Sunday, September 25, 2016

Gustave Baumann “Fiesta de Santa Fe’s 1926 Parade”

I have written about Gustave Baumann (1881-1971) several times ... the first sentence of that blog says, “More than any other artist Gustave Baumann captured the essence of Santa Fe.”  Now the History Museum in Santa Fe has done an exhibition of his work that doesn’t even cover an entire wall! The single work is a 1926 painting, which Baumann reworked in 1938 recalling the Fiesta Parade of 1926.

The Fiesta has been celebrated in Santa Fe almost every year since 1712.   It commemorates  the retaking of Santa Fe by the Spanish in 1692 after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 when they were driven out by the Pueblo Indians.   We must not forget that the Native Americans were here first!  The myth is that it was a peaceful retaking but history says differently.

The Palace of the Governors (now part of the History Museum) in Santa Fe has its own printing press, which produces and reproduces books for sale.  There you can find  a recreation of Baumann’s studio with his tools and other materials.  Tom Leech is its Director and he managed to secure the Baumann painting “Fiesta de Santa Fe’s 1926 Parade” as a gift to the Museum from the Baker-Eddy family who had bought it from the artist.

According to the official website for the Fiesta de Santa Fe it’s mission is “to honor and preserve the annual Fiesta de Santa Fe in accordance with the spirit and letters outlined in the original Fiesta Proclamation issued by the Santa Fe City Council on September 16, 1712.”  When you get behind the scenes of any event there are always politics and frictions below the surface.  In the case of the Fiesta it was both that it was a religious event starting with a mass at the cathedral, a reenactment of the “Entrada” where Don Diego de Vargas reclaimed the city and a parade now known as the “Desfile de la Gente” with floats including one with the fiesta “queen” and her court.   For the past two years there have been demonstrations on the Santa Fe Plaza by Pueblo Indians objecting to the myth that the re-taking of the area by the Spaniards was a peaceful event.

Baumann’s painting is his recollection of when the conflict was about how tired and boring the religious and historical pageant had become.   Together with other artists he plotted to make a fun Pasatiempo parade.  As he himself observed in 1926 “I’ve seen much larger parades where people cried with boredom.   I’ve never seen one where sides ached from the laughter…”

The  hijinks included a the tire blow-out collapsing a Harvey tourist bus constructed by painter John Sloan and a bull fight with a bull made by Bauman (shown upper right) .  On the back of the painting Baumann added a legend with the characters in the parade.   In the archives of the Bauman family Tom Leech found photographs that Baumann took and pages of hand written text about the parade.  Some of those photos have been added to the installation.

The painting has a frame made by the artist that compliments the picture perfectly.  It is not too ornate or too pedestrian.   Here is a detail of the corner of the frame ...

Many museum’s have done one painting or object shows like this and they are often the best because they are perfectly edited and focused.  It is obvious that it is easier to concentrate on just one piece rather that an A to Z show with all the works of art from a single period or country or even one artist.  Here Bauman’s painting provides a historical echo the current discontent with an entrenched community event.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

What R&R ?

I have always wanted to write a Missive about a hospital stay. My latest experience was at the New Mexico Heart Hospital in Albuquerque.  The day before my arrival there I was having lunch at my favorite sushi bar with a friend and I was complaining about the boring 3 day stay ahead of me.  She said comfortingly “Everyone can use some R & R” (rest and recreation).  In retrospect that was a very funny comment.

I have had arrhythmia on an off for about 20 years and it used to go away by itself with rather basic medicines, or in doctor’s jargon, meds.   Meds used on a continuous basis seem to wear off eventually and so it was with me.  The med that I agreed to try this time, Tikosyn, requires the hospital stay for monitoring while “loading” as they term it. The reason being that it could make things better but also had the potential to make things worse.  My Electro Physiologist  whose specialty is arrhythmias, known in the trade as the electrician, told me to be ready for a very boring stay.  Shortly thereafter I found in the New Yorker this cartoon, which was proven absolutely correct.

The NM Heart Hospital is up to date. First, they hook you up to a heart monitor so that they can keep track of your heartbeat while you are there.  These days you do not have to be attached to a wall plug but can move around and carry the large battery-powered  instrument along with you. There are antennae everywhere to keep track of you as long as you stay on the same floor in the hospital.

I was very grateful that my wife stayed in Albuquerque and kept me company during the day.  For exercise we walked the halls and happily the floor includes two balconies where you can get sunshine and air. Further my room had Wi-Fi so I could use my computer, IPad and cellphone as well as watch TV.

Signs all over the hospital state how important rest is for heart patients, however, rest is hard to come by. They check your vital signs such as blood pressure, temperature and heart rate every four hours and then there are all your pills to be given morning, afternoon, evening and night.  They administered the Tikosyn every 12 hours and then 2 hours after that gave me an electrocardiogram (EKG).  Not to mention doctors visits from the electrician and an internist. 

To take my second night in the hospital as an example at 8pm I got my magic pill, at 10 pm the EKG.  At 10:30 my final pills including a sleeping pill.  The bed is a thin air-mattress that expands rolls and inflates and deflates making it sound like there is someone in bed with you and you are moving all night.  The idea is to prevent bed-sores.  On the night in question the first sleep interruption was at 2:15 AM because my heart monitor was out of juice so a charger joined me in bed.   At 4 AM I was wakened to take my vitals. At 5 AM I was wakened to take daily bloods, at 6 AM pills were brought to me and breakfast arrives around 7 AM.  So I must ask what rest does one get in the hospital?

The happy ending is that they got my heart back in rhythm with a cardio-version and the Tikosyn seems to be keeping it there, so I am now home where I look forward to enjoying some real R & R!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Diego Romero (1964 - )

If you are a collector you know what it means to wish to own something you cannot have.  Still one does not give up until one finds something to fulfill or at least ameliorate the need!  Not that the desire for the “original” object ever goes away it just takes the edge off.  Part of the fun of collecting is to chase your dream. For twenty years I have wanted a piece by Diego Romero whose work I knew through the pot bought by my friend, the late Ted Coe, (see Unfortunately for the Ralph T. Coe Foundation he left that piece to the Metropolitan Museum in New York.  The pot was made in 1994 and note the inscription’s last sentence, “LIFELONG AMBITION: TO BE THE NEXT DON TRUMP OF INDIAN GAMING!!!

Diego Romero was born and raised in Berkeley, California, home to his non-Native mother, but his father was from the Cochiti Pueblo in New Mexico and that is where Diego spent his summers. Like so many Native families the Romeros have become a “dynasty” of artists. in which Diego and his brother Mateo are the third generation.  I have written about Mateo before  ... Diego’s wife Cara is a photographer whose work we bought last year and his son Santiago, also a ceramicist, has sold us a couple of small pieces.

Diego went to art school in Berkley and then attended the Institute of Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe for a year.  He went back to Los Angeles to the Otis Parsons School of design for his BFA and then UCLA for his MA which he receive in 1993.  A short while later he made a name for himself with a series of polychrome pots in a comic book style called the Chongo Brothers. A chongo is a Southwest Native man who wears his hair in a traditional bun.

Diego works in the classic manner of Southwest Native pottery with an underlying influence of ancient Mimbres  pottery.  I found a blog about Diego from the King Galleries, in Scottsdale, Arizona. It illustrated a bowl with a Coyote, which is a staple in Diego’s work, stating that the blocky stylization was inspired by the work of the artist Keith Haring , and further from Diego “ Originally Coyote (the trickster) tempted us to drink too much, messed with our cars and made us behave badly.  Later on Coyote appeared dancing in groups per Haring - but more representing happiness and fun (Life is good).  Fox and hound were a whimsical addition to make a happy trio.” 

Diego participates every year in Indian Market but he brings only a few works. Over the years we have visited Diego’s booth and he was either sold out or what he was showing was not quite what we had in mind.  Fortunately, one gallery in town has a very good relationship with Diego and his family and regularly exhibits their pieces.  It is the Robert Nichols Gallery.  Nichols came from the East coast with a collection of folk art as well as older Southwest pottery to sell in Santa Fe but soon decided to support living Native artists.  As is often said the dead ones don’t need it!

Recently Robert Nichols has had a larger selection than usual of Diego’s work, or maybe it was just that he put them all out in cubicles showing one pot in each space.  I liked several of them and I asked my wife to pick out one.  After she did, I asked her about another and she explained why she chose the one she did … so I concurred.

Written in gold lettering along the rim is the signature Diego has adopted “CHONGO MADE ME” along with the inscription  “CAYOTE & HOUND’ FIRST APPEARANCE OF HOUND’ ”. 10 ½ inches in diameter.   The bowl was featured in and Exhibition Coyote - Diego Romero and Santiago Romero at the Robert Nichols Gallery in 2011 and illustrated in the local art magazine “THE” in August 2011 previews.

Thomas Hoving recorded the excitement of collecting in the title, “The Chase and the Capture” that he gave to the 1975 exhibition and catalog of acquisitions made by the Metropolitan Museum. My chase for a Diego Rivera pot lasted two decades but I am delighted with the work that now lives in our home.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Thomas P. F. Hoving (1931-2009)

In my opinion, Tom Hoving was a genius.  Now there are different kinds of genius but maybe if I tell a little bit about him, you will get my meaning.  Tom was the son of Walter Hoving, the head of Tiffany’s.  It is said he was something of a “cut-up” as a boy, being thrown out of various schools, but this seems to not be that unusual for above average students who are probably bored by the routine and teachers who did not inspire them.

At Princeton University, however, he excelled and got all his degrees there ending with a doctorate in Art History in 1959.  He went then to the Metropolitan Museum as a Fellow in the department of medieval art working at the Cloisters.  By 1965 he was running the department.  He was called upon by then New York Mayor John V. Lindsay to become Parks Commissioner in 1966.  He only stayed in that position for 14 months before returning to the Metropolitan as Director.  However, in that time he transformed Central Park.  When I went with my children a few years later to show them the secret places I rode my bike when I was young they were no longer secret.  There were people everywhere.  They came from the East Side, Harlem and Spanish Harlem all sharing this wonderful oasis in the center of Manhattan.

Ralph Blumenthal who was writing for the New York Times during that time wrote on December 11, 2009, after Tom’s death, “Remembering Hoving’s Service as Parks Commissioner”  “More than anyone, he put the actual fun in Fun City.  He was a natural showman and, as I quickly discovered, he didn’t much mind having his own Times reporter around to showcase his zany brilliance and flamboyance. Not for nothing did he joke that his middle initials stood for “Publicity Forever.”  Sure he used the press. But he was great copy and got one eager young reporter lots of space in the paper. He did not know the meaning of “no comment.’”  I am personally sure that if Tom were again at the helm of the Metropolitan he would put the present administration to shame as far as social media is concerned.  Unfortunately, it did not exist during his tenure (1967-1977).

When he first came to the Metropolitan he decided he had to learn the market and started by visiting the galleries in New York that had medieval and early Renaissance art.  In the transcript of Rosenberg & Stiebel’s 1989 film “Affairs of Art” I found how it all started with my family gallery.  He said the following:  “Some of the gallery owners I visited threw me out. They thought I could not be true.  I was too young and too disheveled to be truly a curatorial type….. I  approached Rosenberg & Stiebel with a sense of trepidation because I had heard that this was THE most elegant and the most sophisticated dealer of medieval art and I was allowed to see everything, and this was a unique experience because the other dealers I’d visited did not allow me to see everything…..”  “I learned right off one thing about Rosenberg & Stiebel, that the attitude of the establishment was such that they were partners with curators…”  So Tom became a good client on the basis of that first impression.

In 1972 I became a member of an art association in New York and they immediately made me an officer.  This association was a member of an international organization of associations, which had done exhibitions in museums abroad but never in the United States.  Now they wanted an international dealer’s exhibition at the Met.  Still being in my 20’s I had the temerity to say, “My father knows Tom Hoving” (how na├»ve can one be!)  My colleagues jumped on it and so began a saga in which I was able to bring 300 works of art to the Metropolitan in an exhibition called, “The Grand Gallery” during the 1974-75 season.  Being nice to a novice medieval curator paid off in the long run!

Hoving was credited with being the originator of the ”blockbuster exhibition”.  His first was  “In The Presence of Kings” (1967) where they used turntables and red velvet to show off the art.  It was absolutely scandalous at the time but I loved it and so did many others as they started to pile into the Met.  Hoving was taking the first step toward the modern day museum where some institutions number their attendance in the millions.

Philippe de Montebello, his successor at the Met was quoted as saying, “People criticized him for his excesses, but you have to remember that it is not the timorous who climb life’s peaks. He has left us with a changed museum world.”

If you want to learn more about Tom Hoving in his own words pick up one the books he has authored, I counted close to 20 on Amazon and we have 8 in our library.  Probably the most fun and the one quoted the most often is “Making the Mummies Dance” and second in line is “Art for Dummies”.  One of the endorsements for the latter from dealers and museum directors says “As an art history student at Columbia University in the early 60’s, I often went to the Metropolitan Museum to be alone among the masterpieces.  That solitude ended when Tom Hoving became director.  Suddenly the place was hopping; art was no longer just for the elite.  Tom stripped away the veil of intimidation of a museum and with this book he has now done the same for everyone who ever considered learning about and collecting art."- Gerald G. Stiebel, Rosenberg & Stiebel Gallery (1999).