After Las Meninas Reviews
Toronto Life | October, 2007
by David Balzer
Source: click here
Podeswa likes to duel with the old masters. His last show, After Las Meninas, was a series of paintings deconstructing the famous Velázquez portrait. His new Redux takes on Rembrandt's The Night Watch, replacing figures in the original with geometric shapes. The focal point of the show is a grouping of 10-inch-square canvases that break down elements of Rembrandt's work over grids: one painting, for instance, dwells exclusively on the sashes worn by Captain Cocq, his lieutenant.
When: Oct. 3/07 - Oct. 27/07
Globe and Mail | Saturday, February 25, 2006
by Gary Michael Dault
Within the affable, rumpled, homey, aw-shucks kind of guy Toronto artist Howard Podeswa appears to be lurks an incandescently brilliant and strangely visionary mind -- and heart.
He has spent a lot of selfless time in South Africa, for example, "just helping out" in one of the urgently needful villages he found there a few years ago. Last year he published a book of computer systems analysis called UML for the ITBA (Unified Modelling Language for the Information Technology Business Analyst). Some of the computer diagrams, he simply dreamed, Podeswa tells me with a certain childlike wonder in his voice, adding that they proved to work.
He is also an artist of prodigious gifts, much given, earlier in his career, to painting the fruits and vegetables piled near what used to be his Kensington Market studio. You want an unforgettable painting of a red pepper or a bundle of asparagus? Podeswa is your man. There is a Podeswa painting of a stalk of Brussels sprouts in a Kensington Market coffee shop that is the very apotheosis of that baroque vegetable.
Speaking of the baroque brings us to this new exhibition of Podeswa's at Peak Gallery, titled After Las Meninas. Las Meninas, usually translated, misleadingly, as The Ladies-in-Waiting, or, better, as The Royal Family, is the undisputed masterpiece of the great Spanish painter Diego Velazquez (1599-1660).
This mysterious and endlessly interpreted painting, which is in the Prado in Madrid, shows Velazquez working on a gigantic canvas, presumably a double portrait of King Philip IV of Spain and his wife, Queen Mariana, accompanied by their daughter, the Infanta Margarita, and various ladies in waiting, some of whom are dwarfs, such as Mari Barbola, known as the "dwarf of dreadful appearance."
The virtuoso painting is enigmatic in the extreme, beginning with questions about who is where. Where, exactly, are the royal couple? Velazquez seems to be looking intently out at us. So do they, his ostensible subjects, occupy the same space we do as viewers (i.e. outside the canvas)? Or is that them reflected in what appears to be a mirror on the far wall of the room where Velazquez is painting?
Anyhow, the questions, which may be finally unanswerable, pile up.
The questions pile up in Podeswa's show too: He saw the Velazquez at the Prado and was never able to forget it. And the current show, which opens today, is made up of the artist's obsessive and often puzzling anatomy of the painting, and of other paintings he has related to it -- Rembrandt's The Night Watch, for example, and works by John Singer Sargent and Thomas Eakins.
Much of the show is sketchy, unsettlingly sketchy. The paintings are Podeswa feeling his way into the masters he so passionately admires and their tentativeness is both understandable and, frankly, a bit off-putting. The best paintings here are the ones agglomerated with pigment, like the face of Mari Barbola conflated with the face of his own son.
$1,000-$8,000. Until March 18, 23 Morrow Ave., Toronto; 416-537-8108
The Toronto Star |
Saturday, March 11, 2006
By Peter Goddard
Most auction house officials agree that the mother of all sales prices for a single painting would go for Las Meninas (1656), by Diego Rodriguez de Silva Velazquez, if it were ever put on the art market. (This is not likely since the work is the absolute gem of the Prado museum's collection in Madrid, its Mona Lisa.)Painted by the 17th-century Spanish court painter following the second trip he took to Italy, it shows the young princess Margareta Teresa with her maids — the English title is The Maids of Honour — and a court dwarf. It also shows the painter. Generations of artists — Picasso painted some 40 of his own takes on Las Meninas — have referred to it. Now there's Howard Podeswa with his new exhibition, "After Las Meninas" (Peak Gallery, 23 Morrow Ave., until next Saturday). The Toronto artist admits to having been "under the spell" of the painting since he saw it in 1998 in the Prado. "It has been difficult for me to paint without thinking of Las Meninas," he says. "Eventually it became an obsession that I had to shake before I could carry on with my own work."Although he started out "to do my own Meninas," as he puts it, the show is mostly about the obsession. The Walkers (after Las Meninas) (2005) is Podeswa's most direct riff on the original. Rather than going mano-a-mano with Velazquez, Podeswa creates his somewhat vaudeville version of Las Meninas, boisterously reproducing characters more or less as they are depicted in the original, with two exceptions. For one, Podeswa has replaced the image of the painter with his own. The second exception is a twisted version of the court dwarf, now transformed into a figure almost as fractured and menacing as anything by the late British painter Francis Bacon. Elsewhere in the show, Podeswa visits Las Meninas as if he was on a visit via the Internet, investigating select aspects of the original. There's Maribarola (after Las Meninas), a painting that zooms in on the royal kids, presumably watching their parents sitting for the painter. The Dwarfs (after Las Meninas) investigates the intriguing figure on the lower right corner of the painting — from the viewer's standpoint — much the way a Las Vegas casino surveillance system camera might zero in on some dodgy customer. In other works, Podeswa references work by other artists likewise referencing Las Meninas. He similarly riffs on works by John Singer Sargent — namely The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit (1882) — and Rembrandt. "Las Meninas is the Holy Grail of painting," Podeswa tells me. "It's very much about painting itself. There is a guild of painters of sorts and he, Velazquez, is the first person who ever gave us credit as painters. He really fought for us. He put everything you can do into this painting. Yet it's still a puzzle. It has the planning of a cool classicist behind it. "Yet it's also romantic. You can feel the brush dancing across it. He was a realist too. He opened up the room as a hologram. You can figure out the point where it goes from being blobs of paint to opening up the real thing."