Galerie St. Etienne
As has become traditional, the Galerie St. Etienne’s summer exhibition features RECENT ACQUISITIONS, while also recapping highlights of the past season. However, this year’s presentation is given a slightly atypical slant by the forthcoming presidential election.
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An important component of the summer show is Sue Coe’s new series, Bully: Master of the Global Merry-Go-Round, an examination of the Bush administration that is also being published in book form. It will come as little surprise to followers of Coe’s career to learn that she is no admirer of George Bush (the "bully" in her title). Like the work of the Weimar-era artists George Grosz and John Heartfield (with which it is paired), Bully is an impassioned protest against the abrogation of democratic and human rights. Recalling Max Beckmann’s 1921 print cycle, The Annual Fair, many of the Bully images employ carnival or amusement-park metaphors. The capstone of the series, a miniature pastiche of Bruegel’s Triumph of Death, is a denunciation of all ideological or religious fundamentalism, and a plea for universal empathy.
The remainder of the Recent Acquisitions exhibition surveys the range of artists currently represented by the Galerie St. Etienne. Among the contemporary artists featured in the spring show Animals & Us, Frank Noelker is making a return appearance this summer. Several of Noelker’s Zoo Portraits (just published as a book) are augmented by works from his new series, Chimps. The fall exhibition Body & Soul: Expressionism and the Human Figure, enabled the gallery to acquire some striking woodcuts, lithographs and watercolors by such masters as Erich Heckel, E. L. Kirchner, Otto Mueller, Hermann Max Pechstein and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff. These German works contrast markedly with the more realistic, delicate drawings of the Austrian Egon Schiele. The art of Käthe Kollwitz, another Galerie St. Etienne favorite, draws upon the tradition of expressive figuration developed in Germany prior to World War I, but links Expressionism to the sociopolitical concerns that came to dominate art during the Weimar era.
One of the Galerie St. Etienne’s most successful exhibitions of the past season was its Henry Darger retrospective, the first ever to display the artist’s work in rough chronological sequence. With inventory in the Darger estate now dwindling, the summer exhibition may represent one of the last opportunities to see a wide selection of available works in one place. As "outsider" masters such as Darger gain broader acceptance in the mainstream art world, there seems to a dearth of good new American material entering the market. However, the Galerie St. Etienne has found European self-taught art to be an area where exciting discoveries can still be made. Josef Karl Rädler, first introduced in 2001, remains among the most interesting self-taught artists to come on the scene recently. This year, St. Etienne was able to bring the work of one of Serbia’s greatest self-taught painters, Ilija Bosilj, to the U.S. for the first time. Bosilj achieved major renown throughout Europe in the 1960s and ‘70s, but the Yugoslav civi war effectively kept his work from wider public view for the past decade. Michel Nedjar and the artists of Gugging, whom the gallery has represented for a number of years, likewise demonstrate the exceptional strength of the self-taught work emerging from Europe. And, last but not least, St. Etienne’s summer exhibition would not be complete without the paintings of Grandma Moses, who remains, figuratively, the mother of them all.
RECENT ACQUISITIONS is documented by a comprehensive checklist, which is available free of charge by mail or can be down-loaded from the gallery’s web site www.gseart.com. The accompanying essay contains the Galerie St. Etienne’s annual "state of the market" report, which this year discusses the impact on the art world of the international political and economic situation.
Please note that our summer hours are Tuesday through Friday 11am-5pm.