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Three to see: New York

From an outside artist to the art of portrait medals

by The Art Newspaper  |  11 May 2017
Three to see: New York
Carlo Zinelli, Untitled, made in the San Giacomo Hospital, Verona, Italy (1961). (Photo by Henri Germond/copyright Fondazione Culturale Carlo Zinelli)
Carlo Zinelli (1916-74) at the American Folk Art Museum (until 20 August) is the first US solo show of this self-taught Italian artist who had a breakdown after his time fighting in the Spanish Civil War. In 1947, having lost his ability to communicate verbally, he permanently entered a psychiatric hospital in Verona. There, he took up drawing in 1955 and painting two years later. The exhibition presents 55 of his compelling works in tempera that often feature frenetic, repeating motifs of human or animal figures in bright colours. Many of the works were painted on both sides of the paper, and presented recto and verso in the show.

Charlemagne Palestine’s Bear Mitzvah in Meshugahland at the Jewish Museum (until 6 August) is an exercise in maximalism. The installation, which includes hundreds of colourful teddy bears, mirrors, suitcases, a piano and at least one disco ball, is a meditation on Palestine’s roots. In 1902, the teddy bear was invented by Jewish immigrants in the Brooklyn neighbourhood where Palestine was born. Their toy was meant to commemorate president Theodore Roosevelt's refusal to shoot a bear cub that had been readied for him on a hunting trip. Appropriately, some of the bears in Palestine's installation wear yarmulkes and tallitot. In the background plays eerie music scored by the artist, which complicates an otherwise cheery atmosphere.

To celebrate a gift by the collectors Stephen K. and Janie Woo Scher of 450 portrait medals to the Frick Collection, the museum is presenting 130 of them in the exhibition The Pursuit of Immortality: Masterpieces from the Scher Collection of Portrait Medals (until 10 September). The show includes works by Pisanello, who is considered the first medal portraitist, as well as items that commemorate the French Revolution and the failed Pazzi conspiracy to remove the Medici family from power in 15th-century Florence. The beautifully-installed exhibition is designed so that many of the works can be seen from both sides. In the fall of 2018, a catalogue will be published documenting the nearly 1,000 items in the couple's collection.

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