Matisse/Diebenkorn At SFMOMA

While in San Francisco for a wedding (congratulations, L-!), my better half and I visited the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

While I appreciate the theory behind pairing Diebenkorn with Matisse to bring attention to the work of a NorCal painter (and I applaud SFMOMA for staging a blockbuster style exhibit that highlights a local artist) and appreciate them trying to find a new way to show a lot of Matisse paintings that isn’t just another retrospective, but… it all came together in a way that was unjust to both artists.

Besides the obvious: very few artists will not see their work pale with paired with one of the greats, like Matisse.

But also, Diebenkorn, someone I had not been familiar with before, but who is clearly an amazing painter, is reduced to his relationship to the influences of Matisse (for myself, I saw more Cezanne and Hopper than Matisse, but my opinion is suspect because, by the end, I was openly rebelling against the exhibit’s paradigm).

And we are presented with all these wonderful Matisses and they feel suffocated on the walls. Many of these works needed a little room to breathe and be appreciated for their own sake and not smushed (psychically and geographically) with someone else’s oeuvre.

Unrelated, they had two metal floor sculptures by Carl Andre that I made my better half stand on (because you could – as long as you wore shoes).

I first encountered his work at the Pompidou Centre. I swear it was his 144 Zinc Squares. An internet search revealed that that museum has Tin Squares, but my memory is so clear, I have to believe that it was Zinc Squares that I saw that day. But this is all besides the point.

The first time I saw 144  [Some Kind of Silvery Colored Metal] Squares, my mind was blown. But I didn’t realize you could walk on it. I went back (because I loved that museum so much) and read that visitors could walk on it. And if my mind was blown the first time, then this time, well, insert some kind of metaphor (maybe something involving nuclear explosions, but nothing tasteless that directly references actually nuclear disasters, which includes the dropping of the atomic bombs in World War II and morally outrageous nuclear tests on Pacific islands, but feel free to make some kind of Godzilla reference). To this day, I can still remember the sensation of walking on a piece of art and the electric sensation that ran from my feet to my brain. Probably, my love of conceptual art stems from that day.

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