In the last Whitney Biennial a significant percentage of the works on view took as their subjects actual historical episodes or addressed earlier moments in the history of art. This is different from artists grappling with and working out of tradition, which is how art gets made at any time.
Donatello’s extraordinary St. John the Evangelist, the center-point of the Museum Of Biblical Art’s Sculpture in the Age of Donatello this last spring, is a Trojan Horse. Donatello works his way deeper into thought for days; he troubles.
For the past few years this has been the painting I visit most often. I love how concentrated it isas if the biggest painting in the Met had been compressed into a shoebox. The panel itself is so modest, so slender, barely big enough for two viewers to look at shoulder to shoulder, but it contains more drama and more subtlety than any mural.
I want to talk about this whole gallery, since it is the gathering of these objects that interests me. This gallery is officially called the “Lawrence A. and Barbara Fleischman Gallery of Late Medieval Secular Art,” and it’s kind of a throughway.
CHARLES RAY with Alexander Nagel
Michelangelos David (1504), Anticos (Pier Jacopo Alari Bonacolsi) Spinario (ca. 1500), and the Spinario (ca. 50 BCE)
Recently I was reading a book about Michelangelo’s David where the scholar wonders why Michelangelo showed him as a fully grown young man, rather than as a prepubescent boy, the way Donatello and Verrocchio represent the figure. And my thought was: Really?
I’m interested in his use of pagan imageryhe made a series of erotic prints in a book called I Modi that I wanted to use. They barely survived because they were censored and mostly destroyed.
When I look at old paintings, I am less interested to read where they are from, and instead respond more instinctively. It might be my mood at the time or one little thing I’m obsessed with in my own work, and I might try to locate that within a given painting.
I had two deep fascinations that were acted out in different forms for much of my childhood: “playing house,” and what I would refer to now as Japanese aesthetic. Most of the time playing house was spent setting up rooms and changing outfits (either my own or my dolls’) for the next imagined meal, party, or outing.
At the Brooklyn Museum, a full-scale house has been dropped inside. In fact, there’s a model house dropped inside a full-scale house dropped inside the museum.