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March 19, 2010

Re-Matissed in Chicago

Two ideas came to mind yesterday at the press luncheon at the Art Institute of Chicago while awaiting the presentation on Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913--1917: Does the fact that the museum is feeding journalists again after a year of no-frills events mean that the recession is over? And, has the blockbuster finally graduated? OK, I admit that the initial response on this second point was far more cynical and along the lines of what's left with the same-olds but to parse etc... Well, there is nothing wrong with taking a deeper look at anything, particularly one's own hastily formed impressions. Stephanie D'Alessandro (co-curator of this exhibition along with MoMA's John Elderfield) mentioned Bathers by a River (1909-10, 1913, 1916-1917) as the painting in the AIC collection that inspired this exhibition. The museum acquired it in 1953, a year before Matisse's death. The artist wrote to thank the museum for getting the piece and said that he considered Bathers one of the five most pivotal paintings in his career. D'Alessandro, in a sense, set out to discover why he felt this way and, along with Elderfield, saw that it had everything to do with how the artist arrived at his art, or what he called his "methods of modern construction." It is a method that relied on reworking, often radically, his paintings. In his remarks, director James Cuno said that the 120 paintings in this show (heavy with international loans) were "surgically determined, incessantly sought and ferociously negotiated." In the gallery, I asked D'Alessandro if she managed to get everything on her wish list and she said that she would have loved to have a particular painting that is in the Hermitage collection, but it's a picture that was so reworked it is now extremely fragile. "Given all the work we have done in the area of conservation, we were not going to challenge them," she said. They've managed to tell the story quite well without it. The show runs until June 20, then opens at MoMA July 18.
March 19, 2010 9:52 AM | | Comments (0)

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