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Thursday, August 30, 2018

'Baselitz,' a horror show on walls at the Hirshhorn


 Georg Baselitz, Zero End, 2013, Private Collection/Photo by Patricia Leslie

The first major U.S. exhibition in more than 20 years of a living German artist ends next month at the Smithsonian's Hirshhorn Museum

More than 100 paintings, paper works, and sculptures by Georg Baselitz are on view, some for the first time in this country.
Georg Baselitz, Oberon (1st Orthodox, Salon 64--E.Neizvestny), 1964, Stadel Museum, Frankfurt am Main

In celebration of his 80th birthday, the Hirshhorn, which hosted Baselitz in 1996, presents six decades of his works, "one of the most original and inventive figurative artists of his generation," the Hirshhorn says.

I'll say.  What an understatement.

What stands in memory are the sordid, artificial mammals Baselitz makes.  He wants to share his misery with you.

This is a horror show on walls. This is not a family fun house at the Hirshhorn. Take your children and Gramps at your own risk. I do not recommend it as a venue for a first date.  I do not recommend it as a venue for the second date, and if you get to the third date and want to end it all, why this would be a good place! Pretend like you love the stuff and watch him/her flee!
  Georg Baselitz, Win D., 1959, Private Collection


"I proceed from a state of disharmony, from ugly things," Baselitz is quoted, but, judging on the presentation, he is stuck on "ugly things" with broad, heavy brush strokes, bold colors, and "in your face" depictions of somber human creatures, many, ready for suicide.

The display will not leave you in a romantic state of mind.  It will not inspire or lift. It will leave you plummeting into Baselitz' pit of self-torture.  

American abstract expressionists influenced Baselitz who has come to exercise his own command of contemporary American artists, the Hirshhorn says.  He is frequently called a neo-expressionist which the Tate defines as " a reaction to the minimalism and conceptual art that had dominated the 1970s."  In Italy, neo-expressionists are deemed part of  "Transavanguardia" or "beyond the avant-garde." Ahem.

  Georg Baselitz, Fifties Portrait - M. W., 1969, Private Collection


Baselitz attended art school in Communist East Berlin and studied the "officially sanctioned form of social realism" until he was expelled in 1957 for “sociopolitical immaturity.” He continued his studies in West Berlin and helped revive German Expressionism, a form the Nazis denounced.

Dramatically affected by post-World War II Germany, Baselitz sees everything with a jaundiced, negative eye and seeks to upend order.  His works are testimony to that mantra. He was born in Deutschbaselitz, the name he adopted as his own in 1958 or 1961 (different years cited around the Web).  His birth name was Hans-Georg Kern.

Several of his landmark "upside down" paintings,  which earned him international recognition starting in 1969, are at the Hirshhorn.

Once he turned his first figures upside-down, Wikipedia says, Baselitz kept turning.

An object painted upside down is suitable for painting because it is unsuitable as an object, Baselitz is quoted in 1981. Some of Baselitz' works are unsuitable because they are unsuitable.
 Georg Baselitz, Finger Painting - Apple Trees, 1973, Collection of Udo and Anette Brandhorst


He frequently paints with his wife, Elze, to whom he has been married 56 years.
 Georg Baselitz, Model for a Sculpture, 1979-80, Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Ludwig Collection/Photo by Patricia Leslie

He was chosen to represent Germany in the prestigious Venice Biennale in 1980 where he took his first sculpture, "Model for a Sculpture," which was controversial because of its similarity to the Nazi salute.
Georg Baselitz, Model for a Sculpture, 1979-80, Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Ludwig Collection/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Georg Baselitz, Model for a Sculpture, 1979-80, Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Ludwig Collection/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Georg Baselitz, Model for a Sculpture, 1979-80, Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Ludwig Collection/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 
Baselitz has a reputation for thinking poorly of women artists, an opinion he reiterated in 2015 in an interview with Kate Connolly of the Guardian and earlier, in 2013 when he told Der Spiegel: "Women don't paint very well. It's a fact. There are, of course, exceptions....Women simply don't pass the test. (...) The market test, the value test."

Artnet News investigated. 


  Georg Baselitz, On the Right and Left a Church, 1987, Peress Family Collection

 Until 2014 the most paid for a "'Mr. Upside Down'" was $7.45 million for his 1983 Der Brückechor (The Brücke Chorus).

This price fell short of the $44.4 million paid in 2014 for Georgia O'Keefe's 1932 Jimseed Weed/White Flower No. 1 or Joan Mitchell's Untitled which brought $11.925 million in the same year, or the $10.7 million paid in 2011 for Spider created in 1996 by Louise Bourgeois. (It may be the same Spider by Ms. Bourgeois, 1996, across the Mall from the Hirshhorn at National Gallery of Art's Sculpture Garden! See it here.) 


And there are more women artists who outrank Baselitz in terms of money.  

Artnet News and writer Brian Boucher combed auction records to find out just how high Baselitz ranked in 2015 monetary terms: 932.

Perhaps the next time he comes to town, the artist will visit the National Museum of Women in the Arts and check out the art and the value of its holdings.  Baselitz could stand a little "pick me up."
  Georg Baselitz, My New Hat, 2003, Pinault Collection/Photo by Patricia Leslie
   Georg Baselitz, My New Hat, 2003, Pinault Collection/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Georg Baselitz, Mrs. Ultramarine, 2004, Dasmaximum Kunst Gegenwart, Traunreut/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 Georg Baselitz, The Naked Man, 1962 Private Collection Based on "lewd and obscene content," German authorities seized several Baselitz works in 1963 including the one above, one of his most controversial which conveyed the artist's "discontent with German socialist policies." This fellow (in a coffin?) greets visitors on the right wall at the exhibition entrance at the Hirshhorn.

Baselitz opened in Basel, Switzerland in January before coming to Washington.

Tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. the Hirshhorn's chief curator, Stéphane Aquin who has an essay in the catalogue, will lead an hour-long tour of Baselitz at the museum. Meet in the lobby.

Below is the cover of the big (200+ pages) catalog for Baselitz with an interview with the artist, essays, photos of him working, full page color reproductions of his works, and a timeline of his life. Like the show, the book is arranged chronologically.

The exhibition is co-sponsored by Fondation Beyeler, whose director, Sam Keller, and the Hirshhorn director, Melissa Chiu write in the foreword to the catalogue that Baselitz exhibitions in the U.S. and Switzerland "are a rarity."  Quelle surprise! 
The cover of the catalogue found at Amazon, $52.36 (hardcover) or $35 (paper) plus shipping. I could not find the catalogue online at the Hirshhorn or at Smithsonian shops.

What:  Baselitz: Six Decades

When:  Now through September 16, 2018, from 10 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. Open every day

Where:  Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden on the National Mall at Independence Avenue and Seventh Street, S.W.

How much:  No charge

Metro stations:  Smithsonian or L'Enfant Plaza (Maryland Avenue exit)

For more information:   202-633-1000

patricialesli@gmail.com

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Church-on-the-Blood, the site of the Romanovs' executions, Yekaterinburg, Russia

The front of Church-on-the-Blood in the Name of All Saints Shone Forth in the Land of Russia, Yekaterinburg/Photo by Patricia Leslie, July 25, 2018

This is the church built on the site where Tsar Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra, their five children and four staff members were shot and bludgeoned to death on July 17, 1918.  Its formal name (based on a plaque pictured below) is Church-on-the-Blood in the Name of All Saints Shone Forth in the Land of Russia, Yekaterinburg. It was consecrated in 2003.  

The murders happened in the basement of the Ipatiev House which stood here until the Soviet government demolished the house in 1977. The main altar on the first floor of the church is directly over the site of the murders.

The Ipatiev House was the last place the Romanovs lived, imprisoned there for 78 days until the Bolsheviks, under the leadership of Vladimir Lenin, ordered their deaths.
The front of Church-on-the-Blood in the Name of All Saints, Yekaterinburg/Photo by Patricia Leslie, July 25, 2018
A statue of the Romanov family at the front of Church-on-the-Blood, Yekaterinburg/Photo by Patricia Leslie, July 25, 2018
Nicholas II holds his son, Alexei, at the front of Church-on-the-Blood, Yekaterinburg/Photo by Patricia Leslie, July 25, 2018
Another view of the statue at Church-on-the-Blood, Yekaterinburg/Photo by Patricia Leslie, July 25, 2018
 
The statue as seen from the top floor of Church-on-the-Blood, Yekaterinburg/Photo by Patricia Leslie, July 25, 2018
The statue as seen from the top floor of Church-on-the-Blood, Yekaterinburg/Photo by Patricia Leslie, July 25, 2018
Another view of the statue at Church-on-the-Blood, Yekaterinburg/Photo by Patricia Leslie, July 25, 2018
Inside on the top floor of Church-on-the-Blood, Yekaterinburg/Photo by Patricia Leslie, July 25, 2018
The ceiling of the Church-on-the-Blood, Yekaterinburg/Photo by Patricia Leslie, July 25, 2018
The Romanov family tree at Church-on-the-Blood, Yekaterinburg/Photo by Patricia Leslie, July 25, 2018
 
In honor of Nicholas II's patron Saint (Stephen?) at the Church-on-the-Blood, Yekaterinburg/Photo by Patricia Leslie, July 25, 2018
On the ground floor, a few steps from the execution site, is an exhibition with photographs and artifacts of the Romanovs and the Russian Revolution at Church-on-the-Blood, Yekaterinburg/Photo by Patricia Leslie, July 25, 2018 
In the exhibition is a framed newspaper photo of the demolition of the Impatiev House which stood at the site of the Church-on-the-Blood, Yekaterinburg/Photo by Patricia Leslie, July 25, 2018
Romanov artifacts at the museum at Church-on-the-Blood, Yekaterinburg/Photo by Patricia Leslie, July 25, 2018
A display at the exhibition in honor of Grand Duchess Elisabeth Feodorovna, who became a nun after the 1905 assassination of her husband, Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich, the fifth son of Tsar Alexander II, assassinated in 1881.  The Grand Duchess was Empress Alexandra's older sister, they, the granddaughters of Queen Victoria and great-aunts of Prince Philip of Great Britain (whose DNA helped identify the bodies of Alexandra and the children).  Because Elisabeth was royalty, she was one of many family members killed by the Bolsheviks who beat her and others on July 18, 1918,  threw them down an iron pit and when they kept singing hymns and would not die, tossed lighted hand grenades down on top of them in the pit. When the prisoners continued singing, the killers ignited a bon fire.  Despite all this, three months later when their bodies were recovered, it was discovered that Elisabeth was able to bandage a fellow victim's wounds while they all were undergoing  torture in the pit.

After he learned of her death, Wikipedia quotes Lenin: "Virtue with the crown on it is a greater enemy to the world revolution than a hundred tyrant tsars."/Photo by Patricia Leslie, July 25, 2018
Members of the clergy who were killed by the Bolsheviks, in a display at the exhibition at Church-on-the-Blood, Yekaterinburg/Photo by Patricia Leslie, July 25, 2018
This is the Royal Spiritual and Educational Center on the side of Church-on-the-Blood, Yekaterinburg/Photo by Patricia Leslie, July 25, 2018
 
Note the flowers and large photographs of the Romanovs (center, above the flowers) at the front of Church-on-the-Blood, Yekaterinburg/Photo by Patricia Leslie, July 25, 2018
The front of Church-on-the-Blood in the Name of All Saints Shone Forth in the Land of Russia, Yekaterinburg with large family photographs displayed outside the church/Photo by Patricia Leslie, July 25, 2018
A plaque in Russian and English languages at Church-on-the-Blood in the Name of All Saints Shone Forth in the Land of Russia, Yekaterinburg/Photo by Patricia Leslie, July 25, 2018
From the Vysotsky Viewing Platform, Church-on-the-Blood in the Name of All Saints Shone Forth in the Land of Russia, Yekaterinburg/Photo by Patricia Leslie, July 25, 2018
At right center in this photo of the city of Yekaterinburg, is Church-on-the-Blood in the Name of All Saints Shone Forth in the Land of Russia, taken from the Vysotsky Viewing Platform/Photo by Patricia Leslie, July 25, 2018
 The Church-on-the-Blood in the Name of All Saints Shone Forth in the Land of Russia occupies the sky from all angles in Yekaterinburg. This was taken from the new (2015) Boris Yeltsin Presidential Center/Photo by Patricia Leslie, July 25, 2018

On July 27 or September 6 or September 15, 16, and 17 or 22 (Wikipedia and other sources list different days but they give the same year: 1977), the Ipatiev House was destroyed under orders of the Politburo of the Soviet government.

Alarmed by the increasing number of curiosity seekers, historians and religious members who came to the house, and the growing interest shown by Western governments, the Soviets feared the reality of rumors that the Ipatiev House might become a UNESCO World Heritage site.

They were afraid the site would become a shrine. 

It has become a shrine.

The public reason the Soviets gave for the demolition (which was carried out in the middle of the night like the murders) was a "rehabilitation of the street." 

Which they covered with asphalt. 

Boris Yeltsin, the local Soviet leader in 1977, states in his autobiography, that he was ordered to destroy the house, and he, most agree, had no choice. Documents support him.


At this link is his description that visitors "...even came to look at it [the house] from other cities.

"I can well imagine that sooner or later we will be ashamed of this piece of barbarism. Ashamed we may be; but we can never rectify it."

Pictures are not permitted in the holy space where many icons of the family, crosses, candles, and kneeling pads exist to help visitors assuage their pain and agony, and pray for hope, it will not happen again.
A large icon like this one above of the Imperial Family, Tsar Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra, and their children, Maria, Anastasia, Tatiana, Olga, and Alexei, the youngest and heir to the throne, hangs adjacent to the execution spot at Church-on-the-Blood, Yekaterinburg/From the website of the Church

Some of the first icons of the family have been found in Serbia, made in the 1920s. 



On the centennial of the deaths on July 17, 2018, the Vatican estimated a crowd of 75,000 turned out for a liturgy at Church-on-the-Blood. Then, thousands walked four hours, about 9.5 miles, along the route the bodies were carried and dumped in an abandoned mining shaft, Ganina Yama.  
75,000 came to honor the memory of the Romanovs on July 17, 2018 at Church-on-the-Blood, Yekaterinburg/From the Vatican

Two days after the murders, on July 19, 1918, the killers carried the bodies to another site, fearful their enemies, the Whites who were fast approaching, would try to rescue the Imperial Family and use them for oppositional purposes. 


Royal Russian News has many links, photographs, and drawings of the palaces, contents, and information about the Romanovs.


Here is a link to an interview dated July 2, 2018 with the head of the Department of Archives of the Sverdlovsk Region, Alexander Kapustin about the possible reconstruction of the Ipatiev House. Kapustin says:  "...the foundation of the Ipatiev House is actually buried under the road. Therefore, we are not talking so much about reconstruction as that of a new construction."

The link contains more information about the Ipatiev House, including a 3D video of the reconstructed house. 

patricialesli@gmail.com