Wednesday, October 1, 2008

MORANDI (not local, but...)

I have never really wanted, in any serious way, to be wealthy (there are always the little conversations one has when, having sprung for a lottery ticket, for a few hours you MIGHT be a winner; those are mostly centered on the joys of philanthropy and don't count).

The only time I have any regrets about opting for my way of life is when a really good art show opens on the other side of the country. There was Cezanne in Philly in 1996, Vermeer in DC in 1995...the list goes on. Currently I'm ruing not being able to see the Giorgio Morandi exhibit at the Met in NY.

It was in the early 1990s that Larry Morace introduced me to Morandi's work, telling me about him and his still life paintings during a conversation while Larry was gallery sitting at the SF Open Studio's show. He was so enthusiastic that I couldn't wait to get home and look it up!

Morandi is kind of an "artist's artist." There is handling of surface and medium that is at once painterly and austere, a really admirable achievement hit time and again. But what a lot of us are really attracted to is his large body of work comprising still lives done in his studio using the same small grouping of simple objects in varying relationships to each other.

Peter Schjeldahl, writing in the New Yorker, notes "
It’s as if he had set out, time and again, to nail down the whatness of his objects but couldn’t get beyond the preliminary matter of their whereness." I don't normally like Schjedahl's writing, but his essay on this exhibit is superb; for me he nails what is so special about Morandi. Holland Cotter's piece for the NY Times is also worth reading (Is it a measure of the art that it brings out the best in the critical writing?).

It struck me, contemplating anew Morandi's work, that he had essentially created a kata for himself. By setting the limits, he could devote himself to refining and polishing his technique while exploring the possibilities inherent in the problem he had defined.

I'm not sure why I think this is wonderful, but I do.

1 comment:

Nancy Ewart said...

The Thiebaud Gallery had a small Morandi show a couple of years ago. Maybe they weren't showing his first rate work but I wasn't that impressed. I wish I had been because he has a fabulous reputation.