Today’s news:

Artist William Glackens on view at QMA

For the first time in its nearly 30-year history, the Queens Museum of Art officially kicked off five exhibitions on Tuesday, Feb. 22.

In its newly renovated space in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, museum officials, artists, and community members celebrated the opening of "William Glackens: An Impressionist's Journey," "New York Noir: Crime Photographs from the Daily News Archive," and the premiere exhibits of "Queens Focus" and "Community Space" series. The fifth exhibit, "Cinevator," was an impromptu performance art piece held in the museum's elevator.

More than 200 people, many of whom were members of the Queens Museum of Art, arrived just in time for the 6 p.m. lecture held in the museum's second-floor auditorium. William Gerdts, a scholar of American Impressionism, and Glackens gave a one-hour slide show presentation of Glackens and his fellow Philadelphia colleagues dubbed "The Ash Can School" and later "The Eight." (Although Gerdts said the two were not interchangeable, some of "The Ash Can" artists were also part of "The Eight." )

Showing several of Glackens' important pieces, Gerdts went to great lengths to distinguish Glackens and "The Ash Can School" from the prevalent artwork of the time. In one example, Gerdts showed Glackens' drawing of Wall Street in the early 1900s, entitled "Curb Exchange No. 1, 1907-1910," side-by-side with Childe Hassam's (1859-1935) drawing of the same street.

Glackens emphasized the people, the businessmen and the men with the push carts while Hassam's drawing was more removed, capturing the soaring skyscraper with the people barely distinguishable.

In another example, "Outside the Guttenberg Racetrack," 1897, Gerdts emphasized this point. "By drawing this scene where there is unlicensed gambling," Gerdts said, "Glackens was deliberately choosing subjects that wouldn't have been part of the tradition. But he was interested in capturing the dirt and grittiness of city life."

Commenting later, Gerdts said "Glackens was most concerned with catching the dynamism of urban life and he didn't shy away from showing class distinctions."

If there is one unifying theme tying together the seemingly disparate exhibitions, this concept of urban art might be it. Born in Philadelphia in 1870, William Glackens, (1870-1938), studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in the 1890s where he and other Philadelphia reportorial illustrators came under the influence of Robert Henri. An Academy rebel, Henri opened his studio to these budding artists and convinced several to pursue painting. Eventually tagged "The Ash Can School," this group of turn-of-the-century artists became engrossed with "the vitality of city life."

In contrast to the academic and genteel art at the time, one art historian wrote, Glackens and "The Ash Can School" took as their subjects "children playing on dirty sidewalks, laundry lines strung from the backs of tenements, derelicts sleeping under bridges, or draymen going about their business with their cars and teams."

Eventually, Glackens, Henri, and several others traveled to Paris, Holland, and Belgium where they studied the works of 17th Century Dutch artists Rembrandt and Hals and French Impressionists Manet, Renoir, Cezanne, and Monet.

The exhibit, which is arranged chronologically, "tries to show the range of his work," Valerio said. Guiding a visitor through a maze of rooms and partitions, Valerio pointed out the major changes in style as Glackens moved from realism to impressionism. "The exhibit tries to show not only the range of his work," he added, "but the range of types of work. There are the large ambitious masterpieces and the quick pieces done in charcoal."

The Glackens' exhibit hangs in galleries on the first floor and begins in the east gallery. "The exhibit begins with Glackens' work influenced by his first trip to Paris," Valerio said. "For example, in his 'Girl in Black Cape' (1897), you see a modern subject matter with a kind of sobriety looking at the modern world so while the subject is modern (a young ballerina), his somber tonalities are reminiscent of Rembrandt," he said.

At the next stop, one side of the museum's large triangle gallery, was a row of Glackens' most influential pieces. "These are the works from the period when Glackens became famous," Valerio said. "They are put in this prominent position because these are what he is known for."

"These show Glackens' great talent in painting in a loose way, an unfinished way - this is derived from the French Impressionists who depicted the world in a natural and instantaneous or spontaneous kind of way. There are brighter colors more like the impressionists," Valerio said. He pointed out that in "Seated Actress with Mirror (1903)," "Glackens lets loose and uses big gestural strokes with paint that expresses the intimacy of the scene."

But, according to Valerio, while Glackens may have borrowed style and color, he remained true to his interest in the underside of city life. "Tugboat and Lighter (1904-1905)," Valerio said, is a good example of his down-to-earth view of New York. The two workboats are in the foreground while the luxury liner is off to the side. "The lighter is the loader boat and the tugboat pulls other boats," Valerio said. "Glackens is really showing the backbone of the wealth of New York. He doesn't just show it, but he glorifies it."

Jorge Santis of the Museum of Art in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and William Valerio, of the Queens Museum of Art, co-curated the Glackens exhibit. The Sansom Foundation, the beneficiaries of the collection bequeathed by Ira Glackens, loaned the exhibit to the Queens Museum.

"The Museum of Art in Fort Lauderdale is constructing a new wing [for the Glackens collection]," Valerio explained, "and the pieces have been in storage. So it was a great opportunity to bring the pieces to New York."

Pin It
Print this story Permalink

Reader Feedback

Enter your comment below

By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:

You agree that you, and not or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

CNG: Community Newspaper Group