Features / Other Bloomers and Shakers

2014: An Art Year in Bloom

Dena Santoro offers a virtual art walk to some of the interesting work by Bloomers she has encountered this year.

Blooming . . .
I was pleased to be introduced to the work of Katharine Bradford (b. 1942) this year. Her effervescent paintings defy categorization; it’s not every day that an Antelope Boat floats by. Seldom brash, the work in her nautical series slyly subverts a traditionally masculine genre. It’s not all mirth; some of the constructed objects have a distinct poignancy. Of Katharine’s paintings, The New York Times critic Ken Johnson says they have a “giddy sense of possibility” . . . oh, yes. Yes, they do.

Jane Wilson_Avenue_B_Bus1For many years and many reasons, Jane Wilson has been one of my favorite painters. Jane has had a varied career since the 1950s, when she was a member of the legendary group of artists that included Willem and Elaine DeKooning. (If you’re interested in this era, seek out The Party’s Over Now, written by Jane’s husband, critic John Gruen; it’s a witty, stylish memoir.) Jane’s elegant work morphed from still life to landscape. Her lesser known paintings of the East Village, where she made her home in the 1960s, are a pleasure. The glorious landscapes for which she is best known—work that she began after age 40—are numinous renderings of the East End of Long Island. Earlier this year, DC Moore Gallery held a wonderful retrospective of Jane’s work to honor her 90th year.

Greg Kwiatek, 65, is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University whose career is still building steam. Greg is represented by Lynch Tham Gallery on the Lower East Side, and is garnering recognition for mystical landscapes and nocturne paintings. He shows extensively in the US and Europe. Greg’s landscapes are reminiscent of Jane Wilson’s work, perhaps filtered through a pulsating lens.

Beyond . . .
Artists and admirers had little opportunity to recognize the painter Bill Lynch during his lifetime; he passed away, age 53, in 2013. New York-based artist Verne Dawson curated Lynch’s first, posthumous show at White Columns in October, 2014. From his days as a student at Cooper Union to his decades-long struggle with mental illness, Bill’s family and friends believed in his artistic vision. As the writer Michael Wilde says, “Surrounded by his work, you can’t help but be struck by this vibrant language; his sincere belief, his love.”

As a longtime resident of the East Village, I often observed an elderly neighbor with a camera or two slung about his neck, shooting near St. Marks Church or noshing with pals at Little Poland. That the man should turn out to be the late, great Saul Leiter—represented by the Howard Greenberg Gallery—did not become apparent until I attended a screening of “In No Great Hurry: 13 Lessons in Life with Saul Leiter,” a documentary about his sophisticated but somewhat erratic career. He was a fashion photographer of renown, but it’s his street scenes that are most astonishing—the shots that he continued to take and tinker with until his final days. His name has been in the news this past year; if you’re unfamiliar with his work, Saul Leiter is worth seeking out. Peruse the work in a gallery or in books, and be rewarded with Leiter’s idiosyncratic vision of the city’s true poetry.

Vivian_Maier-master675Another photographer, recent documentary film subject, and posthumous Bloomer is the enigmatic Vivian Maier, who worked most of her ‘day job’ life as a nanny. That her work was saved from obscurity is a marvel. Its rescuer is John Maloof, who penned an account of saving it—he purchased boxes of negatives and prints during a storage facility auction. A selection of Maier’s extraordinary photographs are currently on display at Howard Greenberg (through December 6th only—run, don’t walk.) Maier’s star is ascendant. Simply wrought portraits, including one of a young, smiling Lena Horne, and furtive streetscapes of Chicago and New York, document a complex tale of a now vanished 20th century.

Press-time note: “Finding Vivian Maier” was named as one of the Academy Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ semi-finalists for documentary feature, according to an article posted by Variety on December 3, 2014.

N.B.: Sincere thanks to the painter, professor and Bloomer extraordinaire Claire McConaughy for valuable suggestions. Just as she leads her millennial students to the shores of art, she offered a wider glimpse of that coastline for this column.

Bloom Post End

Homepage image by Bill Lynch
Avenue photo by Jane Wilson, Avenue B Bus, 1966. Oil on canvas, 60×75 inches.
Vivan Maier, 1954 Self Portrait, courtesy of Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection

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