Jed Perl reviews the exhibition Impressionists on the Water at the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco, on view through October 13, 2013.
Perl writes: "These nineteenth-century artists brought an almost scientific attention to the study of nature. And what they found was that the closer they looked at the world, the stranger the world became. For painters, water could become the ultimate conundrum, both visible and nearly invisible, a sight that confounds sight." Perl continues noting that "what makes 'Impressionists on the Water' a success is the confidence with which the curators stay inside the story they’re telling, keeping the plot line simple enough that the paintings emerge with their subtlety and complexity intact."
Goodrich's review considers the cost of "combining major and decorative arts." He writes: "Some exhibitions have featured conscious pairings of 'high' and 'low' art. Many have contextualized masterpieces with examples of decorative arts. This is the first museum installation in memory, however, in which great works of art serve as the accessories to trends in the decorative arts. If, in the wake of the McQueen exhibition (the Met’s most-visited installation ever), we have a new paradigm—blockbusters of great art organized by fashionistas-cum-curators, we have truly sold our souls... Speaking for themselves, the best paintings here make a different argument: that painting is a major art, in which artists prove their own character in attempting to commit to canvas, in the language of paint, an understanding of the visual world. By these lights, only the lesser artworks rely heavily on the social dynamics of fashion, a field in which no one knows why a hemline need to be high or low, or a brushstroke fine or coarse, yet everyone recognizes a hot trend. The issue resonates in our time, because this very dynamic—of few being able to define ultimate values, yet everyone recognizing a successful career—seems to increasingly to define today’s artworld. Rather than battling this trend, academia sometimes encourages it, treating painting as a “low” art—an evocative craft on the order of basket-weaving—to be elevated by the criteria of their own disciplines, which are liable to deal with encodings and significations. As one cynic claimed, cutting-edge art has become the marriage of convenience between fashion and academe, with fashion supplying the thrills, and academia the justification."
Wragg writes: "I am fascinated by Twombly’s compulsion, shared with many recent and current painters, for urgency, here-ness, enveloping near-ness, and close-ness, beyond composition. Concomitant with science’s understanding of the expanding evolution and nature of the universe, I find it interesting to see how the mark-making of Turner, Monet and Twombly evolved successively bigger, nearer and more emphatically tactile from one to the other over the span of three centuries. Twombly’s application of paint is more splashy, gungy and physical than Monet’s, whereas Monet’s is more systematically flattened and emphasised across the surface than Turner’s. Nowadays bonkers erratic in your face scribblings and splashings or heightened-colour-flatness stems from a very real need for possession, for being thrown out, in and around, and gripped by a simultaneously in out of kilter connectivity. The spectator becomes a magnet catching the memory of fleeting sensations of being in the studio and has an empathy with the artist working directly with painting. The overriding power of making and resolution seems to arise in spirit as much as in feeling, in the hand; it is central to the experience of most of the paintings in this exhibition, that seem of their time yet as timeless as the first handprint in pigment on a cave wall, made forty seven thousand years ago."
Edited by artist Brett Baker, Painters' Table highlights writing from the painting blogosphere as it is published and serves as a platform for exploring blogs that focus primarily on the subject of painting.