Last weekend I saw the BMA's Matisse Painter as Sculptor expo. There was a lot of work, almost too much perhaps. It was great to see all of that work, as we all come from Matisse's overcoat in one way or another, but ultimately I was perplexed by a few points of the exhibition.
The rub is that the exhibition seemed to want to elevate Matisse's sculptures in to the canon of Sculpture. His sculptures, by being paired with Rodin, Maillol, and another salon-type sculptor whose name I forgot, seemed to make this point. Also the exhibition's focus on how to look at a sculpture at about the half way mark, further insisted that this is Sculpture. (There was a small-ish "How to look at sculpture" gallery.) The presence of Rodin not only a provided context for what Matisse would have seen and been inspired by, but also his shortcomings as a sculptor. Not that he was a bad sculptor, as if I could really make that assertion, but his proximity to Rodin (whose mottled surface Matisse replicates) makes this shortcoming clear. (Okay, okay... Matisse, Rodin ... no fair ... different age, different discourse, different visual requirements, but what we're looking at is to what extent one manipulates space and light through form in the 3rd dimension, no?)
Another issue is that Matisse's paintings were hung near some of the sculptures. Initiating the conversation that he was drawing connections between 3-D forms and 2-D expression was evident, however the paintings consumed the power of the galleries in which they hung. Matisse's paintings were where his experimentation in 3-D form were realized and having his paintings nearby clarified this point. Granted I am hopelessly biased toward painting
I have to say that I didn't read any of the wall texts and listened to only two of the audio chapters just to hear what they were saying (mainly hyperbole or "process" info). I wanted to deal only with the work in front of me. Would the audio supplements and wall texts have filled these gaps in the mission of the show for me? And is that a requirement of the Art Museum experience, to have to read the purpose of the expo rather than intuit the context through viewing the works?