Tuesday, July 20, 2010

MOMA: Matisse: Radical Invention

While I am happy to be living in San Francisco and can't complain about the wonderful art on view here, there's no doubt that New York has it all and then some. Right now, MOMA is hosting a show that is tempting me to break my rule never to travel in the summer.

Bathers by the River (@ MOMA)

The Museum of Modern Art’s extraordinary “Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913-1917” is not your garden-variety Matisse exhibition. It contains few signs of the artist who said a painting should be the equivalent of a soothing armchair. By the end of this show you may wonder if that Matisse ever really existed, despite his much-quoted, overinterpreted words to that effect.  

On view from July 18 through October 11, 2010, at The Museum of Modern Art, the exhibition examines paintings, sculptures, drawings, and prints made by the artist between his return to Paris from Morocco in 1913 to his departure for Nice in 1917. Over these five years, he developed his most demanding, experimental, and enigmatic works: paintings that are abstracted, often purged of descriptive detail, geometrically composed, and dominated by blacks and grays. Comprising nearly 110 of the artist’s works, "Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913–1917" is the first exhibition devoted to this period, thoroughly exploring Matisse’s working processes and the revolutionary experimentation of what he called his “methods of modern construction.”

Roberta Smith at the NY Times:
"Radical Invention” offers a view of a driven, even tormented Matisse, who second-guessed himself, rethought and reworked his images and often left them looking bracingly fresh and conditional, even unfinished. We see an artist increasingly interested in making clear not just his painting process, but also a kind of emotional concentration that, while hardly Expressionist, did not exactly exemplify the Olympian detachment habitually attributed to him. 

Christopher Knight at the LA TImes:
 If the world is coming apart at the seams and society's provisional fabric is being shredded, how does an artist respond? With anger? Analysis? Denial? Disinterest?

That's a question that thrums through a breathtaking exhibition.  And in the case of its subject, the great French painter Henri Matisse (1869-1954), the answer is not so simple.

But if you can't travel, there is always the web (plus no hassling with crowds)

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