Rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture.
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Matisse’s Cut-Outs at MoMA
Blue Nude by Henri Matisse
Was Matisse a designer manqué? His parents's involvement with textiles and fabric design has always been considered an influence on his work (viz.Matisse, His Art and His Textiles by Ann Dumas, Jack Flam and Remi Labrusse). Imagine him as a student at F.I.T. with fine arts as his avocation. Walter Benjamin wrote an
essay entitled “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” which may
be applicable to the case of Matisse. He was an artist whose work is reproduced so
ubiquitously that we forget the revolutionary
impact that his cut-outs or decoupages had on how we view the hue of an image.
Seeing Matisse up close in the current show of Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs at
MoMA of course changes things. In "La Chute d”Icare" (1943), you actually can locate the pins holding the yellow starbursts, the pin locking in the sky and another holding
Icarus’s “flame red heart.” Here is what Matisse had to say, “You have no idea
how, during the cut-out paper period, the sensation of flight which emanated from me helped me better adjust my hand when it used the scissor. It’s a kind
of linear and graphic equivalence to the sensation of light.” “Icare” also
appears as the maquette for plate VIII of Matisse’s book of cut-outs, Jazz. But actually one of the most
enchanting of the decoupages in the show and one which avoids all chance of
expropriation as design is titled simply “Forms,” which is the maquette for
plate IX ofJazz. Commenting on Matisse’s technique, the curators remark that “rather than discarding the paper that fell from his scissors when
he cut out a shape, Matisse understood that each cut produced two equally valid
forms." “Forms” represents the positive and negative of a torso with an almost
Brancusi like purity. Like the “Blue Nudes" series, it’s almost daring in its abstract simplicity and could never be mistaken for decorative art.
Francis Levy's debut novel, Erotomania: A Romance, was released in August 2008 by Two Dollar Radio.
His short stories, criticism, humor, and poetry have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic, The Village Voice, The East Hampton Star, The Quarterly, Penthouse, Architectural Digest, TV Guide, The Journal of Irreproducible Results, and other publications. One of his Voice humor pieces was anthologized in The Big Book of New American Humor (HarperCollins). He is presently the Co-Director of The Philoctetes Center for the Multidisciplinary Study of Imagination (philoctetes.org), where he supervises roundtable discussions on topics as varied as “The Psychology of the Modern Nation State” and “Modern Traffic Theory, Behavior, and Imagination”.