Alice Neel: Hot Off the Griddle

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Alice Neel: Hot Off the Griddle

Alice Neel: Hot Off the Griddle

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One of the reasons I painted was to catch life as it goes by, right hot off the griddle…the vitality is taken out of real living,” said the committed American painter, Alice Neel, a feminist and activist, whose work still looks ahead of her time. They are a stark insight into struggle, vulnerability and pain, where the material conditions of living are inscribed on the bodies she paints.

The art critic lies back, voluntarily naked, in the thick pelt of his own body hair: an ape of an odalisque.

She holds a paintbrush in one hand, a rag in another, but omits the canvas itself, perhaps to expose the rawness of her being more, to force us to look harder.

Or take Neel’s own self-portrait, which she didn't come round to painting until she was 80 years old. In October 1955, FBI agents visited Neel to question her regarding her ties to the Communist party – this was at the height of the Cold War, when she had been identified as a ‘romantic, Bohemian type Communist’ . From photographs of her time in Cuba and Harlem, through to FBI investigation documents* and imagery of Neel reading the newspaper in her living-room, surrounded by her work.It looks every inch like it was painted today, not nearly half a century ago, such is the extraordinary influence that Neel exerts on contemporary figuration right now, especially in New York. Each of Neel’s subjects is treated with the same dignity, but it would be a mistake to read Neel’s paintings as empowering. She persisted with her distinctive, expressionistic style, even though it meant that for most of her life she lacked material comfort, let alone critical recognition. No matter the subject, Neel painted with an untrammelled energy that reveals the humanity of her subjects. Elsewhere, the Fluxus artist Geoffrey Hendricks and his open-shirted lover Brian Buczak are pictured like tired-eyed hipsters wearing their clothes from the night before.

Yet even with all this going on, Neel’s brush takes you back every time to the central fact of his gleeful face. The downstairs galleries at the Barbican are dedicated to highlights of Neel’s later portrait paintings from the 1960s and 1970s, when she made some of her most celebrated work.With the exception of occasional panoramas, mostly of demonstrations—police on horseback charging striking workers; protestors marching in 1936, carrying signs that read ‘Nazis murder Jews’—Neel’s subjects are seated and still.



  • Fruugo ID: 258392218-563234582
  • EAN: 764486781913
  • Sold by: Fruugo

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