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