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ESSAYS

George Grosz

Berlin Street. Circa 1926. Watercolor and ink on paper. Private collection.

YOU SAY YOU WANT A REVOLUTION

American Artists and the Communist Party


RECENT ACQUISITIONS


RECENT ACQUISITIONS

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)


RECENT ACQUISITIONS

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)


MODERN FURIES

The Lessons and Legacy of World War I


RECENT ACQUISITIONS

And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market


FACE TIME

Self and Identity in Expressionist Portraiture


RECENT ACQUISITIONS

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)


THE LADY AND THE TRAMP

Images of Women in Austrian and German Art


RECENT ACQUISITIONS

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)


DECADENCE & DECAY

Max Beckmann, Otto Dix, George Grosz


RECENT ACQUISITIONS

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)


FROM BRUCKE TO BAUHAUS

The Meanings of Modernity in Germany, 1905-1933


RECENT ACQUISITIONS

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)


HOPE OR MENACE?

Communism in Germany Between the World Wars


RECENT ACQUISITIONS

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)


MORE THAN COFFEE WAS SERVED

Café Culture in Fin-de-Siècle Vienna and Weimar Germany


RECENT ACQUISITIONS

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)


RECENT ACQUISITIONS

And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market


EVERY PICTURE TELLS A STORY

The Narrative Impulse in Modern and Contemporary Art


SUE COE: BULLY: MASTER OF THE GLOBAL MERRY-GO-ROUND AND RECENT ACQUISITIONS

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)


BODY AND SOUL

Expressionism and the Human Figure


RECENT ACQUISITIONS

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)


WORKERS OF THE WORLD

Modern Images of Labor


ART WITH AN AGENDA

Politics, Persuasion, Illustration and Decoration


THE TRAGEDY OF WAR


THE EXPRESSIONIST CITY


RECENT ACQUISITIONS (AND SOME THOUGHTS ON THE CURRENT ART MARKET)


FROM FACADE TO PSYCHE

Turn-of-the-Century Portraiture in Austria & Germany


THE MODERN CHILD

(Images of Children in Twentieth-Century Art)


RECENT ACQUISITIONS

(And a Look at Sixty Years of Art Dealing)


GEORGE GROSZ - ELFRIEDE LOHSE-WACHTLER

Art & Gender in Weimar Germany


RECENT ACQUISITIONS

(And Some Thoughts About Looted Art)


TABOO

Repression and Revolt in Modern Art


THE NEW OBJECTIVITY

Realism in Weimar-Era Germany


RECENT ACQUISITIONS

A Question of Quality


THE FRACTURED FORM

Expressionism and the Human Body


FROM LEFT TO RIGHT

Social Realism in Germany and Russia, Circa 1919-1933


ON THE BRINK 1900-2000

The Turning of Two Centuries


ART AND POLITICS IN WEIMAR GERMANY


THE DANCE OF DEATH

Images of Mortality in German Art


NAIVE VISIONS/ART NOUVEAU AND EXPRESSIONISM/SUE COE: THE ROAD TO THE WHITE HOUSE


SCANDAL, OUTRAGE, CENSORSHIP

Controversy in Modern Art


THE EXPRESSIONIST FIGURE


THE NARRATIVE IN ART


NAIVE VISIONS/ART NOUVEAU AND EXPRESSIONISM/SUE COE: THE ROAD TO THE WHITE HOUSE

Summer, with its comparatively slow pace, provides a congenial opportunity to review the recent past and anticipate the future. With the art world in a state of flux for the last months, such a moment of calm reflection is particularly welcome this year. Few in the art business would contend that the season just ended was a "good" one, but most would agree that the ongoing price adjustments are both necessary and ultimately beneficial. Less frequently noted is the fact that the recent run-up in art prices was so short lived and essentially ill-founded that the current period of correction cannot even properly be termed a downturn. If in many areas prices have reverted to the levels of the mid 1980s, one would do well to remember that those were good, solid years, and that what occurred subsequently was largely fueled by misguided speculation and excessive leveraging. Pretend that the late 1980s never happened, and the present market seems remarkably sane and sound. Best of all, collecting is once again accessible to those with less than limitless means, and art can once again take precedence over money.

 

In this spirit of renewal and back-to-basics realism, the Galerie St. Etienne has decided this year to present a variation on its customary summer survey. Rather than focusing on a single theme, our presentation has been conceived as three concise exhibitions, incorporating three distinct strains of the gallery's interests. The Naive Vision (including works by Camille Bombois, John Kane, Grandma Moses, Louis Vivin and others) is a return to a genre that, though traditionally part of the gallery's domain, has lately been noticeably absent from our walls. More familiar to our regular visitors will be Art Nouveau & Expressionism, which traces the interrelationship between turn-of-the-century graphic design and the Expressionism of Oskar Kokoschka, Egon Schiele and their German colleagues. Echoing the social concerns of such artists as Käthe Kollwitz, John Heartfield and George Grosz is Sue Coe's Road to the White House, a new series of works documenting the 1992 presidential campaign.

 

The contributions of nonacademic art to modernism periodically demand reassessment, and it appears that a new wave of revisionism is currently rising. Much attention has lately been accorded so-called "Outsider Art": art created by the mentally ill and other marginal members of society, whose work is usually shaped by an idiosyncratic psychotic or religious vision, rather than by more self-conscious aesthetic considerations. The Galerie St. Etienne, by contrast, has always been more interested in the work of painters who, though denied access to formal training, nonetheless deliberately pursue their craft and attempt purposefully (albeit piecemeal) to absorb whatever pictorial matter is available to them. Both strands of naive art are equally valid and important to the broader development of modernism, but the work of artists such as John Kane and Grandma Moses evinces more varied content and a more complex development than does that of the "Outsiders," who are necessarily limited by the mandate of their initial propelling mission.

 

Just as folk and naive art provided early modernists with an alternative to staid academicism, so too did the nascent avant-garde find inspiration in the lowly graphic arts. At first glance, it may be difficult to see a connection between the sumptuous, decorative posters of turn-of-the century Austria and Germany and the jarring abrasiveness of Expressionism. However, the highly charged lines and bright, emotive colors of Art Nouveau exerted a formative influence on many young Expressionists. The most direct evolutionary passage is that linking Egon Schiele to his mentor Gustav Klimt, but similar strains may be detected in such diverse artists as Oskar Kokoschka and Paula Modersohn-Becker. Art Nouveau facilitated a freedom from conventional realism that opened up a broad array of aesthetic possibilities. Yet as Expressionism absorbed other influences, most notably Fauvism and Cubism, its Art Nouveau roots gradually became obscured. Nor did the realist impulse ever die out entirely. Especially in the years following World War I, it provided an essential foundation for the social critiques of such artists as Käthe Kollwitz, George Grosz and Otto Dix.

 

Realism is also central to the socio-political commentary of Sue Coe, who in certain respects has more in common with her Expressionist predecessors than with her present-day contemporaries. Her latest series of works examines in detail the American economic and political climate--of particular relevance in this election year. This is the largest group of conceptually unified drawings that Coe has created since her widely acclaimed Porkopolis series, and it expands greatly upon the stylistic developments presaged in that earlier body of work. The Road to the White House is an evocative mix of overtly political pieces editorializing on the major issues of the moment, and meticulously crafted depictions of society's numerous victims. The latter are as quiet as the former are strident, mirroring the stark contrast separating the realities of American poverty from the glib sound-bites and headlines that those in power use to remain in power.

 

The United States is clearly in a transitional phase, with far-reaching ramifications for every segment of society. Such upheaval naturally effects the art world, but art is also capable of responding to (and perhaps even influencing) contemporaneous historical events. Certainly the art shown by the Galerie St. Etienne has always--because of its Expressionistic roots--tended to be socially engaged. The present exhibition deals with issues both timely and timeless, and in this respect hopes to offer a basis for reassessment and progress.