Altoon Sultan blogs about two exhibitions currently on view at David Zwirner Gallery, New York: Giorgio Morandi and Donald Judd (both on view through December 19).
Sultan writes that at the Judd show: "Here was work that was intensely formal––about shape and dimension and repetition and balance and weight and color––that was so beautiful in its clarity and reserve that I was deeply touched. ... Walking upstairs ... where a beautiful show of Morandi paintings and prints was hanging, I was struck by a similarity of concerns for the two artists. Although Morandi's forms aren't minimalist, he painted the same simple objects again and again in different configurations, playing with basic ideas of relationships of form and space and color. Whether the objects are in a line at the front edge of a table or compressed against its outer edge, I feel that the things depicted are more than just studio props; they become, like the Judd sculpture, essential forms, touching on transcending the ordinary."
Mattera provides a photo tour of the show and makes note of revelatory details provided by the accompanying photography of Morandi's objects by Joel Meyerowitz including that "... Morandi set up his still lifes at three different levels: on the table, and on shelves at two different heights, so that even when he painted the same motif—he revisited similar compositions many times—he may have altered them via perspective, as well as by light source, or by adding or subtracting the number of objects in the composition. I mean, I'd noticed the difference in perspective, but I didn't know until the visit that Morandi had a system for it."
Hughes writes: "The 1930s is an interesting decade in Morandi’s work. It was a decade when he was finding his voice and made fewer paintings than at any other time. He was teaching etching at the Accademia di Belle Arti. Italy was under Fascist rule. A lot of art in Italy at the time was political and about spectacle, not particularly personal. Morandi deepened his palette to browns and darkened earth-tones, working slowly, also deepening his gaze inward. Seemingly the political darkness made it way into his work. It was during this period when he honed his approach to his personal style of applying thicker paint and becoming more poetic with his forms and less representational."
Blog post revisiting John Berger's 1955 essay on the work of Giorgio Morandi, republished on the occasion of an exhibition of Morandi paintings at David Zwirner Gallery, New York, on view through December 19, 2015.
Berger observes that Morandi's "pictures have the inconsequence of margin notes but they embody true observation. Light never convinces unless it has space to fill: Morandi’s subjects exist in space. However frayed, worked, muted the objects in his pictures may be, warm air surrounds them, the ground plane on which they stand comes forward, distances increase, and when one form comes to the front of another, one can calculate the exact number of inches or yards between them. His famous still-lifes of bottles have the same passive precision as his landscapes. One suspects that the bottles only contain a little water for sprinkling on the floor or eau-de-cologne for cooling the forehead—certainly nothing as strong as wine. Yet they convince—one suspends belief in the clamorous life outside the secluded room in which they stand—because of the accuracy of the contemplation that lies behind them: a contemplation so exclusive and silent that one is convinced that nothing else except Morandi’s cherished light could possibly fall on the table or shelf—not even another speck of dust."
Greenwald writes that "the myth of Morandi is that the artist kept a low profile as Fascism raged around him. Legend has it, the unassuming artist developed a unique artistic vision, bravely resisting modernism, closing himself in his studio, doggedly investigating compositional possibilities by adjusting tabletop arrangements... CIMA’s exhibit of artworks made during the rule of Mussolini’s National Fascist Party (1922 - 1943) indicates Morandi’s stylistic development was, in fact, deeply rooted in fascist ideology. Morandi turned away from the arty pretentions of the Metaphysical School to embrace the values of the Strapaese (super country) movement, a nationalist group that glorified Italy’s agrarian identity. Strapaese extolled modesty and simplicity in art and ridiculed effete Parisian modernism."
Eleanor Ray examines the "temporary equilibrium" achieved in great painting. In particular Ray discusses this quality in the work of Philip Guston, Stanley Lewis, and Giorgio Morandi.
Morandi, she writes, "brings painting to the edge of representation, painting objects so simple that they are nearly reduced to shapes and lines, but never are. He locates the power of a line in the tension between its simplicity as a mark and its existence as something else — the space between two boxes or fingers. We can’t see a line or a shape in his still life as merely what it is because we can’t separate it from its participation in the painting’s representation. The language of painted notation disappears when you try to isolate it."
Lewis achieves an equilibrium, she notes, "between matter and imaginative experience, between a teeming surface and a spatial world. We can’t fix what we see into paint or image alone, or force it into schematic generality; it remains hidden in its particularity."
Reflecting on Barry Schwabsky's recent article of Giorgio Morandi (October 2013 ARTFORUM), Robert Linsley muses on Morandi and "abstraction as an 'ethics of the real.'"
He writes: "The ethics of art, abstraction above all, are found in the right attention to the work, and Morandi could certainly manage that. That human realities (meaning politics) are strongly present at the moment of most perfect attention to the work is a matter of faith, but usually hard to see. Schwabsky makes a convincing case that Morandi’s pictures are a demonstration of this exact truth. He suggests that the anxiety producing aspect of the work, in other words the pleasure it gives, is that it seems to exist at the point of greatest….tension? stress? conflict? communication? difference? transformation?…between individual subjectivity and collective life."
Laura Cumming previews the exhibition Morandi: Works on Paper at the Estorick Collection, London, on view from January 16 - April 7, 2013.
Cumming writes that Morandi "is not known for his lines. Rather the opposite: in the hazy world of his painted still lifes, everything appears muzzy and soft. The famous objects appearing on the miniature stage of his table – the bottles, bowls, decanters and jugs – do so in something as hazy as limelight. You would not expect to look deep into these masterpieces of 20th-century art and see a sharp edge, an outline or anything as concise as a dot... The lines build up in meshes and weaves, steady, patient and strikingly judicious. It's as if he daren't rush it – this is an etching after all, where one false mark can lead to endless problems. But going through the show, you see that Morandi's graphic gifts are so subtle he is able to get over the finest variations of atmosphere, tone and light just through infinitely small variations in the direction of the crosshatchings. It's like a slight change of breeze, shifting the mood and the weather."
Larry Groff posts trailers for a new film about Giorgio Morandi. La polvere di Morandi is directed by Mario Chemello, produced by Imago Orbis in association with the Museum of Modern Art of Bologna.
Morandi's Dust, which takes it's name from the artist's insistence that the bottles and jars he painted never be dusted, "focuses on the three most crucial locations of his art, to show us the secret places of his secluded life: his home-studio in via Fondazza (Bologna), recently restored and brought back to its original essence and finally open to the public; his monastic summer retreat on the hills of Grizzana (near Bologna) and ‘Museum‘ as an abstract space where his life becomes art."
Dobrzynski writes: "while strongly influence by Morandi, Hollan remains original. Hollan's colors are every bit as subtle, but somehow are also richer. Many of the works are still lifes that overflow the boundaries of the paper, edging into the abstract."
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.