Monday, December 15, 2008

Aiiight then...Morandi!

I appreciate that the Met mounts these shows for painters. There was Courbet, Poussin in the Spring, now Morandi (the Phillips is joining in the Morandi fun this Spring). It feels as if the Met is aware of peoples' (renewed?) interest in painting, so they are starting from the beginnings of Modern modern painting. (as opposed to only the lower case variety, which begins I think...let's just pick a point here...with Duccio!)

The Met show was a compressed arc of Morandi's career. In it you see his evolution and surprising variations on his work. The Met was aware of the criticisms against Morandi obviously. You are able to see how he is working through painting ideas, often simultaneously. To a certain point Morandi was painting as many landscapes as he was still-lifes. He handles paint differently in each painting. There are careful Morandi's with well mannered paint layers; and less careful Morandi's with seriously whipped paint. That is a refreshing realization when typically people associate one kind of paint and one kind of image to Morandi and come away bored because they are looking at their assumptions, rather than the paintings. (I think I disclosed some deep personal issue there. Sorry.)

The biggest surprises I found were the etchings and watercolors. I had seen many of these before at the Morandi Museum, but in this context they take on a new dimension. The marks that create his etchings are staggeringly Rembrandt like. These delicate lines hatched all over the place... The watercolors are other worldly, and with both of them you seem to see two explorations of his paintings. The drawing/structural side, and the chimerical/paint side.

Morandi, like Gorky I've found, says something about an individual. If you like Morandi it means you are a patient and considerate looker, and by extension, patient, considerate person-and we can be friends. If you like Gorky, you are also patient etc., but also not afraid of strangeness and moody whimsy. Also in this case we can be friends.

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