Posts Tagged ‘Matta’

Blackpaint 109

April 13, 2010

Pompidou Centre (cont.)

The main collection at the Pompidou hasn’t changed that much since 2004, when I was last there: there are Matisses and Kandinskys throughout, or so it seems; a great collection of Fauves – Mat himself, Vlaminck, Dufy, Derain,Kees Van Dongen (love that name) painting everything blue and red and orange and green.  There is a line of lovely Laurent sculptures on an outside terrace amongst the tubular scaffolding; there is a room of Brauners and Lams, dominated by a huge Matta, looking from a distance like an Ab Ex and calling to me from a couple of rooms away – what was that unlikely story about Brauner getting blinded in one eye? see below, no pun intended – and the “usual” Legers and Gris(es) and Surrealists dotted throughout.

Highlights: 

  • Picassos.  As always in a room of Picassos, you get the impression that he has contemptuously dashed off a definitive, totally original, brilliantly coloured masterpiece in 30 minutes, then moved on impatiently to knock out another one to go on the opposite wall.  When he is hung with anyone else (except sometimes Matisse), your eye – well, mine anyway – is “sucked” straight to his work.
  • Two Matisses – a woman with a starched white blouse right at the start and a fabulous fiddler sketched in black, who looks about to start playing as you stare at him.
  • A room full of Rouaults (apologies for the accidental alliteration), most based on Les Fleurs du Mal, that are wonderful figure paintings in his black style, but that manage to glow in a way I’ve never noticed with his stuff before.
  • Two excellent de Staels, one with that typical squares-on-scraped-concrete feel, the other with big triangles of light green.
  • A Soulages in variable black with what looks like 5 white chalk lines horizontal across it – and next to it an Ad Reinhardt, a really BLACK painting, entitled “Ultimate Black No6”; it looks as if he is putting Soulages’ half-hearted effort in its place.
  • Burri and Fontana – sacking and slashes respectively.
  • A Pollock in swirling, broad black and white strokes (brush?).
  • Dubuffet; a couple of scraped surfaces with concealed figures and one big Aztec clown picture, as I have come to think of them.
  • Finally, and most memorable, a couple of Bonnards – beautiful golden-browns, fiery oranges and whites, colours that burn and glow, the nude woman leaning against the bath in what seems the most natural and relaxed pose – but of course, if you think about it, totally unnatural!  Fabulous, ravishing pictures.  Why no Taschen book on Bonnard?  The Phaidon is terrible; the colours are dead, especially the browns.   

Brauner

For those who don’t know it, the Brauner story is briefly told in Sarane Alexandrian’s “Surrealist Art”.  In 1938, he was accidentally blinded in the left eye by a bottle thrown during a brawl by Oscar Dominguez; since 1931, he had been painting figures “with horns coming out of their eyes, and others who looked in despair at an eye which had been plucked out….. in 1932, in “Mediterranean landscape”, and in 1935, in “Magic of the seashore”, he had shown himself with his eye pierced by an instrument with the letter D, Dominguez’ initial, on its handle”. (p.113, Surrealist Art, Thames and Hudson 1995).

Trying to keep the blog down to 500 words, so Musee d’Orsay and Museum of Modern Art tomorrow.

After the galleries, sat on the roof cafe with my partner, drinking beer, on a golden evening, looking out over the gargoyles on a nearby church that was possibly Notre Dame, with a single rose in a vase on the table and “Un Homme et une Femme” playing.  All together now: “Naa – Naa…na-na-na-na-Na, na-na-na-na-na-Na…” Two beers cost 12 Euros.

PS – The Shobdon Tympanum (see Blackpaint 17 and 106) depicts “Christ in majesty”, surrounded by whirling angels – so not a mystery woman in striped T shirt after all (Google Shobdon-arches for more).

Blackpaint

13.04.10

Blackpaint 68

February 14, 2010

Arshile Gorky

So, after reviewing the (Sewell) review, I’ve now seen the show.  There are 12 rooms, so I’ll take them one by one.  Room 1, I made no notes, but remember an imitation of a Cezanne still life. 

Room 2 showed how AG had “abstracted” a Picasso-like portrait of “Woman with a Palette” several times over the years. 

Room 3 displayes some fine drawings, obviously influenced by Picasso. 

Room 4 continues this with a number of paintings which are Picasso imitations, using a lot of white. 

In room 5, still unoriginal, I have made the following notes: “awful colours; fluffy whites; putty effect of painted background.  Drawings, however, are delicate and subtle.”

In room 6, the influence of Miro is very apparent – although the first painting recognisable as a Gorky appears, dated 1943, with the characteristic leaf/butterfly/biomorph shapes, circled and linked by the thin black lines.

Then, oddly,  Room 7 takes you back in time; portraits of AG with mother, and sister and friends.  The portrait of AG with his mother has been reproduced in all the reviews of the show, I think – and I don’t understand the interest.  They would have been of huge significance to Gorky himself, of course, and should be in the show – but why here, half way round?

Room 8, smallish drawings, from a distance look like people grouped on ice or by a lake, with pastel “washes” of colour.

Room 9, and “Waterfall”, and at last the famous Gorky.  There are several waterfalls, in fact, one of them named; the notes I have made are; “thin paint, sometimes running.  Pirate 1 resembles a Graham Sutherland!”

Room 10, Landscape.  I’ve noted two; “From a high place – looks like a picnic!” and “Apple Orchard”, with an orange background that is a blend of yellow, reds and greens close up.  The thin black lines are much in evidence and the shapes are reminiscent of Matta, Masson maybe – some of them also remind me of the late de Koonings, the same deadness and emptiness, but only sometimes.

Room 11, “Betrothals”, the bad luck room – the fire and the cancer.  What I noted was that there are three versions of “Betrothal” and in each, the figures are identical (although the colours are different).  This seems to be his way of working; compose in a sketch and develop by trying out different colours.  So again, a painter whose work can appear spontaneous and who is associated with a movement which prizes and promotes spontaneity, turns out to work in a formal, considered and wholly traditional way.

The final room is called “the Limit”, the title of one of the paintings.  The other bad luck room; the car crash and the suicide.  Again, there are four studies of a work called “Agony”, although this time the final version contains some changes.  One, the Black Monk(?), called Last Painting – the equivalent of Van Gogh’s crows over the cornfield, maybe; the “suicide” painting.

So, some beautiful works and a lot of mediocre ones.  It strikes me that his importance was perhaps more as an influence on de Kooning, Pollock and the others, rather than as a painter himself.  His thin paint surfaces are never as rich and interesting as de K, Pollock or Joan Mitchell; sometimes you get “dead areas”.  He brings to mind Matta and sometimes Kandinsky, with his little entities fluttering around.  But I think the historical significance justifies the exhibition.

Was Sewell right?  Yes, about the drawing – it is very skilful and does sometimes resemble etching.  Yes, about the Picasso and Miro imitation.  And yes, about his significance to the Ab Exes (although they acknowledged that themselves).  I think he is wrong in his assertion that Gorky was ignorantly copying others  and did not know what he was doing – he may not be a de Kooning or a Pollock but he has an instantly recognisable style, from 1943 onwards.  And for a painter who “abdicates formal responsibility”, he spends a lot of time doing drafts and sketches of his major works before producing the final version.  I felt a little cheated by this, as by Kline and Hartung before – I like my AbExes to give birth in a trance-like creative frenzy, improvising and composing as they go; I don’t want them doing formal sketches first!

Blackpaint

14.02.10