Making Their Own Rules
by Marguerite Serkin
Duane Michals has never played by the rules. Almost exclusively self-taught, his storied approach to photog-raphy has grown out of years, now decades, of hard work and experience.
On view at the Bennington Museum, “Duane Michals: Photographs from the Floating World” represents the photographer’s more recent work, from 2005 to the present.
“A great wave of melancholy swept over Tanya” portrays a young woman in traditional Japanese garb, appearing in sharp deꔀnition against the softer focus of the trees and brook behind her. By contrast, in “Vincent Van Gogh,” sun똀owers dominate, with an almost incidental ꔀgure carrying a ladder, making his way among the blooms. This balance and counterbalance between human form and natural surroundings invite the viewer to look more closely, drawn in by the artist’s riveting intent…
Milton Avery was an artist compelled to create. In the face of personal adversity, deferred artistic recognition, and the turmoil of his times, Avery painted assiduously and proliꔀcally over the course of almost six decades. Now showing at the Bennington Museum, “Milton Avery’s Vermont” includes a wide scope of paintings, watercolors, and sketches inspired during the artist’s stays in Vermont between 1935 and 1943.
“Country Brook” (1938) portrays, in dramatically blunt strokes, bathers enjoying an outing to the local swimming hole. Simply rendered yet alluring in its textural warmth, the painting exudes the artist’s found pleasure in this natural pursuit. Among the watercolors on display, “New England Autumn” (1937) illus-trates Avery’s radical use of color, with blue ꔀrs, mauve foliage and a slate-tinted sky.
The summers into autumn spent in the hills of Vermont were a treasured respite from city life. The Vermont countryside, replete with hues of maples, barns and all manner of burgeoning growth, afforded the artist an opportunity to further stretch the boundaries of his use of color and form. Changing landscape allowed Avery’s interpretive vision to trans-form the pastoral views, in keeping with his singular approach of blending the abstract with the observed.