Monday, March 31, 2014

Gauguin: Metamorphoses at MoMA

By Charles Kessler

I've seen a lot of Gauguin's art in the last few years: Gauguin, Cézanne, Matisse: Visions of Arcadia at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2012;  Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne and Beyond: Post-Impressionist Masterpieces from the Musée at the de Young Museum, San Francisco, in 2011; and Drawings and Prints from the Clark Museum last summer at the Frick had some Gauguin prints. In addition, I saw the major retrospective Gauguin: Maker of Myth at the National Gallery in Washington in 2011.
Installation view of the  exhibition Gauguin: Metamorphoses at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
But the current exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, Gauguin: Metamorphoses (thru June 8th), is different in that it places Gauguin's prints in the context of his other work and makes the case for the importance of prints in Gauguin's oeuvre.

I’m frankly not a fan of Gauguin’s paintings, especially his later work, the work he made in Tahiti. I find them crowded and airless, the drawing inept, the brushwork awkward and without expressive purpose, and his colors boring usually falling back on muddy greens with a contrasting shock of bright orange. 
Paul Gauguin, Hina Tefatou (The Moon and the Earth), 1893, oil on burlap, 45 x 24 ½ inches (MoMA).
And I'm suspicious of Gauguin's primitive exoticism. He was a bit of a phony. He claimed to be an “Incan savage,” but his mother was Peruvian nobility and he spent his early childhood in Lima. And he said he went to Tahiti to search for a lost paradise, which might be true, but mostly he wanted to escape his wife and children and money problems. Tahiti, as he must have quickly learned, was not the earthly paradise he depicted in his art, so I can’t help feeling there’s a calculated disingenuousness about his romanticized primitivism.

However, one thing that Gauguin got better at, as this exhibition so nicely demonstrates, is his prints –most of which he did in the last few years of his life. Line in Gauguin's prints is freer than in his paintings – it doesn't get clogged up by the clunky paint-handling and dense composition. And he is more inventive and experimental with his prints than his paintings. Using the same wood block, for example, several versions of the Oviri prints radically change because of the way they are inked, the size, color and texture of the paper, and by the additions of color.  
Paul Gauguin, Oviri, 1894, five versions from the same woodcut block, each approximately 8 x 4 ¾ inches.
Best of all, his prints aren’t dependent on exotic subject matter, but rather they are explorations of the printing medium itself. To this end he recycled old images from his paintings, from other prints, and from his sculpture (see below). Ironically, these prints are more authentically mysterious and haunting than his self-consciously exotic paintings.
Paul Gauguin, Oviri, 1984, partly enameled stoneware, 29 ½ x 7 ½ x 10 ⅝ inches (Musée d'Orsay, Paris).
My favorite Gauguin prints are his last ones, the ones he did using a technique called oil transfer. He would coat a sheet of paper with printers ink and place a blank sheet over that and draw on it, transferring the ink to the back of the paper, making a two-sided print/drawing. Then he would work further into the print with other mediums like charcoal or crayon. The result is an ephemeral, ghost-like image.
Paul Gauguin, Left: Crouching Tahitian Woman Seen From The Back, c. 1901-2, oil transfer drawing with crayon additions,  sheet: 12 ½ x 10 3/16 inches (private collection); Right: Animal Studies, 1901-02, oil transfer drawing in black and red on thin wove paper laid down on wove paper, sheet: 12 9/16 x 9 ⅞ inches (NGA, Washington).
This MoMA exhibition is one of those all-too-rare shows that makes a real contribution to the understanding of art, Gauguin's art in particular. See it if you can.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Journal Square, Jersey City

By Charles Kessler

Saturday I saw The Lost Collection, the latest exhibition at ShuaSpace, a dance/performance/visual arts space in the Journal Square neighborhood of Jersey City. It was a compelling, entertaining and often moving installation by Laura Quattrocchi, the co-director (with Joshua Bisset) of Shua Group.
Installation view, The Lost Collection, by Laura Quattrocchi (on the right; Joshua Bisset is on the left).
Since 2007, Quattrocchi has been collecting and documenting items people have lost – hats, gloves, baby shoes, etc.. Photographs of the objects at the site they were found are installed on the walls of the gallery, and many of the objects themselves are hung from the ceiling – each carefully labelled with the location and date it was found. It's a strange and joyously colorful environment, and a little sad sometimes. I was touched by the care taken to document, preserve and display these forlorn objects.

The walk to ShuaSpace got me thinking about the viability of Journal Square as an arts district. There’s no reason, other than bad city planning, that Journal Square isn't thriving and culturally vital. It used to be the center of commercial activity in Jersey City, and it's still a major transportation center. The PATH train ride to the World Trade Center takes only 15 minutes, and to the Village only 20 minutes. Bus passengers from all over the area used to walk by and patronize stores and restaurants on their way to and from the PATH train. But in the early seventies, the Port Authority moved the buses into a bunker-like building that walled itself off from the street. Journal Square has gone downhill economically ever since.

Journal Square has many cultural resources ready to be tapped. Hudson County Community College (with its excellent culinary school) is in Journal Square, and the 30-acre campus of Saint Peter's University is nearby. Mana Contemporary, which I wrote about here, is a short walk from the PATH.
Google Street View showing about half of Mana Contemporary.
Mana is more than a million square feet large and consists of art storage (for almost every major museum in the area), a couple of hundred artist studios, dance rehearsal spaces, exhibition spaces, sculpture studios – the works! And the walk to Mana is a delight, passing by several blocks of a lively Indian neighborhood with great Indian restaurants, fragrant food markets and colorful jewelry and clothing stores.

Journal Square has two Baroque-style ornate movie palaces built in the late twenties. The Stanley Theater has been beautifully restored and is now used as an Assembly Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses. (Rumor is that it’s for sale.) And the 3000-seat Loew's Jersey Theater, lovingly restored by the Friends of the Loew's who saved the building from being demolished, is now used for movies, music and other events including last weekend's successful StageFest.
The lobby of the Loew's Theater with Meagan Woods & Company performing the dance Incurable as part of StageFest.
Perhaps even more important for the area is that Art House Productions, a prodigiously active performing and visual arts organization, will be moving there soon.

But Journal Square suffers from two main problems. The city should persuade the Port Authority to open up their building to the street, the way Alice Tully Hall was, and perhaps go back to having at least some of the buses end their run outside the Transportation Center, in the business district.

The other problem is the area needs to be more pedestrian-friendly. Some major traffic calming along Kennedy Boulevard, an eight-lane street/highway dividing the PATH from the commercial areas, would make it easier, safer and more pleasant to cross. Perhaps wider sidewalks and a large, attractive meridian to narrow the street might also be helpful.
Google Street View of the PATH Transportation Center in Journal Square on the left, and Kennedy Boulevard. 
A proposed enormous residential development near the PATH is ridiculously out of scale with the rest of the area (it includes an 85-story building!), but IF it's done right it could help Journal Square. If the development isn't another walled community that people drive into and never leave, it could mean more people on the street, more customers for stores and restaurants, etc., and a greater sense of public safety. 
Kushner Real Estate's proposed development in Journal Square.
Of major concern is a disturbing quote from the developer Jeff Persky, describing the project as a “self-contained neighborhood.”  This would be disastrous if allowed. The same developer (with help, and some pressure, from the community and the city government) did an excellent job of creating a public plaza at the Downtown Jersey City PATH station next to their Grove Pointe development. If the city is going to allow them to build very high in Journal Square, a similar public plaza should be required. In addition, retail or some other public use that's open to everyone should be on the ground floor. Street level certainly shouldn't be for something like a parking structure.

There's great potential for making Journal Square a lively and vital cultural center and an asset to the region. Let's hope they don't blow it!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Thinking About Everything And Nothing

Essay for the exhibition Nothing is Everything at Pagus Projects, Norristown, PA (opening March 22nd).  
By Carl Belz

Nothing is everything. The existential proposition is appealing, particularly in relation to visual art. But not all of it. Not art that originates in the purposeful urge to engage directly social or political issues and concerns, for instance, or undertake partisan cultural or institutional critique, or promote exclusively an ideology of one sort or another – in other words, and regardless of quality, not art that’s subsumed first and last by service to a personal agenda or theoretical program. Instead, art that addresses the ways of the world from a position that’s oblique to them, art that is self-aware in acknowledging its limits and autonomous in its being – art as art that stakes its all on being knowable in and of itself and is otherwise good for nothing. And why does such art mean everything to us? Because its ongoing process of knowing and acknowledging is synonymous with the experience of coming to ourselves from within rather than without, and too because it so candidly mirrors what modern experience – what our being in the world in the first place – is itself all about.  

The art I’m referring to, modernist art, includes the paintings in this exhibition, a genre of abstraction representing a vital thread within the larger fabric of abstract painting, one whose history now reaches back a full century. In terms of formal character, it generally looks like painting that’s been pared down to its essentials – to a single field of color, for instance, or a few elemental stripes and shapes, often geometric, that are presented singularly or in some kind of progression – hence, its designation as reductive, monochromatic, minimal, systemic and so forth. It’s painting that risks appearing not as non-art, not as ordinary things like readymades – a sub genre that’s tracked abstraction since its beginning – but as art in which there seems to be nothing going on or nothing to look at, art that’s been drained of art’s usual effects and signifiers, as though it’s art in name only, art that may even be nugatory.        

The risk has not been merely academic. While reductive and minimal-type paintings have historically not wanted for meaning, their meaning as perceived has at times fluctuated dramatically between the all-or-nothing extremes of everything and nothing. Kasimir Malevich’s seminal White On White, a white square in a white field, envisioned via pure geometries a utopian future imbued with pure artistic feeling, yet his art was quickly condemned under the Stalin Regime of the 1920s as a negation of life’s and nature’s’ purities, and he was ordered to paint as a social realist or not paint at all. A full generation younger than Malevich, Barnett Newman came to maturity in the early 1950s with paintings consisting of vast color fields inflected only with a few slender vertical stripes – zips, as he called them – radically simplified paintings for which he audaciously claimed a life-altering experience of the sublime but which, when exhibited, brought instead mostly ridicule – they were considered empty and pretentious – a response that turned Newman from publicly showing his work for most of the decade. A third generation in this Malevich-Newman line is represented by Frank Stella, a steadfast admirer of the work of both older artists, who wanted in his celebrated Black Paintings, the first of the stripe paintings he developed between 1959 and 1965, not any supra significance – no utopian purity, no sublime – only abstract images that would present themselves front and center with unequivocal punch and authority, everything about them clear and accessible, requiring nothing but a willingness to look in order to understand them. You can imagine the artist’s dismay when a critic designated them nihilist Dada abstractions!

Stuart Fineman, Alan Greenberg and Karen Baumeister are not likely to encounter the resistance, let alone the hostility, faced by their forebears. A full half-century of lean-looking abstraction now informs the historical record and occupies a firm position in the lexicon of painting within the art of our time. Which is not to say they don’t face a challenge in wanting to find a responsive audience for their pictures within the ebb and flow of today’s cultural environment – an environment ubiquitously laced with cynicism and irony, bound to mass media, visually glutted, serving up art as spectacle and entertainment, and promising instant gratification while racing breathlessly and inexorably to the next great thing. Against that backdrop, which is nothing if not challenging, they present us with lean-looking pictures that picture nothing, that are reticent, that are slow to reveal themselves and their pleasures, pictures of the sort that are at their best when encountered not in clusters before crowds but one-on-one and face-to-face, the way we encounter one another, which is how we come to know fully everything they are. Our current cultural environment puts such pictures at risk, not only in increasing the odds against our getting their meaning right but against our finding time to get any of their meaning at all.

Alan Greenberg:
Alan Greenberg, Five Holes, 2014, acrylic and gesso on plaster, 37 x 24 ½ x 2 ¼ inches. 
And what are the pleasures we miss if in thrall to our culture’s hurried visual cacophony? In the case of Alan Greenberg’s slabs of color – they sometimes look like painting-sculpture hybrids – it’s the pleasure that attaches to their substantial and visually engaging physical presence, to the vital way they assert themselves via richly worked surfaces variously scarred and smoothed, edges rough yet supple, bulk that’s sometimes ample and sometimes spare, sometimes firm and sometimes yielding – that is, to physical presence linked not so much with things in nature, inanimate things like rock formations, but more meaningfully with the spectrum of experiences we associate with our own bodies and with the human body generally. Not the body as we imagine and dream it – the body weightless in which we magically soar – rather the body obdurate that sometimes gets in our own way and over which we end up tripping ourselves – the body in lived experience; which is the same body that is also prized and celebrated here – the body capacious in enabling self expression, the body confident and resilient as well as robust and sensuous, the body as a vehicle for pleasure than which none more satisfying is known to us.
Alan Greenberg, Left: Red Two Holes, 2013, acrylic & gesso on plaster, 16 x 10 x 2 inches; Right: Red Oblong, 2014, acrylic & gesso on plaster, 24 ½ x 18 x 2 inches.
Alan Greenberg, Small Yellow/Green, 2013, acrylic & gesso on plaster, 16 x 16 x 2 inches.

Alan Greenberg, Left: Small Grey, 2013, oil, acrylic & gesso on plaster; Right: Ultramarine Blue 2013 oil, acrylic & gesso on plaster.

Karen Baumeister:
Karen Baumeister, Installation view, Left: Deep Violet Grays to Pink, 2013, acrylic on linen, 40 x 40 inches; Little Pink, 2012, acrylic on canvas, 8 x 8 inches.
Karen Baumeister’s pictorial route is physically reserved and quietly dignified, a matter of guiding her brush with a sure and gentle hand in coating everywhere the painting surface, gradually and steadily building it, unifying it stroke by stroke and layer by layer, and thereby bringing it patiently and fully to resolution.
Details of above, Karen Baumeister, Deep Violet Grays to Pink, 2013 (left); Little Pink, 2012 (right). 
In keeping with her reserve her palette is hushed, typically inclining toward soft reds and greens, grays, and off-whites, a range of color imbued with the life-giving natural light in which the paintings are made, color at the same time glowing within a quiet register of feeling that attaches to lived experience, a murmur of the heart, a fleeting thought, the whisper of a memory. Reserved yet clearly felt, the pictures are accordingly personal, even intimate; they seem made not for museums as much as for private living spaces, for times when they can be engaged and known individually and in depth – but also for moments when they catch our attention while we’re doing something else, looking up from a book, say, and we notice they’ve become bathed in natural light at a certain time of day and we thrill to see them suddenly come alive and blossom anew. Such are the pleasures of living with an art framed by the feelings that attend being human.
Installation view, Karen Baumeister, Pink Whites to Yellow, 2013, acrylic on linen, 40x40inches; and detail of Pink Whites to Yellow, 2013.

Stuart Fineman:
Stuart Fineman, untitled series/works, 2013, dry pigments and acrylic ground on paper, 44 x 22 inches.
Emphatically more than minimal in appearance, Stuart Fineman’s recent pictures are better described as field paintings in the way the layers of closely-valued pigments comprising them are made to penetrate and mingle with one another to produce a seemingly boundless, overall presence of splendrous, radiant color. A chromatic presence that’s altogether visual – intangible, that is, not a graspable thing, not a wall or a tapestry or even a veil – a presence whose inner light references phenomena like the evanescent glow of an autumnal sunset in the natural world, yet equally references the abstract, dematerialized and otherworldly world of Byzantine mosaics we know in the world of art – thus, pleasuring references that also freshen and deepen our appreciation of worlds we’re already familiar with. And further a presence directly related to modern experience via its acknowledgment that the human spirit informs our being in the world to no less an extent than the human body or the human heart, which is to say body, heart, and spirit vitally complement one another – as they complement one another within the works of each of the artists in this exhibition – in our ongoing quest to be whole in and of ourselves, a quest that may not equate with everything we might be, but one that is surely not nothing in the context of the imperfect world we live in.
Stuart Fineman, untitled series/works, 2013, dry pigments and acrylic ground on paper, 45 ½ x 22 inches.
Stuart Fineman, untitled series/works, 2013, dry pigments and acrylic ground on paper, 45 ½ x 22 inches.
Stuart Fineman, untitled series/works, 2013, dry pigments and acrylic ground on paper, 55 x 22 inches.

Carl Belz is Director Emeritus of the Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Art Seen

By Charles Kessler

First what I sadly did not see:
Hudson, the much loved and respected director of Feature Inc., died suddenly on February 10th. You can read about his many accomplishments in this obituary, but what was most remarkable about him is he never hid in a back office. His desk was always in front where he would greet people warmly. I often had interesting discussions with him about the work on exhibit or some other art topic. I'll really miss him; he was a real mensch.
Katherine Bernhardt, Stupid, Crazy, Ridiculous, Funny Patterns, Canada Gallery.
Roberta Smith gave Katherine Bernhardt's show at Canada Gallery a rave review calling it "exuberant" and done with "panache." I agree. I've loved Bernhardt's work for a long time and wrote about it several years ago, so it's nice to see she's getting the attention she's long deserved. Phil Grauer, one of Canada's directors, wondered if recognition would have taken so long if she was "one of the boys." Good question. Phil also said David Zwirner bought a painting – I sure hope she doesn't end up at Zwirner's mega-gallery and become one of the boys.

I didn't go to any art fairs this season – I hate them. I think they're demeaning to art and artists, vulgar, and mercenary; and they're so crowded that I feel herded like cattle. But there were a couple of fun (if not particularly good) huge group exhibitions timed to take advantage of all the people in town for the art fairs. The best was Spring/Break (unfortunately it ended March 9th).
Lia Chavez, Luminous Objects: Re-imagining the Large Glass Bride, curated by Tali Wertheimer, Spring/Break Art Show. 
By my count, Spring/Break had 39 different curators and about 150 artists. It took place in an old school on Prince and Mott that reminded me of the scruffy good old days of PS 1.
Simon Lee & Eve Sussman, Seitenflügal (Side Wing)2012,  single channel video, Spring/Break Art Show.
Sussman and Lee shot this video, somewhat reminiscent of Hitchcock's Rear Window, which captures a glimpse of people going about their everyday lives in an apartment building in Berlin. I found it strangely mesmerizing and at the same time uncomfortably voyeuristic.
Walter Robinson, Black Mirror, curated by Ambre Kelly and Andrew Gori, Spring/Break Art Show. 
I used to find Walter Robinson's paintings dry and illustrational. But over the years his drawing has become more economical, crisp and bold, his colors more sophisticated and interactive and glowing, and his paint handling more delicate and subtle. Robinson's subject is still pre-war pulpy eroticism, something he's been involved with since the seventies, but now the paintings are a visual delight.

Another enormous show was The Last Brucennial (through April 20th), a messy salon-style installation of almost 400 artists of widely varying quality.
It's almost impossible for good work to look good in this environment. That's one of the reasons I hate art fairs. But at least this show doesn't have the vulgar commercialism and snobbery of an art fair; on the contrary, there's a democratic egalitarianism here that's definitely not about making money, and it's very refreshing.

And of course there's the Whitney Biennial 2014 (until May 25th). This time it was organized by three curators, each separately responsible for their own floor. Except for powerful videos by Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel, I found this Biennial meh at best. Not bad, just not fresh or challenging. (See the Times review for some photos.)

I know I'm going through a period where I'm not inspired to write about the work I've been seeing, and it may be a general (I hope temporary) lack of enthusiasm. But I honestly felt that everything in this Biennial looked self-consciously hip and lacked any true authenticity or vision. What good art there was, such as paintings by Louise Fishman, Jacqueline Humphries, Dona Nelson and Amy Sillman, I've seen plenty of times before.

This is the last Biennial in this building. Next year the Whitney moves to a new building near the High Line in the Meatpacking District. Here's a rendering of what the new building, designed by Renzo Piano, will look like:
Image courtesy of Renzo Piano Building Workshop in collaboration with Cooper, Robertson & Partners.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Beat Nite Bushwick/Ridgewood

By Charles Kessler

February 28th was the tenth semi-annual Beat Nite, an event in Bushwick and Ridgewood where about a dozen galleries stay open after hours. It's organized by the tirelessly enterprising Jason Andrew of Norte Maar, and  the galleries that participated in this one were chosen by artist/gallerist Austin Thomas of Pocket Utopia Gallery.

It was cold, and the galleries were spread out over a large area, so ordinarily I would have only gone to about half of them. Fortunately I was lucky enough to be offered a seat on a bus that made the rounds of all the galleries. And touring around with a group was a nice way to meet some interesting people.

Here are some highlights:
Valentine Gallery – The paintings are by Patricia Satterlee. She's in the center wearing a red scarf.
This was a perfect jewel of a show not only because the art was good, but the work of each artist played off of, and illuminated, the work of the others. The artists in the show were David Henderson, Jude Tallichet, and Patricia Satterlee (one of my favorite painters). Unfortunately the show closed March 9th.

Parallel Art Space has had a Jersey City connection. They collaborated on an exhibition with Jersey City's excellent Curious Matter Gallery, and the director of Parallel, Enrico Gomez, has attended Jersey City art openings; in fact I had a genial conversation with him last week at a JC Fridays event.
Parallel Art Space – reliefs by Kim Tram.

Airplane is a basement space with a back yard where sculpture is sometimes exhibited. They are finally getting some attention for their consistently excellent shows.
Airplane Gallery.

Signal usually exhibits monumental sculptures, wall murals and large paintings. The concrete parabolic sculpture in the back (called a "sound mirror") focuses and amplifies ambient sounds, and a microphone in the center picks up and alters the sound, creating a feedback loop.
Tim Bruniges – Mirrors, Signal Gallery. In the foreground, Julie Martin, the director of E.A.T. (Experiments in Art and Technology) is talking to Jason Andrew, the director of Norte Maar.

Centotto is a small apartment gallery run by the brilliant poet/artist and Doctor of Italian Literature, Paul D'Agostino. Most of Centotto's exhibitions have an evening or two devoted to discussions about the work.
Work by Ben Godward at Centotto Gallery.

English Kills is known not only for the consistently first-rate work they exhibit, but also for the congenial BBQs and pot lucks they do in their side yard. Brent Owens, to his credit, created a wide range of painted wood sculptures and reliefs (yes, the work that looks like hanging carpets in this photo is carved and painted wood). People loved this work – Owens is an artist to watch.
Brent Owens, For Thinkin' Long and Dark, English Kills Gallery.

This was the fourth Beat Nite I've been to, and if you haven't gone yet, I highly recommend you go to the next one if you can. To be notified of future Beat Nites and other worthwhile events, subscribe to Norte Maar's newsletter here

Thursday, March 6, 2014

A Weekend in New Haven

By Charles Kessler

I highly recommend New Haven to all art lovers. It's still a bit funky, but it's become a lot better — less crime, more good restaurants and interesting stores, and lots of first-rate music, dance and theater available (we saw the play 4000 Miles at the Long Wharf Theater and loved it). And New Haven is still relatively affordable.
And of course there's Yale – it's gorgeous, the epitome of a Gothic Ivy-league college; and Yale's cultural resources are extraordinary. The Beinecke Rare Book Library, one of the largest collections of rare books and manuscripts in the world, is worth a trip in itself. There is something about this multi-story glass display of books, presented as if they're holy, that's profoundly moving.
Panoramic of the interior of The Beinecke Rare Book Library.
When I visited, there was an comprehensive exhibition of endpapers – Under the Covers: A Visual History of Decorated Endpapers (until May 28th).
William Wordsworth, Winnowings from Wordsworth ..., 188?, Edinburgh. (I can't find the exact size but it was small, about 4 - 5 inches tall.)
Endpapers are sheets of paper pasted to the inside covers of books. It began as a way to protect medieval illuminations from the wear of wood covers, but over time they were used for purely decorative purposes. This exhibition traces the development of endpapers from their beginning, in medieval times, until the present – all from the Beineke's own collection.

There's also the Yale Center for British Art, the largest collection of British art outside the United Kingdom with a collection of about 2000 paintings and 200 sculptures. Not being a great fan of most British art, I didn't go there again this time.

And then there's Yale's outstanding encyclopedic museum where I spent most of my time. I wrote about the Yale Art Gallery last year, soon after they opened the newly restored and much enlarged new space. This trip I was able to spend more time on individual works.
Marcel Duchamp, American, Tu m’, 1918, oil on canvas, with bottlebrush, safety pins, and bolt, 27 1/2 x 119 5/16 inches (gift of the Estate of Katherine S. Dreier – 1953.6.4). 
Tu m' is Marcel Duchamp's farewell to painting, and it's a summing up of his past work. I must have seen this painting a dozen times over the years, but I've focused on its conceptual aspects. I never realized how beautifully painted it is – how delicate and sensual.
Detail: Marcel Duchamp, Tu m'.
Detail: Marcel Duchamp, Tu m'. (Duchamp hired a sign painter to paint the hand.)
And after a close examination, I also noticed this strange beading around the bottom edge of the painting like a black gritty caulk.
Detail: Marcel Duchamp, Tu m' (bottom of left side).
I never read anything about this, but you can be sure, knowing what Duchamp scholars are like, someone has written a long brilliant essay on it.

Some of my other "discoveries" from this visit are:
Carlo Crivelli, Saint Peter, ca. 1470, tempera on panel, 11 9/16 x 8  7/16 inches (gift of Hannah D. and Louis M. Rabinowitz – 1959.15.15).
This is a small painting, about letter-size, but I enlarged the photo here so you can see how dramatic it is close up. Saint Peter, as Crivelli depicts him here, is not someone who will easily give up the key to heaven.

Another small painting that I spent time with and savored is this glowing Seurat:
Georges Seurat, Black Cow in a Meadow, ca. 1881, oil on panel, framed: 6 1/8 x 9 1/2 inches
(gift of Walter J. Kohler – 1969.96.1).
This Andrea del Sarto is on loan so the Yale Gallery website doesn't have a reproduction of it, but luckily I was able to take a pretty good photo. I was struck by how modern it looks.
Andrea del Sarto, Portrait of Bernardo Accolti, c. 1528-30, oil on panel (private collection).
According to the typically informative wall label, Andrea painted this rapidly from a memory of meeting Bernardo Accolti about fifteen years earlier. Remarkable!

I also paid more attention to this Manet, a painting obviously influenced by Goya's Clothed Maja. 
Édouard Manet, Reclining Young Woman in Spanish Costume, 1862–63, oil on canvas, framed: 46 7/8 x 54 5/16 inches (bequest of Stephen Carlton Clark – 1961.18.33).
Detail: bottom right, Édouard Manet, Reclining Young Woman in Spanish Costume. 
I know, I know, I'm a sucker, but I'm totally charmed by the playful kitten on the bottom right.

There were also several temporary exhibitions, and two of my favorites were:
Red Grooms: Larger Than Life (until March 30th) – his fun homage to the great artists of the twentieth century.
Installation view, Red Grooms: Larger Than Life.
This show was all from Yale's own collection and included several very large paintings and twenty preparatory cartoons and other drawings.
Red Grooms, Cedar Bar, 1986, colored pencil, colored crayons, and watercolor on five sheets of paper, mounted to board and framed in artist's wood frame, framed:119 1/2 x 324 x 3 inches (Charles B. Benenson Collection – 2006.52.56). 
And finally, Byobu: The Grandeur of Japanese Screensan exquisite exhibition of Japanese screens, mainly from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Every one of them was breathtaking. This show was filled out by work from private collections.
Flowering Cherry with Poem Slips, Japanese, Edo period, 17th century. Right screen from a pair of six-panel folding screens: ink, mineral color, gold, and silver on paper (collection of Peggy and Richard M. Danziger).