The 188th Annual shows that the National Academy continues as an arts pioneer in New York City. In fact, the Academy has been exploring American contemporary art since 1826. Originally designed after the annual exhibition at the Royal Academy of Art in London, the Annual of the National Academy has experimented with a handful of organizational structures and curatorial criteria.
This latest showcase of contemporary American art was put together from the work of sixty seven National Academicians. Maurizio Pellegrin (new Creative Director of the Academy) and Filippo Fossati have curated a three-month long show where several generations cohabit and engage in dialogue about their current artistic productions. “Redefining Tradition“ reinforces the notion of tradition in an art world where the figure of the lone-star artist runs triumphant. Tradition comes from the Latin “tradere”, which means to hand over, from generation to generation, the lessons that developed over long periods of time. The artist endowed with immediately and suddenly infused knowledge is a myth. Masters teach the masters of tomorrow, today. The use of the chisel and the welder, the process of casting and molding, the gestalts of the eye wired in the brain for hundreds of thousands of years: those are the grounds for Academia. And so, the Annual brings the current works of soundly grounded generations of artists, and is dotted here and there with some sparks of new comers.
One of the most senior Academicians has work found within the abundant group of predominantly geometrical artwork of the show.
Jack Youngerman, (undoubtedly in spirit) 88 years old, presented Blackfoil (2011). It is a Quadrad of six plain colors which is everything but plain, a set of parallel bars in blue and red which covers the periphery radiating from a massive center of superimposed figures culminated by a white square as its nucleus. The painting resembles an explosion of such magnitude that it must have originated from a massive implosion to fully liberate its initial potential. This is a common theme in the latest period of the artist; figures that indicate a double sense of inward and outward motion. The result is iconic and impactful. This group of geometicians could be considered to continue in the tradition of the modernist inspired elusive regularities of Valerie Jaudon, Beverly Pepper or Harriet Korman, who were all born around late forties.
The largest group of work lingers around New York City as its reoccurring motif; from the menacing skyscrapers hovering over you of Michael di Cerbo, to the indoor-outdoor photorealistic paintings of Richard Estes, or the complementary perspectives “in the city” of Robert Birmelin.
The third recognizable cluster groups around the greens and blues of landscapes and vegetation. Margaret Grimes pays tribute to the struggle for life with an exhausted tree, which couldn’t make it between buoyant competitors, pouring its last hopes out in just a few bright red fruits. The luxuriant vegetation of Henry Finkelstein, the meticulous drawings of Richard C. Ziemann, and the amplitude of Jane Wilson found a home in this group.
The group of abstract artists shares a notable inclination for insinuated forms, as if they lived on a coastline where oceanic abstractions touch firm figurativism. Richard Serra must have walked barefoot over that line with “Transparency”. Instead of the monumental installations and paintings he’s accustomed to, this work of 30’’x 24’’ of the softest crayon on mylar paper, shows a clear spiral that all together delimits the space for a form ready to be created by the spectator.
David Adjaye, Garo Z. Antreasian, William Bailey, Frances Barth, David Becker, Robert Birmelin, James Bohary, Henry Casselli, Michael Di Cerbo, Harvey Dinnerstein, Mark di Suvero, Nick Edmonds, Richard Estes, Garth Evans, Henry Finkelstein, M. Paul Friedberg, Sonia Gechtoff, Dan Gilhooley, Andrew Ginzel, Michael Graves, Daniel E. Greene, Margaret Grimes, Barbara Grossman, Richard Haas, Sidney Hurwitz, Yvonne Jacquette, Valerie Jaudon, Harriet Korman, Pat Lasch, Alfred Leslie, Stanley Lewis, Whitfield Lovell, David Lund, Christian Marclay, James McGarrell, Ruth Miller, John Moore, Ben Frank Moss, Thomas Nozkowski, George Ortman, Anthony Padovano, Robert Andrew Parker, Brian Paulsen, Beverly Pepper, I.M. Pei, Sylvia Plimack Mangold, Marjorie Portnow, Andrew Raftery, Reeve Schley III, Dana Schutz, Annabelle Selldorf, Richard Serra, Jonathan Shahn, Laura Shechter, Frank Stella, Jessica Stockholder, Immi Storrs, Altoon Sultan, Lee Tribe, Richard Tuttle, Sharon Wandel, Carrie Mae Weems, Charles Wells, Jane Wilson, Betty Woodman, Sharon Yates, Jack Youngerman, and Richard C. Ziemann.
Writing by Alejandro Pardo
Photography by The National Academy