the fabulous life of dolores olmedo

Dolores-OlmedoDolores Olmedo had quite the colorful life. As a young girl from a working class background she caused a scandal when her family discovered that she had posed nude for the painter Diego Rivera. Forbidden to see the artist anymore, it wasn’t until many years later that their paths crossed again, by which time Olmedo had become one of the richest women in Mexico – both a successful businesswoman, philanthropist, and patron of the arts. Rivera was broke, close to dying, and concerned about his legacy. At his urging she went on a buying spree, amassing a major collection of the painter’s canvases in addition to works by Frida Kahlo, Diego’s wife, with whom Olmedo had a tempestuous friendship fraught with jealousy over Rivera’s affections. After Kahlo and Rivera’s deaths she bought a 16th century hacienda in southern Mexico City, which she later converted into a museum and shrine to her life of passionate collecting. Not only does the five-building complex hold her entire store of pre-Hispanic, colonial, folk, modern and contemporary art, but also the largest holdings of Kahlo and Rivera anywhere – and her private chambers, filled with extravagant displays of ivory and porcelain, showcase photos of Olmedo with virtually every famous person in the world.

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beyond the lanai

sopheap pich 3

Sculptor Sopheap Pich lives in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, working primarily in rattan and bamboo, constructing and weaving organic and plant forms which are at once solid and ethereal. His sculptures – currently installed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in a disappointingly offhand and rather ragtag display – move between abstraction and representation: the open weave construction allowing the free circulation of air in and out of the forms. Rattan and bamboo are ubiquitous to Cambodia, especially thriving in the wild mountains, where harvesting it is both difficult and dangerous. These natural materials are integral to life in Southeast Asia – from housing and baskets to fish traps and waterwheels – and the artist’s use of such demanding, difficult-to-tame media speaks to a generation that came of age under the Khmer Rouge-led government of Kampuchea. Combining the visualization of a painter with the spatial conceptualization of a sculptor, Pich literally draws in space with these materials, creating three-dimensional objects which consciously evoke the spirit of a very personal, poignant place.

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sopheap pich sculpture

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stones in his pockets

Designed by the artist himself, the Noguchi Museum opened in 1985 as the first and only museum in the country to be founded by an artist during his or her lifetime and dedicated to their work. The collection occupies a renovated photogravure building in an industrial part of Long Island City, Queens, that dates to the 1920’s and focuses on Isamu Noguchi’s extensive production, articulating the cultural times in which he worked, the many major cultural figures with whom he engaged, and his influence on the art and design of today. One of the most important artists of the 20th century, American-born Noguchi (1904 – 1988) began his apprenticeship with Brancusi in Paris before moving on to expand traditional notions of sculpture. Creating gardens, playgrounds, fountains, stage settings, lighting and together with Charles Nelson and George Eames, a line of influential modern furniture under the aegis of Herman Miller, Noguchi bridged the gap between East and West, creating landmarks in the process of integrating seemingly disparate disciplines. What is so difficult to comprehend in two-dimensional photographs  – and so fascinating to ponder in situ – is the ethereal sense of lightness Noguchi brought to bear in major compositions of marble and basalt. On the ride back to Manhattan, a quality I had never before ascribed to stone kept popping into my head:  pliant.

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