Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.

Tamara Moscowitz

Jewelry of Ideas Takes Center Stage At The Cooper Hewitt


Jewelry of Ideas: Gifts From The Susan Grant Lewin Collection, at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, offers a broad overview of the radical shifts of the studio design movement from the mid-twentieth century to the present. The gift of 150 represent a diverse and adventurous contemporary collection of abstract, non-objective pieces ranging from bracelets, brooches, rings, and necklaces that Lewin scouted out on trips to Germany, Holland, Japan, Israel, and across the U.S.

Necklace, 2016; Glass beads and peyote stitch techniques, by Joyce Scott

Taken collectively, the seminal works of leading international jewelry makers and designers – from Peter Hoogeboom, Otto Künzli, Gils Bakker, Ted Noten, Thomas Gentile, and Bettina Speckner, among others, – is a study on how groundbreaking jewelers opened up possibilities by using found and industrial materials and applied the new technology to refashion one of the world’s oldest design mediums to rival that of the best in contemporary design.

Ginger Brooch from the “Ginger Series” in electroformed silver, by Sam Tho Duong

Jewelry makers began rejecting traditional forms and the use of gold and silver since the 1940s. They experimented with non-precious materials to produce innovative, one-of-a-kind sculptural designs as seen in an early piece, “Modernette Cuff Bracelet “(1948) by Art Smith. One of the few African-American jewelry makers, Smith intertwined copper wire and patinated sheet brass in a biomorphic shape to create a stunning, simple, abstract, timeless work of art.

Necklace, 1963; “Colorcore Personal Adornment” series, by Robert Ebendorf,  Ivy Ross

Given the rapid advances in technology, the 21st century witnessed a different dynamic overturning earlier notions of jewelry as adornment to statements on the personal, politics, and social mores of contemporary society. One example is the 2016 MacArthur Fellow Joyce Scott who intricately repositions glass beadwork into a platform for social commentary on gender, class, and race. Kiff Slemmons constructed photo transparencies in a chain configuration to document her work process linking the necklace to her professional identity.

Brooch; Spirit With Three Legs 1988, from the “Spirit House” series, silver, 18k woven structure and agate, by Arline Fisch

Lewin who spearheads a public relations firm on design, art and architecture, has been steeped in the industry since her early days as a journalist and later as Global Creative Director at the Formica Corporation and in organizing international exhibitions. She traveled extensively seeking out innovators and honing in on conceptual and material driven pieces, which, given her sentiment, “the field only becomes more exciting as conceptual jewelry design continues to flourish,” will be a continuing passion.

A word about the catalogue by Ursula Ilse-Neuman. An independent curator, author, and lecturer, Ms. Neuman served as co-curator of the exhibition. Her essay illuminates the craftsmanship and is a wonderful resource for aficionados and those interested in learning about art jewelry’s history. Also included are artists’ statements along side photos of their work.

Jewelry of Ideas: Gifts From The Susan Grant Lewin Collection is on view through May 28, 2018, Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum. 2 East 91 Street, NYC, cooperhewitt.org


Opening photo: 

Kinetic Ring 1993; silver, acrylic
by Friedrich Becker
from The Susan Grant Lewin Collection

Necklace, 2016; Glass beads and peyote stitch techniques
by Joyce Scott
from The Susan Grant Lewin Collection

Ginger Brooch from the “Ginger Series” in electroformed silver
by Sam Tho Duong
from The Susan Grant Lewin Collection

Necklace, 1963; “Colorcore Personal Adornment” series
Colorcore Formica fragments, clothespins (painted wood, metal), cord
by Robert Ebendorf,  Ivy Ross
from The Susan Grant Lewin Collection

Brooch; Spirit With Three Legs 1988
from the “Spirit House” series, silver, 18k woven structure and agate
by Arline Fisch
from The Susan Grant Lewin Collection

All photos: Matt Flynn, © Smithsonian Institution

A Walk in the Woods: Sandra Muss’s Installation Portals At The Kreeger Museum


The natural world often inspires artists by opening up experiences to conceptualize and perceive nature allowing them to respond in new ways. Their intervention alters the formal structure of the environment where a blurring of the boundaries between art and nature becomes the norm. While some on-site installations disrupt – one need only to look at the monumental engineered pieces by the late Jeanne Claude and Christo – others by Environmental Artists most notably the British Andy Goldsworthy and Richard Long, are concerned with incorporating a strong ecological component.

Which brings me to artist Sandra Muss whose collaboration with the Kreeger Museum in Washington D.C. resulted in Portals (2016) an interactive, lyrical, meditative permanent installation in The Woods section of the 5.5 acre newly expanded sculpture garden. Situated behind the majestic travertine clad museum designed in 1963 by the Modernist architect Philip Johnson as a private residence for art collectors David and Carmen Kreeger, the installation is only hinted at, having been positioned in the wooded area at the end of a steep hill.

As the visitor draws in closer, seven 10 ft. stainless steel mirrored portals swathed in rust wire frames with vines strewn across emerge on pathways. The rectangle structures, a study in light and movement, have well spaced openings alluding to the possibility of a deeply personal experience into another realm. While the mirrors frame the tree varieties and reflect other sculptures scattered throughout the garden, they also capture the lyricism of nature’s fluctuations.

Dividing her time between Miami Beach, New York City, and a studio in the Berkshires, Muss’s far-flung travels to New Zealand, the Artic Circle, and Nâ Pali Coast in Hawaii inform her work. Known for large-scale paintings, sculptures, and assemblage art, Muss’s central theme on transformation both metaphorical and spiritual is embodied in Portals moving her into new aesthetic territory quite successfully.

A visit to the Kreeger Museum should include a viewing of its fine collection of 19th and 20th century paintings and sculpture, plus a smaller group of traditional Asian and African art.

kreegermuseum.org 202-337-3050

Portals by Sandra Muss at the Kreeger Museum; Photos: Colin Winterbottom

Pierre Chareau: Modern Architecture and Design at the Jewish Museum


A prominent figure in Art Décor Design during the 1920s and 1930s, French architect and designer Pierre Chareau’s furnishings, light fixtures, and customized interiors for an affluent clientele were considered the epitome of elegance and style. His architectural masterpiece, Maison de Verre (the Glass House), the first glass and steel house in Paris was a milestone in early 20th century modern architecture only rivaled by the work of the legendary Le Corbusier. Although routinely studied in academia, Chareau’s many contributions have received little critical examination in wider circles, hopefully until now.

Maison de Verre, 1928-1932

The Jewish Museum in tandem with the interdisciplinary studio of Dill Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R), has organized the first ever U.S. exhibition, “Pierre Chareau: Modern Architecture and Design,” an exploration of his legacy that should lift the lid of obscurity in recognizing the designer’s many contributions. The show features 180 rarely seen pieces of furnishings and objects on loan from U.S. and European public and private collections and examines the life of Dollie and Pierre Chareau in Paris and New York.

y Diller Scofidio + Renfro.Glass House/Projection of Interiors

A visually arresting virtual-reality installation from DS+R enhances the viewer experience as the interior settings seem to pop out, move, and come alive. There is also significant art from the Chareaus’ private collection from Modrian, Motherwell, and Modigliani, among others, brought to New York in 1940 after fleeing the German occupation in Paris. A certain sadness encroaches to think as émigrés the couple had to sell their beloved art piecemeal to pay living expenses.

telephone-table4Telephone table and Religieuse table lamp

Born of humble origins in Bordeaux, Pierre Chareau (1883-1950) lacked a formal education in architecture and began working as a draftsman at Waring and Gillow Furnishings in Paris. Eventually he went out on his own to become one of the most in-demand designers in France. His unique style linked the strict geometry of Art Deco and the functionalism and clean lines of International Style modernism inventing the technology along the way. Other distinctions include veneered wood and metals, particularly iron, and irregularities of hand-worked, unpolished surfaces. The sculptural designs were mechanized to pivot or expand into fan-shaped configurations. Many of these elements are incorporated to stunning effect for lamps, chairs, daybeds, and desks, several of which are on view.

Table and bookcase

DS+R used a variety of virtual reality technologies: projections onto strategically placed white screens create ghostly illusions showing function and societal context; interior environments are imagined digitally, the visitor’s first impression of the furniture is that it is encased in a black void. Once viewed through the virtual reality headsets (goggles), four environments are revealed: the Chareau residence and the Farhi Apartment both in Paris; the Grand Salon of the Maison de Verre, Paris; and a 360 degree panoramic view of the garden.

3-chairsTelephone fan table and chairs

“Maison de Verre” (1928-1932), is the centerpiece of the exhibition and Chareau’s most famous project, a modern three-story townhouse commissioned by Dr. Jean Dalsace for his family and to house his medical practice. Chareau’s partners were Dutch architect Bernard Bijvoet, and Louis Delbet, a metal craftsman and frequent collaborator.

Installation view of the exhibition

Because there is no entire photographic view on record, DS+R dispatched staff to Paris to photograph sections and then produced a large-scale digital installation. Visitors can take a virtual walk-through becoming immersed in different levels, watching as a voyeur, the house in operation. This installation is overlaid with films that show the house as active and inhabited and is an opportunity to see the interplay of mechanical and circulation systems against the backdrop of its dramatic glass block and steel structure.

Robert Motherwell house

Chareau spent ten years in New York working at a much slower place. One substantial commission was the Robert Motherwell house in East Hampton (1947) unfortunately razed years ago. With ephemeral material, archives and photographs, the exhibition offers a full and rich portrait of this artist’s genius.

Presented in collaboration with The Centre Pompidou. Guest Curator Esther da Costa Meyer, Professor, History of Modern Architecture, Princeton University, assisted by Claudia Hanson, Morris and Eva Fled Curator at the Jewish Museum.

“Pierre Chareau: Modern Architecture and Design,” through March 26, 2017
The Jewish Museum, 1109 Fifth Avenue

CREDITS (in order):

Opening Photo: Glass House Hallway, Pierre Chareau (French, 1883-195) Bernard Bijvoet (Dutch, 1889-1979), Maison de Verre, 1928-1932.

Glass House/Front, Pierre Chareau (French, 1883-1950) and Bernard Bijvoet (Dutch, 1889-1979), Maison de Verre, 1928-1932.

Glass House/Projection of Interiors, Installation and Projection: Diller Scofidio + Renfro
Photo: Will Ragozzino/SocialShutterbug.com.

Telephone table with white lamp on top. Telephone table and Religieuse table lamp, c. 1924, Table: walnut and patinated wrought iron; Lamp: walnut, patinated wrought iron, and alabaster.

Table and bookcase c. 1930, walnut and black patinated wrought iron

Telephone fan table and chairs, Left to right: telephone fan table, c. 1924, wood. Two high-backed chauffeuses (fireside armchairs), c. 1925, wood and velours with tapestry upholstery by Jean Lurçat, reupholstered 1968. Photo: Will Ragozzino/SocialShutterbug.com.

Installation view of the exhibition. Photo: Will Ragozzino/SocialShutterbug.com

Robert Motherwell house. The second-floor balcony for Robert Motherwell’s house in East Hampton, New York, 1947. Photo courtesy of Miguel Saco Furniture and Restoration, Inc., New York

Jean Dubuffet’s “Art Brut” Drawings at the Morgan


The French painter and sculptor Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985) was a relentless innovator who pushed the boundaries of the conventional. His radical experimentations with form and material led to the founding of “Art Brut” or outsider art produced by the untrained and untutored. Although Dubuffet had a long and prolific career across France and the United States, museum exhibitions have been relatively scarce until recently. Two exhibitions, the first featuring his painted and graphic work at The Museum of Modern Art, “Soul of the Underground” (2014), examined the process Dubuffet used for prints and impressions, and last fall, The American Folk Art Museum’s “Art Brut in America: The Inclusion of Jean Dubuffet” showcased the artist’s personal collection.

2-le-metroLe Métro, March 1943

Now the Morgan Library & Museum has mounted the first retrospective of Dubuffet’s works on paper, “Dubuffet Drawings, 1935-1962,” a collection of nearly one hundred rarely seen drawings on loan from both private collectors and museums. The show, organized chronologically, presents a wonderful opportunity for visitors to trace this eccentric artist’s evolution as he tested the impact of color, played with various techniques and developed unconventional materials which he applied to conventional subjects: exaggerated portraitures, female nudes, cyclists, landscapes, assemblages of printed paper, collages of butterfly wings and gouaches. Using paper, a medium allowing for greater flexibility, freed Dubuffet to experiment with textures and technique.

5-paul-leautaudLéautaud griffures blanches (Lé autaud with White Scratches), November 1946

As a young man Dubuffet studied painting at the Acadèmie Julian and after World War I painted only intermittently choosing to work at his family’s winery. It wasn’t until 1942, at age 41 when he made a commitment to becoming an artist, that he began looking beyond traditional cultural channels and stylistic tradition.  Dubuffet admired the art of both the mentally ill and children whose spontaneity and adventurous approach went beyond the notions of good taste and beauty. He became an avid collector from 1945 on and emulated their style in his own work. Later, Dubuffet established the Compagnie de l’Art Brut (1948-51) together with writers, critics, and dealers from the Dada and Surrealist circles.

12-herzstein-paulhanPortrait de Jean Paulhan (Portrait of Jean Paulhan), July 1955

Organized into seven sections, the first and last feature gouaches made with opaque pigments in water and thickened with a glue substance. One of the first examples is “Le Metro” (1943), a childlike rendering of simplistic one-dimensional stick figures outlined in black that are cartoonish and playful, but whose subway riders’ facial expressions are anything but humorous – a nod perhaps to living through the grim war years. At the end of this phase in the early ‘60s several pieces feature Dubuffet’s vision of the city. “Le Swindle” (1962), for one, is a bleak look at Paris’s darker side.

14-barbe-coleresBarbe des colères (Wrathful Beard), June 1959

In between these two bookend decades are some of the best works in the show – layered pen and ink drawings. He achieved his desired effect for abstract portraits by mixing gravel and sand into pigments he then applied to paper with palette knives and brushes excavating the images by a graffito technique of scratching and scraping. Dubuffet subjects were fellow artists and intellectuals who were less than pleased with their distorted images.

7-trois-arabesTrois Arabes (1948)

During the postwar years, Dubuffet traveled to North Africa to escape France’s cold winters and lack of coal. Here again he dabbled with color this time creating a thick, sticky impasto for a group portrait of three Bedouins, “Trois Arabes” (1948), from the Algerian Sahara.

Dubufett’s drawings are engaging, although without explanations into his methodology. But taking into account his inventiveness and out-of the-box ideas, they offer insight into a rebellious artist’s creative process.

Through January 2, 2017. Morgan Library & Museum, 225 Madison Ave., NYC, 212-685-0008

Photos courtesy of The Morgan Library and Museum:

Opening photo: Jean Dubuffet, L’Arnaque (The Swindle), June 2, 1962, Gouache.
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of the Stephen Hahn Family Collection, 1995.
© 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York /ADAGP, Paris.

Jean Dubuffet, Le Métro, March 1943, Gouache.
Centre national d’art et de culture Georges Pompidou, Paris.
Musee national d’art moderne / Centre de creation industrielle.
Photography by Philippe Migeat.
© 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.

Jean Dubuffet, Léautaud griffures blanches (Lé autaud with White Scratches), November 1946,
India ink on scratchboard.
Collection of Judy and Marc Herzstein.
Photography by Thomas R. DuBrock.
© 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York /ADAGP, Paris.

Jean Dubuffet, Portrait de Jean Paulhan (Portrait of Jean Paulhan), July 1955,
Butterfly wings and ink on paper laid on paper.
Collection of Judy and Marc Herzstein.
Photography by Thomas R. DuBrock.
© 2016 Artists Rights

Jean Dubuffet, Barbe des colères (Wrathful Beard), June 1959,
Assemblage of imprints: collage of cut and torn india ink imprints with brush and ink.
Foundation Dubuffet, Paris
© 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.

Jean Dubuffet, Trois Arabes (Three Arabs), January–April 1948, Gouache.
Private collection.
Photography by Kent Pell.
© 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York /ADAGP, Paris

Rashid Johnson: Fly Away at Hauser & Wirth


Rashid Johnson, a young promising artist from Chicago, made an auspicious debut in the exhibition “Freestyle” (2001), a show that formally established the genre referred to as post-black art. Conceived by Curator/Director Thelma Golden, Johnson pushed the boundaries of American art and what it means to be black in the post civil rights era. African American artists are redefining the black experience in context of the complex socio-political climate and placing it in a broader cultural narrative.

Johnson, now 40, is one of its chief proponents exploring black heritage through his family and personal history using a cross-disciplinary approach linking photography, video, painting, and sculpture. Johnson’s work is also deeply rooted in conceptualism and abstraction. Process is key and experimentation with materials such as shea butter and black soap; staples in West African culture are signatures of his artistic style.

rdinsrall2Installation view of Rashid Johnson: Fly Away/2016

All this comes together in a beautifully executed exhibition “Fly Away” at Hauser & Wirth, in a series of new sculptures and paintings that focus on identity in light of recent racial tensions and the resulting fear and need for escapism. Aptly titled, it takes its name from a 1929 spiritual song, “I’ll Fly Away,” by Albert E, Brumley that invokes death as a way to reach a land of never ending joy (“I’ll Fly Away” a song reinterpreted over the past several decades including country western singer Johnny Cash and rapper Kanye West.)

“Fly Away” is well served by its installation in the gallery’s cavernous, column free space and soaring ceilings. Johnson, with an eye for spatial relationships added moveable walls to create distinct galleries hanging some nine paintings, three wall-mounted sculptures as well as a large-scale freestanding grid structure made of black metal.

3-rjohnson-collage-with-blackUntitled Escape Collage

Starting with Anxious Audiences an extension of the exhibition Anxious Men held at The Drawing Center last fall, six-large scale black and white paintings repeat a series of similar genderless faces paired together each with a haunting expression that could be construed as fear or anger, but which Johnson alludes to as collective anxiety. Made directly on the floor, Johnson arranged panels of white tiles and used black soap and melted wax to compose their faces leaving the occasional blank space for the viewer, who he hopes joins in as a witness to draw their own conclusions as to meaning.

 Up next, Escape Collages, a group of colorful paintings conjures up a joyful mood. Here Johnson used custom-made wallpaper from stock photographs of tropicalia (a Brazilian artistic movement from the 60s), and repeats black soap and wax materials splattered over colored tiles. Images of palm trees leave little doubt that escape to a peaceful place counters Johnson’s anxieties. In a new multi-media series, Falling Men, his customary materials, white ceramic tiles, red oak flooring, mirror fragments, black soap and wax render upside down abstract figures free falling from mid-air inspired by stick figures from video games which occupied Johnson in his youth.

4-installationblackscaffoldAntoine’s Organ

Lastly, Antoine’s Organ, a 30-foot-tall scaffolding showcases various elements that inform the artist’s creativity presents a fine coda to the exhibition. Integrated into the lush vegetation in hand crafted ceramic vessels and decorated by Johnson is an array of personal objects from books, television screens streaming early videos, and shea butter sculptures. At the center, high on a platform musician Antoine Baldwin will periodically play on an upright piano (check the gallery for the schedule).

Through October 22, 2016, Hauser & Wirth, 511 West 18th St., NYC, 212-790-3900, hauserwirth.com

Photo Credits (in order of appearance):

Opening Photo:
Installation view of Rashid Johnson: Fly Away/2016
Hauser & Wirth New York, 18 Street
Photo: Martin Parestain

Installation view of Rashid Johnson: Fly Away/2016
Hauser & Wirth New York, 18 Street
Photo: Martin Parestain

Rashid Johnson
Untitled Escape Collage
© The artist
Courtesy Hauser & Wirth

Rashid Johnson
Antoine’s Organ
Photo: Martin Parsekain
© The artist
Courtesy Hauser & Wirth

French Cheese Board: First Interactive Concept Store Opens in the U.S.


The newest addition to the trendy and growing list of food shops, this one solely dedicated to the culture of cheese, is the French Cheese Board located in Nolita on a corner where, surprisingly, a whiff of bohemia still exists.

French Cheese Board store in Soho, New York

French Cheese Board store in Soho, New York

The first concept store of its kind in the U.S, the shop is a delight; narrow, airy, a place to explore the process of making cheese through interactive tools and educational walls, and to commune with friends. There is a hosting table and kitchen at the far end for events, discussion and tastings.

An endeavor initiated by CNIEL, the French Dairy Interbranch Organization that promotes milk and diary products, the company aims to broaden American awareness on how to incorporate the variety of cheeses into their recipes and into the larger sphere of one’s lifestyle. I met with Helena Ichbiah one-half of the design duo of Ich&Kar, who were engaged by the company to realize their concept.


French-Cheese-Board_06©PascalPerich“We wanted to keep the space fluid and create a user-friendly tool box and since I am interested in history, we decided to combine these two objectives by showing the process from the moment you enter the store.” Pointing to a regional map of France dotted with various brands, Helena described the importance of geography.

“Where cheese is initially sourced is critical. The quality of the soil, weather conditions, the diversity of the cattle are all intertwined to create a certain flavor and establish a brand name.”

We moved on to the movable diagrams on the magnetic black wall where a user can take down pieces and in rearranging them learn how to properly slice cheese. “Each piece is cut according to a pattern and always cut so that the core and rind are included since the taste is not consistent throughout.”

French Cheese Board store in Soho, New York

Along with these features, there is a small wall library on all things cheese, a gallery of photographs displaying dazzling cheese sculptures, bespoke furniture, and a back wall showing the production process from cow to dining.

There is a design shop for an exclusive selection of tableware and accessories. Cheeses are rotated so new selections are always available.

All this is designed to instill a new appreciation of one of France’s best exports and, of course, to experience the French Art de Vivre.

French Cheese Board, 41 Spring Street, frenchcheeseboard.com, 212-302-3390

Photos: Pascal Perich

Manus x Machina: Fashion In the Age of Technology at The Met’s Costume Institute


For the past several years I’ve been enthralled by the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute annual exhibition organized under the aegis of the incomparable Anna Wintour who we all know as the editor of Vogue and who is a trustee of the Met lending her vision extensive connections to turn these exhibitions into blockbuster events. And, each year, I leave breathless thinking they will never be able to top this.

06.Ensemble,IrisVanHerpen,Spring2010This year’s event, Manus x Machina (Hand x Machine): Fashion in an Age of Technology, is no less spectacular taking us steps closer to the future of fashion. Presented in the Museum’s Robert Lehman Wing the show explores how designers are reconciling the handmade and the machine-made in the creation of haute couture and avant-garde ready-to-wear.

Featuring more then 170 examples dating from the early 1900 when the sewing machine was invented and the founding of the haute couture through the onset of industrialization and mass production to the present day when technological advancements, such as 3-D printing, laser cutting, and computer-generated weaving and patterns are commonly used in creating high fashion. Highlights are numerous, but special mention goes to the handcrafted haute couture of Chanel and Dior and to the spectacular printed creations of Alexander McQueen and Iris van Harpen.

11.KaikokuFloatingDress,HusseinChalayan,Autumn2011Sponsored by Apple, Jonathan Ive, a co-Chair of the Gala and the firm’s Chief Designer who masterminds those glorious product designs, understands the fine line between technology and craftsman. “Both the automated and handcrafted process requires similar amounts of thoughtfulness and expertise,” he said. “There are instances where technology is optimized, but ultimately it’s the amount of care put into the craftsmanship, whether it’s machine-made or handmade, that transforms ordinary materials into something extraordinary.”

Or, simply put, technology reinvents material to form different shapes allowing us to push boundaries whereby hand crafted empathizes the refined intricacies of design creating another kind of aesthetic. In either case, as borne out by the fashion on display, machine vs. handmade practices borrow from one another thereby blurring the line between the two.

14.MxM,CaseStudy,ChanelWeddingEnsembleA word about staging a stunning complement to the minimalism of the fashion displayed. In the Robert Lehman Wing galleries on the museum’s ground and first floors, the exhibition has been installed within a dramatic cathedral-like structure by Shohei Shigematsu from OMA New York (the head office is in the Netherlands led by star architect Rem Koolhaus). White translucent scrims were constructed and stretched over an intentionally visible framework creating a building-within-a-building feel that unfolds as a series of alcoves. Each of these different ports: lacework, leatherwork, embroidery, pleating, tailors and dressmakers, and so on, showcases the garments along with projections of their details that work to amplify the craftsmanship in the pieces.

Manus x Machina (Hand x Machine): Fashion in an Age of Technology
Metropolitan Museum of Art,
Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street
On view from May 5 – August 14


18. Upper Level Gallery View: Embroidery
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art

6. Ensemble, Iris van Herpen (Dutch, born 1984),
spring/summer 2010 haute couture; The Metropolitan Museum
of Art, Purchase, Friends of The Costume Institute Gifts, 2015
(2016.16a, b)
Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art,
Photo © Nicholas Alan Cope

11. “Kaikoku” Floating Dress, Hussein Chalayan (British, born
Cyprus, 1970), autumn/winter 2011–12 prêt-à-porter; Courtesy
of Swarovski
Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art,
Photo © Nicholas Alan Cope

14. Upper Level Gallery View: Case Study
Wedding ensemble, Karl Lagerfeld ,
autumn/winter 2014–15 haute couture, back view; Courtesy of
CHANEL Patrimoine Collection
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Edgar Degas In Modern Mode: Rarely Seen Monotypes On View at The Museum of Modern Art


“Edgar Degas: A Strange New Beauty,” is the first solo show at the Museum of Modern Art and the first of the artist’s monotypes since an exhibition at Harvard’s Fogg Museum in 1968. Hauntingly beautiful, the 120 monotypes and 60 related paintings, pastels, drawings, sketchbooks and prints center on Degas’s experimentation with monotype, a process leading to modernizing his art across different mediums.

waitingfortheclientWaiting for the Client, Edgar Degas,1877-1879

An artist known for his paintings and sculpture and as a chronicler of the ballet, Edgar Degas (1834-1917) looms large in the history of 19th century art. He was aligned with the Impressionists, a label he shunned referring to himself as a realist veering away from traditional subjects. He drew with the precision of a draftsman and, unlike his contemporaries, never painted in the great outdoors creating images from memory.

Degas worked in oil, pastel, charcoal, and print media and throughout his career experimented with materials, but it was printmaking where he seemed to reach his highest level of originality. In 1876 his friend Ludovic Napoléon Lepic introduced him to monotype, a looser process that allowed for spontaneity, freeing him from the rigors of the academy.

firesideThe Fireside, Edgar Degas, 1880-1885

Quite simply, monotype is a hybrid between painting and printmaking. A metal plate is drawn on with black ink using a brush, fingers, or rag then run through a press with a damp sheet to produce a single impression. For a more degraded look, it can be repeated. Or, by smothering ink on a plate and by removing portions selectively, the artist works in reverse going from dark masses to lighter areas. Degas later added in pastel coloring for a softer more refined look. Thus, the idea of repetition, transformation, mirroring and reversal, tactility and tone opened up all sorts of possibilities, a key concept of modern art.

Degas used this new technique in capturing Parisian modern urban life as a city in perpetual motion. Subjects range from well-dressed Parisians with their faces blurred indicating movement as they walk briskly along the wide boulevards; spectacles in cafes and theaters; laundresses hover over steaming irons; ballet dancers with their admirers, onstage or in rehearsals always in perpetual motion, legs often in spirals; entertainers and singers bask in the glow of concert halls’ new electric lights; and casually placed fleshy nude women in private settings, including brothels, bedrooms and the bath.

D12471.jpgThe Ballet Master, Edgar Degas, 1876

One of the best examples of Degas’s entry into his monotype phase is an early work “The Ballet Master” (1876). Here we have a dancer and ballet master on stage conjured up from the blackness with smudges and swipes. Extending their arms toward one another, Degas attenuated the images by working from dark to light by applying either white chalk or opaque watercolor for footlights.

In one gallery Degas’s “dark field” monotypes depict bathers’ contorted bodies, some blending in with their environment. Made by covering a plate with ink then brushing, wiping or scratching it away, an image is created by subtraction. Following a few wipes, naked, robust women bathing or reading or going to bed emerge from the darkness.

Degas, Hilaire-Germain-EdgaForest in the Mountains, Edgar Degas, 1890

After a hiatus of several years, Degas returned to creating monotypes in the 1890s inspired by a train ride – a new mode of transportation – while standing at the door looking at the fields and hills. Displayed in a separate gallery, 27 colored monotypes, a series of simple abstractions made from pigmented oil pastels, a departure from ink – shows shifting forms, works that could easily have been created in mid 20th century.

In the closing section of the show a wonderful selection of late oil paintings, pastels, and charcoals is a reminder how this restless, brilliant artist pushed the boundaries of realism and didn’t stick to the conventions of Impressionism.

Organized by Jodi Hauptman, Senior Curator, Department of Drawings and Prints; with Karl Buchberg, Senior Conservator; and Heidi Hirschl, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Drawings and Prints, The Museum of Modern Art; and Richard Kendall, independent art historian and curator, “Edgar Degas: A Strange Beauty” is on view through July 24 at the Museum of Modern Art; 11 W 53rd St., 212-708-9400, moma.org.


Opening photo: Café Singer by Edgar Degas 1877-1878, monotype on paper.
Private collection

Waiting for the Client, by Edgar Degas,1877-1879,
pastel over monotype on paper, mounted on paper
Ann and Gordon Getty

The Fireside, by Edgar Degas, 1880-1885
monotype on paper
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, The Elisha Whittelsey Collection,
The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, and C. Douglas Dillon Gift

The Ballet Master, by Edgar Degas, 1876
white chalk or opaque watercolor over monotype on paper,
executed in collaboration with Ludovic Napoléon Lepic
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Rosenwald Collection

Forest in the Mountains, by Edgar Degas, 1890
monotype on paper
The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Louise Reinhardt Smith Beques