on the walls of museums. As cultural arbiters, museum curators determine not only what is (and is not) beautiful but which art is (and is not) important and worthy of being shown. The absence of black artists and figures in most museums is one more example of how, and to...

  • October 3, 2016

    In an interview the African-American artist Alma Thomas gave in the last year of her life, she described light sifting through a holly tree outside the bay window of her home in Washington, D.C., as the inspiration for her commitment to abstraction. Her color harmonies, she explained, were based on her flower beds—especially as imagined from above. In a late-blooming career, she had moved beyond polemics about the “mainstream” of art for art’s sake and the “blackstream” art...

  • August 29-September 6, 2016

    It all began with an eggbeater. When Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney in 1927 gave the young American artist Stuart Davis a stipend so that he could concentrate entirely on his art, he “nailed an electric fan, a rubber glove and an eggbeater to a table,” he later wrote, “and used them as my exclusive subject matter for a year.” The resultant four paintings hang mesmerizingly now on a single wall in a stirring exhibition of some 100 works by the artist, “Stuart Davis: In Full Swing,” at the...

  • The story in The New York Times was clear and dramatic. In 1838, the Jesuits of Georgetown College in Washington sold 272 slaves to help cover the school’s dire financial situation. Other schools had held and sold slaves, it reported, but the Georgetown sale “stands out for its sheer size.” Other news outlets picked up the story, and on May 20...

  • The glory of the Pergamon Museum on Berlin's legendary Museum Island is the eponymous Great Altar excavated by the German engineer Carl Humann between 1878 and 1886. With the permission of the Ottoman Empire and the support of Alexander Conze in Germany, Humann over time sent back to Berlin major portions of the great lower frieze from the altar, "The Gigantomachy" (The Battle of the Giants and the Gods) and the smaller Telephus frieze (the life of Telephus, the son of Herakles and...

  • May 2, 2016

    With the opening of the Met Breuer in March, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has made a major move into modern and contemporary art. But do not let the new building and all the hoopla around the opening cause you to miss the seismic change in thinking going on at the Met. The contemporary focus marks a deep shift, like the moving of tectonic plates under the Metropolitan, an institution whose vast holdings span 5,000 years....

  • With the opening of the Met Breuer in March, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has made a major move into Modern and contemporary art. But do not let the new building and all the hoopla around the opening cause you to miss the seismic change in thinking going on at the Met. The contemporary focus marks a deep shift, like the moving of tectonic plates under the Metropolitan, an institution whose vast holdings span 5,000 years.

    For decades critics have complained about the...

  • March 21, 2016

    For Ellsworth Kelly’s 90th birthday in May 2013, the Museum of Modern Art honored him at its annual Party in the Garden and celebrated his art with a dazzling exhibition of his Chatham Series. In the Sculpture Garden women arrived in dresses patterned after Kelly paintings, and the grand old man of American painting made his way through the admiring crowd. Upstairs on the fourth floor, the Chatham show, the first suite of paintings Kelly had made after...

  • October 12, 2015

    When Pope Francis presided at Mass at Nu Guazu Park in Paragauy in July, he stood in front of a 72-foot-tall, 131-foot-wide corn altar. To create the unique altarpiece, the Paraguayan artist Koki Ruiz used 32,000 corncobs, 200,000 baby coconuts, 1,000 squashes, 771 pounds of seeds and grains—and an overwhelming dose of faith.

    “Making it with the fruits of our earth is a symbol meant to make people reflect and think of our...

  • August 31-September 7, 2015

    In November 1941, just before Edith Halpert exhibited Jacob Lawrence’s “The Migration of the Negro” at her Downtown Gallery in Manhattan, Fortune magazine published 26 of the 60 panels in the series. With a limited palette of brilliantly saturated colors and in an abstracted, expressionistic style, the relatively small panels (12 in. by 18 in.) of casein tempera on hardboard depicted the migration of black men, and eventually women as well, moving from the...