Faces

Viewed at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford on the 13th: a compact show “Hope Gangloff Curates Portraiture”. The short description:

New York-based artist Hope Gangloff has been invited to mine the museum’s permanent collection and select key works to hang alongside her own contemporary paintings [from the past decade]. Using the format of artist as curator, this exhibition will create a conversation between past and present, while inviting viewers to experience the Cantor’s rich, historical collection through the eyes of a celebrated artist working today.

Portraits are, first of all, faces: with an expression, a positioning of the body, and a direction of gaze; in a head-and-shoulders view, an upper-body view, or a full-body view; with a hair style, makeup, clothing, and accessories; in a background physical setting; in a historical and cultural setting; often with accompanying creatures or objects; occasionally caught in action rather than in repose. So: a constrained genre, but with a rich range of details that can be varied.

There are further choices: of medium and artistic style. Portraiture in the Gangloff show is static depiction (no film or video or performance art; I took that for granted in the preceding paragraph), and it’s all paintings of one type or another: no drawings or prints, no sculpture or ceramics, no photography. Well, Gangloff is a painter. (As for materials, the non-Gangloff portraits are mostly oil on canvas, but also oil on panel; plus gouache and mixed-technique on masonite.)

The paintings come from the 16th century through last year, from a number of countries (mostly the UK and the US, but also Italy, Flanders, the Netherlands, France, Switzerland, and the Phillippines), so a number of artistic styles are represented. From a historic point of view, there’s no medieval portraiture, and French, Spanish, and German portraiture is drastically under-represented; and the show is essentially entirely European / North American in its focus. Gangloff has chosen works that are stylistically closest to her own work (and she was also constrained by what’s available in the Cantor collections).

These narrow foci work to her advantage: it’s much easier for the viewer to see similarities and intriguing differences in 27 portraits than it would be if the exhibition were broader in scope.

I’ll jump in with the two earliest (and quirkiest) works in the show, Guiseppe Arcimboldo’s representations of faces via assemblages of foodstuffs, mostly fruits and vegetables: Vertumnus, c. 1563–87 [according to the show’s label]; and The Vegetable Gardener (aka Vegetables in a Bowl or The Vegetable Garden), c. 1590:

(#1)

(#2)

(The paintings in the Cantor show are small and darkened with age.)

From Wikipedia on #1:

Vertumnus is a painting by Mannerist painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo produced in Milan c. 1590–1591. The painting is Arcimboldo’s most famous work and is a portrait of the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II re-imagined as Vertumnus, the Roman god of metamorphoses in nature and life; the fruits and vegetables symbolize the abundance of the Golden Age that has returned under the Emperor’s rule.

#2 is a double trick: on the left, a face composed of garden vegetables, and its an inversion of the painting on the right, which is just a bowl of vegetables.

(Yet another Arcimboldo in the third image in my 8/29/12 posting “Food art”: Osseus (a composition of fish and other seafood) that serves as the Water painting in a Water, Air, Earth, Fire set.)

At the other end of the time period: the first of Gangloff’s seven paintings in the show: Ladies, Man, 2007 (acrylic on canvas):

(#3)

From the site Vulture on 1/24/08:

Artist Hope Gangloff Takes the Train: Hope Gangloff’s pulpy, ‘zine-esque drawings and illustrations like the above Ladies Man stay true to life by culling most of the tableaux from casual snapshots. Notice here the Lavalife ad (seasonably inappropriate, overly idealized, and completely unrealistic as no one who actually rides the subway would ever wear heels that stupidly high) juxtaposed with cold and kvetching New Yorkers.

Female couple on the right, with the woman on the right looking at the woman in the middle, who is gazing out from the painting (but not at us). Meanwhile, the man on the left is looking at the women, in a break from reading a copy of Details (final issue Dec. 2015), a monthly magazine aimed at metrosexual and gay men.

The Cantos’s longer, and more analytic, description of the show:

Hope Gangloff’s paintings of Brooklyn bohemians — primarily her friends and fellow artists caught seemingly unaware in moments of leisure — are reminiscent of both the subject matter and the lush, colorful brushwork of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century expressionists such as Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt, and Suzanne Valadon. Based in New York, Gangloff (b. 1974) adamantly insists that she will only paint people she knows, calling the act of portrait-painting a “personal exchange” between subject and artist. For her intimate portrayals she invites her sitters to wear whatever they feel most comfortable in and paints them surrounded with their own furniture or in favorite settings.

Gathered in this installation are key historical works that Gangloff — in the role of artist as curator — has mined from the museum’s permanent collection to hang alongside her own contemporary paintings. The space is filled with works that span from the 1500s to the present day, installed in a way that ruptures any possibility of linear narrative and instead points to the fluid filtration of artistic styles and ideas that is part of an artist’s working process.

Portraiture has carried many meanings throughout the history of Western art. Noted for capturing not just physical likenesses but also mutable psychological states, portraits have been viewed as signifiers of status and character, and at times have even been seen to offer the promise of immortality. As a mode of art making, the portrait has been reengaged, reworked, and redeveloped time and again throughout the ages, continuing into our present moment with artists like Gangloff, who has made the genre entirely her own.

On Gangloff, from Wikipedia (not very informatively):

Hope Gangloff (born in Amityville, New York) is an American painter living and working in New York City. She studied Art at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. Gangloff has exhibited nationally and internationally, with solo shows at the Broad Art Museum in East Lansing, Michigan; the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield; and galleries both in the US and Europe. She has also exhibited in a number of group shows

Her portraits in this show have the feel of commercial or magazine illustration with comic-strip-like abstraction somehow combined with the attention to detail seen in photographs. Three more of hers:

(#4)

Dark Horse (Tim Traynor), 2015 (mixed media: acrylic and collage on canvas): subject in action

(#5)

Stahl, 2013 (acrylic on wood panel)

(#6)

Stahl at Kennedy, 2016 (acrylic and cut paper on canvas)

The Stahl in question is photographer Don Stahl, who says on his website: “I’m a street, fine art, portrait and film set photographer based in Brooklyn, New York”:

(#7)

Don Stahl: profile photo by Elizabeth Weinberg

The remaining Gangloff paintings in the show:

Lake Minnewaska in June, 2013 (acrylic on canvas)

Study for Diko Shoturma in Recording Studio, 2016 (acrylic on canvas)

Study for Search at Suvarnabhumi Airport, 2016 (acrylic on canvas )

The remaining non-Gangloff paintings in the show, in rough chronological order:

Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Portrait of a Man in Classical Dress (probably William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke), c. 1610

Artist Unknown, Portrait of a Lady, 17th century

Harmen ter Borch, Justinus van Moerkerken, 1659

Artist unknown, Portrait of Francis I, 18th century

Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo, Portrait of a Young Man, 18th century

George Romney. Mrs. Ralph Willett (Mrs. Strutt), 1787

Benjamin West, “Pinkie” (Master Beckford), c. 1797-99

Felix Maria Diogg, Portrait of a Young Artist, c. 1800

Vicente Villaseñor, Portrait of Policarpia Manrique Villaseñor, c. 1870

Frank Duveneck, Head of an Italian Girl, c. 1886–87

Paul Sérusier, Louise (The Breton Maidservant), 1890

Augustus John, A Spanish Girl, 1910–14

Henry Varnum Poor, Self-Portrait with Small Statue, 1911

Henry Varnum Poor, Portrait of a Young Girl with Braids, c. 1930

Frederick Emanuel Shane, Mrs. Robinson (with a New Hat), 1943

Milton Avery, Woman Ironing, 1945

Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence , Augusta Savage, 1967

2 Responses to “Faces”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    Is the man in Ladies, Man also Stahl? He looks a lot like #5.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      The Cantor staff tell me he’s Gangloff’s husband, the painter Benjamin Degen — worth a posting of his own. Meanwhile, they’re asking Gangloff about the two women. (They’ve been remarkably helpful.)

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