Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Miró and Gossart at the Met

The Gossart (Man, Myth and Sensual Pleasures: Jan Gossart’s Renaissance) and the Miró (Miró: The Dutch Interiors) exhibitions at the Met, both of which closed on Monday, evinced a pointed concern with the past. Gossart, like Poussin, was infatuated with antiquity, the idealization of which took the form of a brazen sensuality that must have been shocking in its time. He was the Courbet of Flemish painting and traveled to Rome for his inspiration. Now that both shows are firmly parked in posterity, they become energy sources whose images will reach a later age, in much the way that light from distant stars reveals the nature of a universe long past. Miró’s extrapolations were extraordinary, like the work of a realist landscape painter who sets up his easel in front of a nature scene—only the scene in question was a postcard reproduction of a Sorgh or Steen, acquired on a trip to the Netherlands in 1928, that became the basis for his figurative abstraction. The postcards themselves are curiosities in that they exist like relics of a Sebald narrative, coining a geographic and temporal pastness all their own. There were numerous journeys recorded in these two exhibitions—physical, imaginary, religious and esthetic—not the least of which was Miró’s journey back to the Northern European world out of which Gossart’s work emanated. In this regard, Miró’s esthetic is that of the perpetual tourist. The curators quote him as saying, “When I finish a work, I see in it the starting point to another work. But nothing more than a starting point to go in a diametrically opposite direction. Need I remind you that I despise nothing more than permanence?”

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