Blake Gopnik and Christian Viveros-Fauné Romp the Henri Matisse Show at MoMA

Our duo dubs the artist a master "mess-maker" of the first order.


The Strictly Critical duo recently visited the Matisse cut-outs exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art to see what sublime pleasure could be wrought by paper and scissor.

Back in April, our own Coline Milliard caught Tate Modern’s version of the exhibition, which highlighted the comparison between the artists’ paintings and his cut-outs. The MoMA cut-outs show takes the focus off the paintings and places it on Matisse’s drawings.

So, before you watch the video, we invite you to dip into Coline Milliard’s review from the spring.

“Matisse’s enthusiasm for the cut-outs grew in step to his familiarity with the medium. He found a project to match his ambitions with the Dominican Chapel of the Rosary in Vence, on which he worked from 1948 to 1951. Matisse was originally approached to advise on the design of a single stained glass window. But, he took over the entire chapel, designing all the stained glass windows, the religious images inside (in black on white, so as not to disturb the colored light coming from outside), even the priestly vestments. Vence’s chapel marked his definitive transition away from painting. Matisse’s last completed oil on canvas dates from 1948. The artist’s began using the walls of his studios to pin his cut-outs, endlessly permuting their arrangements. “An artist should never be prisoner of their own compositions,”Matisse adds to his plea in Jazz. With the cut-outs, he freed himself from the definitiveness of mark-making, be it painted or drawn. . . .

“The dazzling freshness of the cut-outs may occasionally distract from the fact that these works are works of maturity, and an occasion for Matisse to revisit his oeuvre. The blue nudes hark back to his Blue Nude (Souvenir of Biskra), a fauvist painting from 1907 that caused much scandal at the time. (Its effigy was burnt at the Armory Show of 1913.) Matisse’s lifelong interest for patterns reemerges in pieces such as Large Composition with Masks (1953), originally intended as the design for a ceramic decoration for the patio of the Brody family in Los Angeles (the piece was turned down: “too big,” they said. It was the more modestly-sized The Sheaf that finally made it to California).

“Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs” runs at MoMA through February 8, 2015.

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