M A D I S O N _G R A Y | deep_SIGHT
"I used to be so nervous I got palpitations. Now I don't have that trouble. I see the canvas and I begin.
But, you have to keep on the very edge of something all the time, or the picture dies."
---Willem de Kooning
Guggenheim Museum NYC | 9.8.00 - 1.7.01
Amazons of the Avant-Garde
L A C O N I C _R E V I E W :
Here's my short take on the show I breezed through quickly at the Guggenheim (NYC) late this morning, right after seeing the exhibition a floor below of Frank Gehry's proposed Guggenheim Museum on the East River in Lower Manhattan (see "The Leviathan and the Water Lily"). It comes down to 4 words:
Rozanova, "Green Stripe," 1917
The stripe's in the wrong place, but to me it's still the best piece in the show. I've just looked up the Guggenheim website. And I see that, gratifyingly, while there's no picture, the short summary on Rozanova does single out this painting: "Some would argue that, in their kinetic play and monochromatic fields, Rozanova's abstract paintings, such as Green Stripe (Color Painting), 1917, are even more radical, more engaging, and more experimental than Malevich's monochromes of the same period. Indeed, contemporaries implied that the 'father of Suprematism' was envious of his younger colleague's sharp intelligence and original vision."
I don't linger in museums. Unless there's something that catches my eye. Something didactic. Something relevant to my own work. Then I stop. And study. My take is very practical. Relevance. As I will no doubt say again, perhaps as soon as the forthcoming Gehry critique, I look for sources of emulation. Ways of seeing, ways of making paintings and buildings that cause me to stop, reflect, and say that's really good, I like the way she thinks. I'd like to achieve something of that in my work. But I feel like I've seen these paintings before---in their original form, by Braque, Picasso, Gris, Metzinger, and pre-1917 Malevich. And they fall short by and large of the exquisite chromatic and technical achievements of surface realized by another 'Amazon,' Belle Baranceanu, an American painter working in the 20s on the West Coast. That's more relevant to my painting. Which is not to disparage the works of these six woman. They made some fine paintings. And some aren't really fine at all. Mediocre in fact. It's simply to say that I've already learned the same lessons they've learned from the same painters they themselves learned them from, Rozanova's and Malevich's relationship notwithstanding. My paintings are better than the worst if not also the run-of-the-mill of these. And the one painting that seems truly in advance of its time, that sings with unmistkable originality, that instructs me, albeit in a simple way, is . . . "Green Stripe," 1917. The stripe's in the center. Which keeps the painting from being even more prescient and progressive than it is. But, still, Rozanova was on the edge of something.
e-mail MadisonGray@thearchitectpainter.com


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