Art News and Opinion: June 5, 2010


Claude Monet, Les Bassin aux nymphéas, at Gagosian Gallery

Claude Monet: Late Work” is a massive recent show opened by Larry Gagosian. Gagosian’s mega-gallery spanning across several cities currently houses 27 works by the Impressionist painter in the latter years of his career. While many critics will argue that the years in which these paintings were composed belong chiefly to newer thinkers such as Paul Cézanne, who was boldly paving the road for Cubism, one could contend that Monet was already thinking further ahead with brushstrokes that are reminiscent of Jackson Pollock’s Abstract Expressionist paintings. Shown in the exhibition, Monet began to enlarge his brushstrokes, focus on overripe colors, and amplify his scale and space as he forever broke through the delicate brushstrokes of his earlier works. Among the paintings in Gagosian’s gallery are seven paintings that were part of Monet’s 1909 exhibition at the Galerie Durand-Ruel in Paris, called Les Nymphéas, or the Water Lilies.

The Rue Louise Weiss, an unassuming street in southeastern Paris that was the face of the city’s 21st-century contemporary art scene, is coming to a close. Where over a dozen galleries once clustered and exhibition openings attracted visitors in the thousands, only four galleries remain—with two of those, Praz-Delavallade and GB Agency, also quitting the neighborhood in the 13th Arrondissement this year for the centrally located Marais. “It’s an area that had a huge importance in the contemporary arts world in France,” said Frédéric Bugada, co-owner of Bugada & Cargnel in Belleville. “It marked a generation of artists, a bit like in the music world, at the end of the 1990s.” While the area around the Rue Louise Weiss remains underdeveloped, the spirit of the street has nevertheless left an imprint on the arts world.

Last month at Christie’s, a Pablo Picasso painting landed the amazingly high bid of $106.5. Nude, Green Leaves and Bust set the record for any art sold anywhere at auction up until now. With collectors, the late 1920s and early ’30s have become a popular phase in Picasso’s career thanks to a series of paintings that feature a blond female figure, the same one found in Nude, Green Leaves and Bust. Picasso’s tendencies to feature female muses in his paintings—oftentimes his lovers in real life—was not uncommon; this particular model was a teenager when she met the middle-aged Picasso in Paris. Aside from depicting the female figure, Picasso loved to compete against the other artists of his time—something that made him an entertainer back then, and clearly still does today.

Five well-known masterpieces by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and other greats were recently stolen from the Museum of Modern Art in Paris. If one wanted to start a modern art museum, these paintings would be a great platform from which to start, as the pieces chronicle the story of modern art’s emergence from Fauvism to the roots of Expressionism. Beginning with Pastoral by Henri Matisse and Olive Tree Near L’Estaque by Georges Braque, the thief chose pieces that represent the morphing of Impressionism into brighter, unnatural colors, which begin to represent abstract ideas—not hitherto realized. Both paintings were finished in 1906, which is also the year that Paul Cézanne died, whose paintings influenced Braque’s move towards Cubism. The Cubism movement was made famous by the works of Pablo Picasso, as exemplified in the next stolen piece, Dove With Green Peas, completed in 1911. Still Life With Candlestick by Fernand Leger circa 1922 was also targeted by the thief, a painting that still represents Cubism’s influence while combining the saturated colors of Fauvism. Lastly, Woman With Fan by Amedeo Modigliani painted in 1919 represents a shift into the Expressionist movement.

Next year, 25 exhibitions will open in museums and galleries across Southern California, focusing on art movements from the postwar years up until 1980 that either started or had a strong base in that region, including Pop and Minimalism. As part of the Getty Foundation initiative called “Pacific Standard Time,” the upcoming shows are eliciting grumblings as Southern Californian artists remember New York’s history of overlooking their work. However, today it doesn’t seem to matter if L.A. artists are snubbed by the East Coast art scene as more and more young artists from California—some fresh out of graduate school—are receiving worldwide attention and enjoying solo exhibitions in museums all over Europe.

Laura Lawson paints when writer’s block strikes and writes when painter’s block strikes. She has studied fine art at LCAD and is pursuing a degree in journalism. Recently diagnosed with the degenerative eye disease retinitis pigmentosa, she strives to bring hope to those without vision through her blog. She is currently working on her first book about coping with vision loss.