Tag Archives: MoMA

Wow! Who made that?

You know you’ve found something special, when the same artist takes you by surprise on different occasions.  I remember the first time I saw Lee Bontecou’s work at MoMA.  I stood in the middle of the gallery, looking up, gobsmacked.  I said to one of my art friends, Look at that!  Who is it?

Without a moment’s hesitation S. said, That’s Lee Bontecou.  Isn’t she great?

Untitled, Lee Bontecou, 1980-1998, MoMA

Untitled, Lee Bontecou, 1980-1998, MoMA

Untitled (detail), Lee Bontecou, 1980-1998, MoMA

Untitled (detail), Lee Bontecou, 1980-1998, MoMA

Untitled (detail), Lee Bontecou, 1980-1998, MoMA

Untitled (detail), Lee Bontecou, 1980-1998, MoMA

I was only slightly, and fleetingly, embarrassed that I wasn’t familiar with this artist, and her work.   Lee Bontecou was born in 1931 in Rhode Island, U.S.A.  She was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship in 1957; in 1966 she won the first prize from the National Institute of Arts and Letters.  There have been major solo retrospectives of her work in the last twenty years, including  at MoMA / MCA Chicago / Hammer Museum in 2003/4. In 2014 the Menil Collection in Houston had a exhibition of her drawings.

Last October (2019), at the newly renovated MoMa, I came around a gallery corner and encountered  this:

Untitled, Lee Bontecou, 1961, MoMa

Bear in mind this sculpture is about 5 feet wide by 5 feet high and protrudes from the wall.  It is an arresting presence that stopped me, and demanded my attention.  The darkness of the central void, the somber palette, and the varying depths and shapes encompassed in the piece make it extremely powerful.

I had to check the label, as neither my friends (S. and J.) nor I recognized the work. I was pleased to read Lee Bontecou.  This sculpture cemented my admiration for Ms Bontecou’s work.  The label explained that it is constructed of old conveyer belts that the artist salvaged from a laundry below her East Village apartment.  The curators suggest that the piece expresses anxiety, as it was created when the U.S.A. entered the Vietnam War, the Berlin Wall construction began, and the American tensions with Cuba were at fever pitch.

Here is a short video from MoMA highlighting Bontecou’s piece within the show Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction. (You can skip ahead to the 4 minute mark to hear specifically about this sculpture.)

Untitled, Lee Bontecou, 1961, MoMa

Untitled (detail), Lee Bontecou, 1961, MoMa

The details are exquisite, don’t you think?  The copper stitching appears fine and delicate, yet it holds together the muscular, voluminous forms.

Untitled (detail), Lee Bontecou, 1961, MoMa

Untitled (detail), Lee Bontecou, 1961, MoMa

Bontecou said, My concern is to build things that express our relation to this country…..to other worlds to glimpse some of the fear, hope, ugliness, beauty, and mystery that exists in us all and hangs over all the young people today.

It’s not surprising that the work is strong – it expresses much of the human condition.  Despite being 60 years old, it is still relevant today.

 

 

 

 

Merry Christmas!

May you experience some wonder and joy this holiday season…..

Nuit de Noel, 1952

Henri Matisse (French, 1869–1954). Nuit de Noël. 1952. Maquette for stained-glass window. Gouache on paper, cut and pasted, mounted on board, 10’ 7″ x 53 1/2″ (322.8 x 135.9 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Time Inc. © 2014 Succession H. Matisse/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Matisse’s Masterpiece

Another highlight of Henri Matisse:  The Cut-Outs at MoMA was learning about Matisse’s work in the  Chapel of the Rosary in Vence, France.

Matisse was originally hired to design the stained glass windows, but eventually went on to design the chapel (working with the architect Auguste Perret) and its contents, including the Stations of the Cross, the alter linens, the priests’ vestments and the furniture.

Chapel of the Rosary

Chapel of the Rosary         Henri Matisse

Matisse said the chapel was “….the culmination of a life of work.”  He goes on to say, “Colours and lines are forces, and the secret of creation lies in the interaction of these forces and their balance.”

I think The Art Caravan will be planning a trip to Vence.  The show at MoMA brought me to tears.  I felt surrounded by joy, passion, and love for art and life.  To see Matisse’s work in a permanent installation, The Chapel of the Rosary, must be a very affirming experience.

If a trip to France isn’t in your immediate future, how about a trip to New York?  MoMA is offering Midnight with Matisse on December 31, to celebrate Matisse’s birthday, and the new year.  (Who needs the craziness of Times Square anyway?!)

Henri Matisse:  The Cut-Outs

More Matisse

The impetus for Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs at MoMA was the restoration of The Swimming Pool, (1952) Matisse’s only site specific cut out installation.  MoMA acquired the work in 1975, and it hasn’t been on display in more than twenty years.

The story behind The Swimming Pool goes something like this……One summer day in 1952, Matisse decided he wanted to go down to the local swimming pool to watch the divers.  Not surprisingly, it being the south of France, he found it too warm, and returned to his home, intent on creating his own swimming pool.  The dining room was chosen, and Matisse and his assistants went to work, making history.

Lydia Delectorskaya               The Swimming Pool

The restoration of the work began in 2008.  It was an extensive project to return the paper colour to its original balance, and remove and replace the deteriorated burlap on which the paper cuts had been mounted.  At times, the burlap was removed strand by strand. The result of all the time, money and care expended is a stunning reclamation of a charming work of art.

Matisse: The Cut-Outs recreates The Swimming Pool in all its dining room-sized glory.

 

Joy spread through Colour

Joy spread through colour was Henri Matisse‘s definition of modern art.  I can tell you that seeing  Matisse: The Cut Outs Paper Cuts  at MoMA was, indeed, a joyful experience.

A decade or two ago,  I saw a show of Matisse cut outs in Washington, D.C.  The power of those pieces has stayed with me all these years. More recently, a favourite art professor often praises Matisse, claiming he is the foremost artist of the 20th century.

MoMa collaborated with the Tate Modern to produce this extensive show.  The work is displayed chronologically, which helps understand the development of paper cutting in Matisse’s art practise.

As I understand it, the paper cuts weren’t originally intended to be the finished pieces of art. Matisse used cut out pieces of paper to plan designs (just like the aforementioned art professor advises his students.)  After the printing of his book, Jazz, he was disappointed with the result.

He wrote to the publisher, Teriade,  “The artist who made the picture comes away with the impression that is picture has been destroyed, and he loses every hope of it being understood by means of this approximate reproduction.”

Despite Matisse’s reservations, Teriade persisted, and eventually, Jazz was published, to great success.

Jazz

Pierrot's Funeral

Pierrot’s Funeral

And, thankfully, Matisse persisted with the cut outs.  In a letter to Pierre Bonnard, he wrote, “Instead of drawing and then applying colour, I draw direct with the colour.”

The Horse, The Rider, and the Clown

The Horse, The Rider, and the Clown