ICYMI: Matisse and American Art

450No sooner had my review of the exhibition at the Montclair Art Museum titled Matisse and American Art run in The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday than I was off, flying to another exhibition whose review you will see in the next several days, I hope.

But that early morning flight meant that I did not have the chance to post news of my review* and, more important, of the exhibition here. The Journal also, as it has recently, created a slide show of ten works in the exhibition.

Here are the nut grafs of my review:

…[In 1908] American artists weren’t laughing either, but for the opposite reason. They were admiring Matisse, studying with him, collecting him and drawing inspiration from him. And they have ever since, as “Matisse and American Art” at the Montclair Art Museum illustrates. With 19 works by Matisse and 44 by others, this enterprising exhibition extends the previously explored territory of Matisse’s influence on postwar painters like Mark Rothko, Helen Frankenthaler and, especially, Richard Diebenkorn backward to early modernist artists like Arthur Dove and forward to contemporary artists like Faith Ringgold.

Subtly and boldly, in homage, in spirit and in appropriation, the 34 Americans in this exhibition borrowed Matisse’s palette and images, learned from his compositional structures, adopted his fluid brushwork and adapted his themes to their purposes.
The list of those artists, in fact, was too long for this exhibition, but as I also noted, “As a supplement, the Montclair museum gathered 53 additional works from its permanent collection that relate to Matisse—by Alex Katz,Walt Kuhn, Nick Cave, Mickalene Thomas,Nancy Spero,William Baziotes and others—and installed them in its permanent collection galleries.”
I’ve seen that done at one or two other museums recently, and I applaud. While you have people looking at a subject, offer more to those who want to learn more–but the exhibition doesn’t get too large for those who don’t want too much.
I don’t have too much to add to my review–if I had had more space, I would have explained some connections. For example, Roy Lichtenstein‘s appropriation of a Matisse gold fish bowl in a bronze sculpture works because Lichtenstein used different means–open spaces in the bronze and vertical blocks of yellow and white color–to create the light reflections off the glass bowl that Matisse created in paint.
But you’ll get that if you visit Montclair to see the exhibit, which was curated by Gail Stavitsky, a stalwart at Montclair and a very scholarly one too.
* If my review is blocked by a paywall, try Googling “A Modern Master and His Progeny.”
Photo Credits: Courtesy of the Montclair Art Museum, from top to bottom, works by Matisse, Arthur Dove and Faith Ringgold

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