Art Appreciation Marathon: Part 2 of 2 – A CONTINUATION

The highlight of our New York gallery visits was Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs – over 100 works that Matisse began in the last 20 years of his life (1937-1954).  The exhibition moved to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) from London’s Tate Modern where it was the most popular show in Tate Modern’s history.

As declining health began to limit his mobility, Matisse turned to painted paper and a pair of scissors to create colourful cut-paper forms – first assembled into interchangeable forms on his lap and later transferred and pinned to his studio walls.  The flexibility afforded by pinning the shapes allowed for manipulation and replacement before a final image was decided upon.

Matisse at the Hotel Regina, Nice. c.1952. Photograph by Lydia Delectorskaya.

Matisse at the Hotel Regina, Nice. c.1952. Photograph by Lydia Delectorskaya.

It is difficult to verbalize the impact the exhibition had on me.  The combination of colors, shapes and the juxtaposition of forms create a stunningly imaginative array of images – so simple, yet so complex. Moving from one highly charged room of color to another was like experiencing the inside of a kaleidoscope.

Creole Dancer, June 1950.

Creole Dancer, June 1950.

The catalogue is a treasure trove of images providing a pictorial reference for various works in different stages of creation on the walls of Matisse’s residences and studios.  To see a piece in its final form in the exhibition is an once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Hotel Regina, Nice, c. 1953. Photograph by Lydia Delectorskaya.

Hotel Regina, Nice, c. 1953. Photograph by Lydia Delectorskaya.

The Snail 1953.

The Snail 1953.

Memory of Oceania Summer 1952.

Memory of Oceania Summer 1952.

Next, we took advantage of being in New York to see the exhibition Chris Ofili: Night and Day at the New Museum. A Turner Prize winner early in his career, his early work was not without controversy.  In fact, his last showing in NYC was the object of censorship over his painting The Holy Virgin Mary, 1996.  It seems the mayor at the time and quite a few others felt it was not appropriate to depict the Virgin Mary with a breast exposed and elephant dung as a nipple.

The Virgin Mary, 1996. Copy right Chris Ofili.

The Virgin Mary, 1996.

His vivid, masterful paintings certainly capture and hold your attention.  The images Ofili presents are rich in color, with a multitude of textures, and, in his early creations, often provide an in-your-face parody of racial stereotyping and religious beliefs.

The Adoration of Captain Shit and the Legends of the Black Stars (Third Version), 1998. Copy right Chris Ofili.

The Adoration of Captain Shit and the Legends of the Black Stars (Third Version), 1998.

Since moving to Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago in 2005, his paintings have become less textured (out with the sparkles and other extraneous materials) as he manipulates the paints to produce rich color hues.  He produced a series of paintings in a deep blue that he built up by layering over images that are difficult to discern at first glance.  As your eyes adjust you begin to recognize troubling images of tension and violence.  Blue Devils (2014) presents a disturbing reflection on the often violent relationship between black men and the police.  This work is all the more poignant given the recent tensions between the black community and the police in the USA.

Blue Devils (2014). Copy right Chris Ofili.

Blue Devils (2014).

More recently, Ofili seems to have shaken off the darkness of his Blue Paintings as witnessed by the explosion of color evident in his newest paintings. I was glad that I saw the show and was able to become better informed about Ofili’s work – the talent, creativity and complexity on display will move most people past the controversy of his early career.

Confession (Lady Chancellor), 2007.  Copy right Chris Ofili

Confession (Lady Chancellor), 2007.

Chris Ofili 2014.

Chris Ofili 2014.

The final stops on our art-tour road trip were the Storm King Art Center in the Hudson Valley and the nearby Dia Art Foundation museum, Dia:Beacon.  Storm King boasts a spectacular setting – 500 acres of fields, hills, and woodlands, at the base of the Storm King and Schunnemunk Mountains with a wonderful mix of carefully sited sculptures and installations.

Southern Cross, 1963 by Alexander Calder

Southern Cross, 1963 by Alexander Calder

The Arch, 1975 by Alexander Calder

The Arch, 1975 by Alexander Calder

Dia:Beacon, housed in a converted manufacturing plant, has over 240,000 square feet of exhibition space lit by natural light and features some of the most important American artists that came to prominence in the 60s and 70s.  Some of my favourites on view include John Chamberlain, Walter De Maria, Dan Flavin, Michael Heizer, Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt and Richard Serra.

North, East, South, West, 1967 by Michael Heizer.

North, East, South, West, 1967 by Michael Heizer.

Untitled, 1970 by Dan Flavin.

Untitled, 1970 by Dan Flavin.

I plan to write more about these two major art destinations in the future.

September and October were definitely an art appreciation marathon as we visited 17 major galleries and art installations in Canada, Europe and the USA. We have our work cut out for us as we reflect on all that we saw and experienced.

My Reading Priorities for 2015

Gordon Smith – Don’t Look Back. Black Dog Publishing for Equinox Gallery, Vancouver.

Curationism – How Curating Took Over the Art World and Everything Else by David Balzer.

The Book About Xu Bing’s Book From the Ground – Mathieu Borysevicz, editor.

33 Artists in 3 Acts by Sarah Thornton.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About George

My long-time interest in Canadian and international contemporary art has led me to write and reflect on the artists I've met, the exhibitions that I've seen and the catalogues that I've read (I've been told I'm the only person that actually reads exhibition catalogues cover to cover). My interest began in the mid-1960's when I was searching for easy credits and I stumbled upon "Art Appreciation 101", and the rest, as they say, is history...
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One Response to Art Appreciation Marathon: Part 2 of 2 – A CONTINUATION

  1. brian says:

    Thanks again George for recommending the Matisse exhibition. The children’s book about Matisse we bought our grandchildren after visiting is one of their favorite reads.

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