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WOID BULLETIN: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.



WOID BULLETIN

Right now the Metropolitan Museum of Art is particularly rich in its
offerings of visual language and book arts. Many of the listings below I
discovered by accident: who would have thought that Hans Hofmann, or Max
Weber, had something to say on the subject?

I) MIRROR OF THE MEDIEVAL WORLD. (March 9 - July 4, 1999)
Recent (or relatively recent) acquisitions by the Medieval Art Department
and the Cloisters. The show-stopper is a handful and a half of pages from
an 1180 copy of the Beatus of Liebana. The Beatus was a commentary on the
Apocalypse which tried to prove that the story of the end of the world was
relevant to Muslim-occupied Spain, much as recent analyses have pointed
out that "666," the Mark of the Beast, actually stands for the number of
letters in "Ronald Wilson Reagan." There are perhaps two dozen known
copies of the Beatus, and this one is particularly fine: the solid,
simplified areas of color anticipate the Transitional Gothic style, and
the figures, with unusual faces, are draped in unusual multicolored lines
on an unpainted background. Up the Avenue, at the Guggenheim Museum,
Picasso's "Night Fishing at Antibes" shows what one modern painter could
do with that style. The other manuscripts, mostly Gothic, are pleasant,
though one, a leaf from a Missal once owned by the medievalist Harry
Bober, raises a few doubts in my doubting mind. A clumsy textus prescissus
is a strange thing... So is an area of gilding that has chipped, not
cracked. Finally, a late fifteenth-century devotional diptych, with some
unusual glair gilding, shows what large-scale pen-written Gothics might
have looked like in the Middle Ages.

II) THE TREASURY OF SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI (March 16 - June 27, 1999)
This show is more attractive for its panel paintings than its manuscripts,
which represent a rather narrow focus: they are mostly French or Umbrian,
and mostly from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Still, it's
interesting to see the illumination and writing style of Northern Italy
shifting back and forth between French and Byzantine (or rather, Roman),
models.

III) NATIVE PATHS II: AMERICAN INDIAN ART FROM THE COLLECTION OF CHARLES
AND VALERIE DIKER (through January 2, 2000).
Two fine ceremonial robes decorated with pictographs raise interesting
questions about formal balance and ideographic expression. Closer to a
Europeanized tradition, the drawings from the ledger kept by Frank
Henderson, an Arapaho Indian being "reeducated" in Pennsylvania, have a
fine, sparse balance in color, line and placement. They will be replaced
by another set of drawings on Monday, May 3rd.

IV) THE NATURE OF ISLAMIC ORNAMENT, PART III: GEOMETRIC PATTERNS ( March
17-July 18, 1999).
This small show has some Qu'ran leaves, and a Mamluk binding of the
fourteenth century.

V) MAX WEBER FROM THE COLLECTION (March 9-June 13, 1999).
The American Cubist/Futurist/Whatever Max Weber produced skilfull book
covers and title pages.

VI) HANS HOFMANN AT THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART (April 13-October 17,
1999).
A few sketches for a proposed "calligraphic" book. Worth saving for that
day when you wake up deciding Hans Hofmann isn't overrated after all.

VII) REINSTALLED GALLERIES OF CHINESE ART.

As before, the collection of calligraphy is world-class; but the new
selection of twentieth-century scrolls is disappointing: it's as if
someone was trying to write out of existence a sizeable chunk of the
Chinese experience in our time.

***************************************************************************

Paul Werner, New York City

http://pages.nyu.edu/~ptw1
     DRAGONSBLOOD AND ASHES: a project to research and teach the
techniques of the Medieval scribe and artist.
     THE ORANGE PRESS: most recent titles: "Vellum Preparation:
History and Technique," and "Dragonsblood and Ashes: the Beta
Version."
     WOID: a journal of visual language in New York, including reviews,
listings and resources.


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