Modern Love

Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs
Museum of Modern Art
October 12, 2014–February 8, 2015

Henri Matisse The Swimming Pool (La Piscine) late summer 1952 (realized as ceramic 1999 and 2005) Gouache on paper, cut and pasted, on painted paper (Partial installation view)

Henri Matisse
The Swimming Pool
(La Piscine)
late summer 1952
(realized as ceramic
1999 and 2005)
Gouache on paper, cut and pasted, on painted paper
(Partial installation view)

Perhaps you are wondering if this show of late Matisse cut outs is worth it?

Rather than writing a lengthy explanation of why, YES!, it most certainly is worth it, I compiled a short list of reasons which you can read below (and then run out and see the show!):

1. If you were looking for what Modernism, an experiment that began at the end of the 19th century and culminated in the middle of the 20th century, was seeking to achieve visually, it would be hard to find a better example than these late works by Matisse.

Henri Matisse Two Dancers (Deux Danseurs)  1937-38 Stage curtain design for Rouge et Noir Gouache on paper, cut and pasted, notebook papers, pencil, and thumbtacks (partial image)

Henri Matisse
Two Dancers (Deux Danseurs) 1937-38
Stage curtain design for Rouge et Noir
Gouache on paper, cut and pasted, notebook papers, pencil, and thumbtacks
(partial image)

2. Speaking of late works, the cut outs show the kind of refined innovation possible when an artist has decades of experience to draw upon. Matisse was already seventy when he started working seriously on cut outs as works in their own right.

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3. “Shit, he can cut paper better than I can draw”. Watching the two short films in the exhibition of Matisse cutting out his hand colored paper is just totally kick-ass to watch.

4. The exhibition is fantastically comprehensive. It should go without saying that when one takes into account the size of the works, their obvious fragility, and the increasingly high insurance costs involved, we are unlikely to see such a full a presentation of the cut outs again anytime soon.

IMG_4045

5. The show outlines quite clearly Matisse’s own slow realization and subsequent embrace of the cut outs as a full art form in their own right.

6. If you need yet another reason to be impressed, keep in mind while you’re looking at some of the larger, wall size pieces, that most of the works in this show were done after the artist was no longer able to stand and confined to a wheelchair:

matisse-overview

7. Inevitably, because of the fragility mentioned above, all but one work is behind glass. Happily, there is one very large piece that is not behind glass, and it is a potent reminder that while we have become enured to viewing images on flat-screen TVs and computer monitors, there is something wonderfully tactile and rich about looking at something unmediated by glass between it and us. Reproductions really fail to convey the true texture or import of scale in these works.

Henri Matisse The Sheaf (La Gerbe) 1953 Maquette for ceramic (realized 1953) Gouache on paper, cut and pasted, mounted on canvas (detail)

Henri Matisse
The Sheaf
(La Gerbe)
1953
Maquette for ceramic (realized 1953)
Gouache on paper, cut and pasted, mounted on canvas
(detail)

8. Finally, a warning: do not plan on viewing other artwork immediately after viewing the Matisse show. Anything else is bound to seem like very weak tea indeed.

 

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One Response to Modern Love

  1. Being Human says:

    Reason #9: The Matisse show was a viable oasis in a scorching desert that lifted the spirit allowing our souls a brief portal into the human condition of joy.

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