September 24, 2009

Robert Frank's "The Americans"

Fifty years ago, in 1959, the Swiss born photographer Robert Frank published a book that although it only sold 1,100 copies at the time, has since become lauded as a classic and a must-read on every short list of essential texts on photography. That book was "The Americans" a collection of 83 black and white photographs taken in the course of several cross-country car trips made by Mr Frank and his family in 1955 and 1956. Supplemented with essays by Jack Kerouac, John Dos Passos and others, the book provided an inside look at the "real" America as seen through a foreigner's eyes. Blunt and poignant, the photos depicted a vast cross section of people, landscapes and interiors. Black and white, rich and poor, barren and opulent. Needless to say, this in-your-face look at the United States by a non-native son met with mixed reviews. But ultimately it forced Americans to take a closer look at who they were and how they were perceived.

Fast forward to 2009 and a shift in America's self-identity as well as a new appreciation for the art of photography and you have a nation-wide celebration of this seminal work. Now on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art is "Looking In: Robert Frank's 'The Americans'" - an homage to the man and the book that had a profound influence on generations of photographers and how people looked at their work.

For the first time the New York audience will be able to view all 83 of the published photographs as well as the contact sheets, earlier photos, a short film by Frank and most of the 9 editions of "The Americans" in various languages and formats. I think many visitors will be struck by how insightful these images were at the time and how contemporary they remain to this day.

Organized by the National Gallery of Art where the exhibition debuted in January, the show makes its third and final stop in New York where it will remain on view until January 2010.

September 14, 2009

Announcing Catalogue Number Four

I am happy to announce the publication of my fourth catalogue!

Georgina Kelman :: Works on Paper presents "Catalogue Number Four", a collection of European and American fine prints, drawing and watercolors from the Victorian Era to the Jazz Age. Fully illustrated in color, this catalogue continues the tradition (I think I can say that now!) of offering original works on paper by such 19th and 20th Century artists as Bottini, Cheret, Delaunay, Helleu, Legrand, Lepape, Tissot and Whistler. It's a very personal selection but one I hope you will enjoy browsing.

Many of these pieces plus a lot more can be viewed on my website,, and if you are looking for something specific please feel free to contact me. If you would like to know more about the catalogue, you can contact me directly from the site.

This is the last weekend of a very short summer on the East Coast. The new season is beginning and with it the promise of new adventures! I hope you'll check back often as I explore what's new and fun around town. Thank you for visiting and hope to see you soon!

September 13, 2009

Three Days in Nashville - The Music City

Mention a trip to Nashville to almost anyone and the first question is "Did you go to the Grand Ole Opry?" But the Opry is just a part of the music scene in this town where country and honky tonk rule and music recording and production are a major industry. Even if your heart belongs to grand opera, it's hard not to get swept up in the enthusiasm and excitement that make Nashville The Music City!

Not being an aficionado of country music, I thought the best way to start was with a visit to the Country Music Museum and Hall of Fame. The original facility opened on Music Row in 1967 and was replaced by the impressive current structure just off Lower Broadway in 2001. Visitors to the museum will be amazed at the depth of the displays covering the history of the genre from its early days to the present time. With country classics playing in the background, I took a trip down memory lane via two floors of memorabilia ranging from Hank Snow's guitar to Johnny Cash's black suit, from Elvis Presley's gold Cadillac to Dolly Parton's wig. Finally I got to the Hall of Fame, a soaring Rotunda with 100+ gold plaques honoring the elected members. Fittingly, the only other decoration in the room is Thomas Hart Benton's iconic painting "The Sources of Country Music".

Now that I had a little history and flavor under my belt, it was time to hit the streets and take a walk through Lower Broadway, home to dozens of honky tonk bars and clubs. Never mind that it's the middle of the day - almost every joint has live music playing! Somewhere in the cacophony of tunes wafting out the open doors and windows is the next great hit and star waiting to be discovered! Squeezed in between great neon signs advertising institutions like "Jack's", "Rippy's" and "Tootsies Orchid Lounge" is the historic Hatch Show Print. Not a club but an old fashioned printer that has been publishing handbills and posters for the music and entertainment industries for 130 years. Using a very low tech letterpress printer with carved wooden letters and logos, Hatch Show Print has produced advertising for shows from vaudeville to the Grand Ole Opry with their distinctive, hand-crafted look. In this digital age, it's worth noting that the only computer in the place is the one that takes email orders from customers!

Right behind Hatch Show Print, on Fifth Avenue, is the shrine of country music, the Ryman Auditorium. First opened in 1892 as the Union Gospel Tabernacle, a revivalist temple, it achieved nationwide fame in 1943 when it became the home of the Grand Ole Opry and its weekly radio broadcasts. Audiences sat on pews as they listened to country music stars like Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Tammy Wynette, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Loretta Lynn, Dotty West and Emmylou Harris. As popularity grew, Ryman's 2,300 seat capacity was insufficient for the crowds and in 1974 a new 4,400 seat venue was built about nine miles away. Now a National Historic Landmark, the Ryman is open for tours and still offers special performances during the winter.

Little Jimmy Dickens (Tater) on the Opry stage

Which brings me to the highlight of my country music adventure - Friday night at the Grand Ole Opry! Starting promptly at 7 and running exactly two hours, WSM 650 AM radio broadcasts live country music to listeners across the country and Canada. Performers are members of the Opry and are required to sing or play, at nominal fees, a certain number of times per year. But what performers they are! Never mind what the posted program states, the joy is in the surprise when the host introduces a country legend who nonchalantly strolls onto the stage and starts to sing. Old timers and new, all are welcome and the smooth delivery of the radio spokesman keeps the audience totally entertained. The Grand Ole Opry tradition continues not only in the format and the quality of the performances but also in the six foot circle of oak planks cut from the original Ryman Auditorium stage and grafted into the new so contemporary performers tread the actual boards of their illustrious predecessors.

Marty Stuart and his Band

The two hours flew by and it was wonderful! A completely transporting experience unlike any other live show I've ever attended. I was exhilarated, but more than that, I was hungry! What else would do but an after-Opry plate of barbecue at one of the speakeasies in town? After a beer and ribs and a pretty girl singing a poignant ballad it was time to go home. I fell in love with Nashville - its diversity, its gracious Southern hospitality and its independent spirit - and can't wait for the next time to go "honky-tonkin"!

Friday Night on Lower Broadway

September 12, 2009

Three Days in Nashville - History and Art

When the possibility of a trip to Nashville was raised a couple of years ago, my first reaction was "This could be a lot of fun!" Well, last week the proposal became a reality and the visit was even more fun that I had hoped. What began as a simple overnight visit to attend an art opening, turned into a 3-day tour of a region that I was unfamiliar with but thrilled to discover.

Founded in 1779 as Fort Nashborough, a port on the Cumberland River, the city quickly grew into a major railway center and eventually became the capital of the state of Tennessee. Surrounded by salt licks, cotton fields and horse farms, the city prospered and grew. Although it fell to Union troops in 1862, the city rebounded and rebuilt in a grand manner. In the early 20th Century, with the opening of the Grand Ole Opry, Nashville became known as "Music City USA" - a moniker that it bears proudly to this day. Modern Nashville has a thriving downtown with classic and contemporary architecture, a very active arts scene, several national sports franchises, and a citizenship that is very proud of its heritage!

Checking in to the Union Station Hotel set the stage for what was to come. This splendidly renovated structure opened in 1900 as an important station serving travelers and freight during the golden age of rail. Its train shed was the largest unsupported span in America and the lobby boasted a 65-foot barrel vaulted ceiling. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977, the building began a new life as a hotel in 1986. Today, after a recent face-lift (see right), the hotel honors its auspicious past while providing guests with all modern amenities.

Right next door to the hotel, in the former Nashville Post Office, is the Frist Center for the Visual Arts. Another splendid example of building recycling, the Frist is the phoenix that rose from the potential razing of a great Art Deco structure. Built during the Great Depression, the main post office was the epitome of the "moderne" aesthetic - a classic, streamlined marble and granite exterior with interior decorations of bold, geometric aluminum grillwork and doors - but by 1986 the facility had become obsolete and was slated to be demolished. Enter the Frist family, prominent Tennesseans for several generations, who saw this as an opportunity to create a visual arts center. Their dream was realized in 2001 with the opening of a marvelous, state-of-the-art exhibition space that has since housed a wide array of first class shows ranging from "Star Spangled Couture" a collection of fabulous costumes worn by country music stars, to the current "Twilight Visions" a look at Surrealist photography in Paris, and the reason for my visit.

Also located in Nashville is a hidden treasure trove of Modern art on the campus of Fisk University. Located in a former church - cum gymnasium - cum Carl Van Vechten Gallery, the collection is the 1949 gift of Georgia O'Keeffe in honor of her late husband. The Alfred Stieglitz Collection of Modern Art comprises 101 of the most perfect examples of Modern Art you could possibly imagine. To walk though the very un-assuming entrance into a smallish room filled with masterpieces by Pablo Picasso, Gino Severini, Diego Rivera, Arthur Dove, Charles Demuth, John Marin, Marsden Hartley and of course O'Keeffe and Stieglitz, was a heart-stopping experience.

For a step back in time, a visit the historic Belle Meade Plantation will transport you to 1887 and the genteel lifestyle of the Harding-Jackson family. At one time the farm comprised 5,400 acres of fields and farms and was considered the country's premier thoroughbred nursery for the breeding and training of race horses. In fact, many of the greatest champions of today including Secretariat, Funny Cide, Smarty Jones and Barbarro can trace their bloodlines back to Bonnie Scotland - the pride of Belle Meade!

Visitors to the mansion get a comprehensive guided tour and a memorable look at life in Victorian Tennessee. Access is granted to most of the rooms and the furnishings and decor are almost completely original. Our guide was terrific and his spirited recounting of family lore and Nashville history brought the era to life. A self-guided tour of the grounds and outbuildings, including stables, smokehouse, slave cabin, dollhouse and carriage house with carriages was the perfect way to enjoy the beautiful countryside. A last stop at the gift shop to pick up some Belle Meade Plantation smoked ham and I had a delicious souvenir of a lovely afternoon!

Nashville was also the adopted home of our country's seventh President, General Andrew Jackson. Orphaned at an early age, Andrew Jackson was a self-educated lawyer (he passed the Bar on his first try) and a stellar General in the U.S. Army before being elected President for two terms beginning in 1828. Known as both the champion of the common man and a slave-owning cotton farmer, Jackson earned the nickname of a "Democratic Autocrat" and a reputation for protecting the Union at all costs.

It was a 1,000 acre cotton plantation about 10 miles and a 4 1/2 hour carriage ride from downtown Nashville that Jackson and his wife Rachel called home. Purchased in 1804 and greatly expanded in 1819, the property and mansion called The Hermitage was his residence and final resting place. Unfortunately, his adopted son, Andrew Jr., was not careful with his inheritance and was forced to sell the property to the State of Tennessee just 11 years after the General's death. Since 1889 the site has been owned and preserved by the Ladies Hermitage Association who offer daily tours by costumed guides. The house itself is not as grand or as accessible as Belle Meade, but nevertheless it offers an interesting look at the private life of a controversial but respected man. Again, the self-guided tour of the grounds further illustrates the daily routine of the time and is a lovely walk past cane and cotton fields and the impressive "belted" cows that graze in a meadow.

There is a lot to see and do here in Nashville - and we haven't even touched on the main attraction, the music industry! But that's a subject for another blog and I'll be posting it soon! So, to quote our gracious Nashville hosts, "Y'all come back now, y'hear!"