New York Times review of “John Ashbery Collects: Poet Among Things”

John Ashbery: Poet Among Things

Another review of the Ashbery show at the Loretta Howard Gallery that I posted about the other day, this one in today’s New York Times.  In his review, Holland Cotter stresses an aspect of the show that I haven’t seen much discussion of in commentary on it — one purpose of the show is to make works from Ashbery’s abundant art collection available for purchase:

He is now in the process of deaccessioning some of his holdings. And Loretta Howard Gallery, working with two poet-curators, Adam Fitzgerald and Emily Skillings, has arranged an unusually interesting sales format. With the aid of painted scenes by the artist Matthew Thurber, they’ve installed some dozen works from Mr. Ashbery’s personal collection in a gallery environment that simulates the interior of his Victorian home in upstate New York.

Update: Rosanne Wasserman has just informed me that Cotter seems to be mistaken about the provenance of the art for sale in this show — it does not actually belong to Ashbery.  Instead, the artworks on exhibit are from other galleries (like the Tibor de Nagy, for example) who are permitting the Loretta Howard Gallery to show it for them, as examples of the artists whom Ashbery has befriended and collected.  Apparently, the exhibit doesn’t make this distinction very clear.

Further update: The New York Times has now appended a correction to the review:

An earlier version of this review included an incorrect reference to Mr. Ashbery’s art holdings. He is not in the process of deaccessioning some of them. The review also referred incorrectly to the artworks that are for sale. They are not from Mr. Ashbery’s personal collection.

In any event, as Cotter explains, the show features works by many artists Ashbery has written about, and collaborated with:

To devotees of his critical writing — his “Reported Sightings: Art Chronicles 1957-1987” is, for some of us, a staple reference — the show will have a familiar logic. Many of the artists are, or have been, his friends, soul mates and muses. Jane Freilicher, with two transcendently no-nonsense floral still lifes in the show, is all of these, as is the whimsical rigorist Trevor Winkfield. It’s great to see work by Joe Brainard (1942-94), with whom Mr. Ashbery once collaborated, and by Archie Rand, a co-worker in the present. Mr. Rand deserves more attention than the art world gives him, as does Mark Tobey, whose ethereal 1954 painting “World dust” is a peak moment here.

They are in stiff company with the likes of Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Shirley Goldfarb, Joan Mitchell, Edwin Dickinson, Joseph Cornell (six collages!) and that Caravaggio of so-called outsider artists, Henry Darger.

The only bad news here is that “two portraits of Mr. Ashbery, one by Fairfield Porter, the other by Alex Katz, are not for sale.”  In case you were heading to the show with a big wad of cash hoping to come home with your very own picture of JA.

This entry was posted in Alex Katz, Art Exhibit, Fairfield Porter, Henry Darger, Joan Mitchell, John Ashbery, Joseph Cornell, Reviews, Willem de Kooning. Bookmark the permalink.