Sunday, December 07, 2008

George Tooker: A Retrospective

On Saturday afternoon, I joined Anthony Santella and his crew in a visit to the National Academy Museum on Fifth Avenue at 89th Street. Our purpose in checking out this modest neighbor of the Guggenheim was to see its temporary exhibit entitled "George Tooker: A Retrospective."

Tooker, a native New Yorker (born 1920) who lives in Vermont, is a recipient of the National Medal of the Arts. He is noted, at least in part, for having worked exclusively with egg tempera paint. Tooker's works addressed many of the social questions of the second half of the 20th century.

In an article on the exhibit at America, Karen Sue Smith states, "Deeply spiritual and therefore attuned to social injustice and destructive societal trends, Tooker painted his most provocative works as protests against racism, alienation, government surveillance of citizens and homophobia."

Some of the works in the exhibit included:

Self-Portrait, 1947

Government Bureau, 1956

Father and Child, 2000

, 1964

Embrace of Peace, 1986 (The museum's description of this painting noted that it at least partly reflects the "kiss of peace" during the Mass prior to Communion. Tooker became a Catholic in 1976.)

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After completing our tour of the National Academy Museum, we walked south on Fifth Avenue to The Frick Collection at 70th Street. I don't think I had ever been inside it before. The number of major works in the collection was overwhelming. Naturally, as I toured the galleries, I kept in mind that the collection's founder was a son of Western Pennsylvania -- and that his great fortune stemmed from the region's Industrial-era coke and steel plants.

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