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THE JOY OF CUTTING
Poor Matisse, the story goes: when he lost his health, he couldn’t paint and did cut-outs instead. Coming to MoMA, a new exhibition at the Tate Modern shows that story to be all wrong. While he originally used cut-outs to model stage sets or books (the exuberant JAZZ), Matisse developed a full-fledged aesthetic of the cut-out based on color, harmony, saturation in images and, most of all, on making the familiar new. His was a collaborative art, in which assistants painted paper, he cut snd directed the arrangement of his shapes. (See photo one.) If you have seen “The Snail” before (See photo two), you will see it differently after this show. Cherish the ragged edges: that is one motto for this joyous, exuberant show which had me smiling and which I can’t wait to see again with my students in the Fall. #MoMA, #TateModern, #art, #collaboration, #joy, #cutting (paper, not skin), #Duke University, #DukeinNY
Fact Fiction Part II. Two delightful pieces of recycling fact and fiction to make art now on view at MoMA. Hiroshi Sugimoto’s charming 1975 polar bear is so convincing because it’s real—kind of. Actually, it’s a carefully artful photograph of a diorama at NY’s American Museum of Natural History that makes you want to say (as the day does) brrrrr. Below, Robert Rauschenberg”s Canyon (1959) recycles a stuffed eagle the artist found on a garbage heap outside Carnegie Hall. SW meets NW meets NYC.
REVISITING 1944 in 2013
Claude Lanzmann began his interviews for Shoah with what he intended as an expose of the head of the Jewish Council at Theresienstadt, Benjamin Murmelstein. Then he found himself convinced not only that the man was not guilty of sacrificing his fellow Jews or a Nazi collaborator but someone facing no good choices at a time when history offered none. At great length, Murmelstein makes his case that reinforcing the artificial image the Nazis cultivated of the “privileged camp”in a propaganda film made in 1944 represented the best chance for his own and his fellow inmates’ survival. [I think of Sebald’s masterful sequences in Austerlitz and feel glad to have seen clips of the original propaganda films here. Even without slow motion, the faces look so sad.] Murmelstein is witty, urbane, and filled not with self-hatred but with a sense that he made mistakes that history has judged harshly but he—and, after a lapse of almost 35 years—Lanzmann see as reasonable choices and perhaps even the best ones. Long, tough, and dense, like many of Lanzmann’s films, this documentary opens up new insights even for me, someone steeped in WWII history (including Nisko, a prominent stop in the film). I felt most impressed by the director’s hallmark: showing place and letting the site (empty and peopled by his interviewees) speak. 1944 lived in 1975 when Lanzmann filmed the original interviews. Now 87—his subject’s age back then— Lanzmann has produced a thought provoking film.
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