There is a huge Lucian Freud exhibit at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. Over ninety pieces are included in this exhibit. It is also the only US stop for this show that was put together by the National Portrait Gallery London. A large number of these pieces were painted in his studio, portraying life – the studio as the background with many subjects vulnerable, yet comfortable, posing nude, seeming to just be hanging out. There are so many things to take in when looking at his work, composed largely of portraits and nudes. The scale is immense, making these figures larger than life. Painting his subjects as they “posed” for him, full of emotion and intensity. The permanent collection at the Modern is always fantastic to wander through. There is a wonderful selection of Modern and Contemporary art, including Joseph Cornell, Richard Hamilton, Robert Rauschenberg, Robert Motherwell, and some huge pieces by Anselm Kiefer. The Greeting, 1995, by video artist Bill Viola is a provocative piece to watch. The video is of two women talking, when a third woman walks up and joins the conversation. While this is an ordinary occurrence, Viola captures human emotion as he plays the interaction in slow motion. This changes the entire way this encounter is viewed. SFMOMA has a great video of Viola discussing this piece, and how the composition of the figures are based on an image of The Visitation. This makes me think of Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests. He would film people for the length of the film, a couple of minutes, but would slow it down and extend it to four minutes. Warhol felt a person either had a presence or they didn’t. Warhol was also interested in capturing real life and human emotions, as in his early art films Sleep, Eat, and Blow. I was fortunate enough to see several of the screen tests played at the McNay, when they exhibited Andy Warhol: Fame and Misfortune. Another highlight in the collection is the Minimal art. This particular type of art is clean and simplistic. It is interesting that next month I will be heading to Marfa, Texas for my annual pilgrimage to Chinati, and here in Fort Worth many of the artists I will see there are on display, such as Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, and Carl Andre. This large piece by Judd is from the floor to the ceiling. Even in this image, you can begin to see how the translucent plastic or glass material bathes the work in a soft haze of orange, extending from the piece to the surrounding environment.
However, I do prefer to view these artists in the setting that Chinati presents. One or two pieces from an artist doesn’t seem like enough. Even though that is primarily how art is viewed. Well, that’s not entirely true, maybe just regarding permanent collections. I make a huge effort to see an artist’s solo exhibitions. It is important for me to see a large body of work from the artist or experience several series, such as in a major exhibition or retrospective. Since viewing the huge installations that are presented in Marfa, I think I am spoiled. Maybe Judd was onto something. I think I do prefer his isolated, large permanent exhibits of an artist’s work. In that context, I can get an idea of what they are trying to convey through their work. If you are drawn to a particular artist, it is also logical to want to see more. Installations on such a large scale are also an experience in itself. That cannot be expressed in one or two pieces.
Richard Serra also has a small piece, however, his amazing work here is a massive outdoor sculpture. Rusting metal overtakes several stories, towering over you. As with many of Serra’s outdoor sculptures, I was able to walk around and inside. With an opening at the top, the light shined in. The size, material, and tall shape also made the piece bounce echoes of any noise or yelling from inside. That was an interesting experience. I have always found it interesting that Serra is one if the few artists that has had his work rejected by the public. Having to walk around the large structure in a plaza proved too much for some New Yorkers to appreciate, and Tiled Arc was dismantled, apparently still sitting in a warehouse. Another public work by Serra that has caused some controversy is the outdoor piece, Shift, located in Canada. Although the issues surrounding that piece have to do with land rights being sold, with the new owners trying to remove the work. The highlight, however, may be the actual building itself. Built fairly recently in 2002, it was designed by Japanese architect, Tadao Ando. This modern building is a brilliant extension of the art collection within. The forty foot glass windows allow an incredible natural light to enter, while outside it reflects the serene pond, outdoor sculptures, and an amazing view of downtown Fort Worth. With plenty of space to walk around, it is easy to enjoy the view. The unique design places the building within the 1.5 acre pond, the water coming right up to the large glass panes, creating the illusion that the building is effortlessly floating.
I had been trying to get up to Fort Worth for a while to see the Caravaggio exhibit at the Kimbell Art Museum. Everyone seemed interested, but nothing was actually happening. With the exhibit remaining up for less than a week, I couldn’t get it off my mind. Deciding to make a new resolution to not let opportunities pass me by, I spontaneously headed north for the day.
Caravaggio and his followers in Rome was an excellent, well put together show. Expected characteristics in the approximately 50 painting exhibition included the dramatic beauty of chiaroscuro, imposing realism and often violent depictions. Divided into four themes, the show included the seedy street life of Cardsharps and Fortune Teller; Music and Youth that included Caravaggio’s early works, Sick Bacchus and Boy Bitten by a Lizard; Portrayal of the Saints having a religious epiphany or becoming a martyr; and the Sacred Narrative of biblical events, typically revealing the moments after a violent action has occurred. I have to admit, I have always found Caravaggio’s young boys mesmerizing. They are intimate, making you feel you are in the same space of what I feel are questionable moments with young boys that I find amusing. In Boy Bitten by a Lizard, the pain is still being experienced, interrupting his pleasure. While Sick Bacchus, with his greenish face and discolored lips, gazes back at you. This is supposed to be a self-portrait of Caravaggio as the greek god.
A block down was the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth so of course we spend some time there. I can’t remember the last time I visited here. Their permanent collection was fantastic! Josef Albers,Joseph Cornell, Donald Judd, and Robert
Motherwell were all on display. I was lucky enough to stumble upon the Richard Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park Series temporarily on display. Made in the seventies, these abstract Californian landscapes are cool and serene. Diebenkorn’s gesture and geometry are countered by layers and subtraction. They were amazing to look at. I remember reading an article about this series when I was in school. It is always a different experience to study something in person, up close. Of course there were no photos allowed of this travelling exhibit.