Walk: Union Square, SFMOMA Distance: 3.6 miles, Home Yoga
Remember the funeral scene in Charade when Lee Marvin put a mirror under the corpse's nose to see if he was really dead? Ciwt felt a little like that today when she went to SFMOMA to check out if the Matisse Diebenkorn show really was over and off the walls. Happily for her (but not Lee Marvin), Yes.
Ciwt actually likes museums just after an important show has closed. It is a true after-the-ball feeling. Almost no one thinks to come view art that day, so the buildings are hushed and virtually empty. Except for the 'wrecking' and crating crews- and, hopefully later the cleaning crew because museums are usually pretty beat up from the huge crowds during the last days of a show.
Overall, Ciwt gives Matisse Diebenkorn a B+ for all that terrific art with an A for attracting visitors. The show was packed from the day it opened until closing day - which happened to be on a holiday, so Ciwt can only imagine the scene yesterday. If, instead of being a direct M-D comparison, the show had been presented as a marvelous happenstance of one artist in search of a teacher encountering a great artist going through a transition, Ciwt would likely up her grade to A for the whole show. That would have been a more interesting, full and accurate art story.
Walk: No (except for fingers) Distance: 0, Home Yoga
So, here comes summer which put Ciwt in mind of finding herself a little country getaway. You know, small, nothing pretentious. Maybe something with a pool
or something a bit more woodsy.
So she began looking in her price range on line for something near her Bay Area home.
That didn't work out too well, so she thought, "Well, maybe look at higher price ranges just for the heck of it."
At which point this listing came up on her screen. Needless to say, she didn't look further and is just about to do yoga to center herself, get out of the dispirited mood that somehow came upon her and savor life in her small but lovely city home.
Walk: No - trapped by computer glitches Distance: A few blocks, small yoga
Johannes Vermeer, Woman with a Pearl Necklace, 1662-1664, o/c, 1' 10" x 1 6"
Believe it or not, Ciwt does have other favorite artists (along with much of the world). She had never seen this painting by Jan Vermeer until today and loves that it is so petite and exquisite.
Henri Matisse, Bathers by a River, (1909-10,1913,1916-17), o/c
So, once again, here it is above: the shift in Matisse's painting during the years 1913-1917. From: lyrical, bright, pure color, sensuality, curved forms, joy To: chalky, dull colors, sharp edged, enigmatic/mental, pleasureless. Why? What was going with Matisse that brought his art to this place?
No one is entirely sure. But three reasons stand out. The first, of course, was the devastating emotional toll The Great War took on Matisse.
He volunteered to fight twice and was twice rejected due to age (44) and a heart condition. Deeply dejected by not being able to serve as his artistic colleagues and countrymen went off to war, he continued to paint as a matter of sheer will and as his only means of contributing to his country. The nearing German threat and general wartime turmoil kept Matisse precariously moving from studio to studio and then worsened when the Germans occupied Northern France where his family still lived. The Matisses could not get out and their famous son could not get in. Later his two sons were both conscripted which added to his helpless worry. Even before World War I Matisse suffered from chronic insomnia, anxiety and stomach disorders, and certainly his health issues must have been greatly exascerbated by the constant upheaval and fear for his family.
The war also exascerbated career decisions and deep aesthetic questions that Matisse felt compelled to answer. The Great War changed the Paris art scene, interrupting international exchange among artists, drying up gallery life, cutting off Matisse (and all his artistic colleagues) from other financial life lines and their most appreciative audiences. The wartime city itself became impoverished, hungry, clothed in the dull colors of deprivation, restriction and depression. Life itself was in question; it was no time to paint exuberance.
But even before the war, Matisse had likely come to the end his Fauve color exploration and was probably wondering what his next artistic moves would be. (You can actually see him experimenting in Bathers by a River which was begun before the war and shortly after Dance was completed). Cubism was certainly on his mind. A variety of art movements were capturing the short attention spans of the art world, and Cubism had risen to promience. Picasso, Braque and Gris and others to a lesser extent were now being shown, collected, reviewed as Matisse's star was dimming.
Matisse initially rejected the style for himself: Of course Cubism interested me, but, it did not speak directly to my deeply sensuous nature, to such a great lover as I am of line and of the arabesque, those two life givers. But it was not Matisse's way - which Ciwt finds incredibly commendable - to just dismiss an art style he could see had merits or to stop grappling with the artistic unknown. So from essentially 1913 to 1917 he worked to radically explore his art, discussing Cubism at length with his lifetime friend Picasso and Gris (whom he helped support financially during the war), experimenting with abstraction on canvas, seeing how and if it might work for him.
By 1917, the bridge experiment was over, the questions resolved. Matisse never became the destructive Cubist, but he did develop his own type of abstraction. He returned to color, although more controlled and muted than his Fauve colors. He decided angular, 'difficult' (for the viewer) intellectual art was definitely not for him. And he returned to arabesques, women, birds, fabrics, flowers and moved into the next stage of his lifelong quest to find and release Joy through his art. Culminating in his Cutouts - his and one of the art world's most radical and glorious inventions ever.
Henri Matisse, Flowers and Parakeets, 1924, o/c
Henri Matisse, The Parakeet and the Mermaid, 1952, Gouache on paper, cut and pasted, and charcoal on paper
Walk: Presidio, Golf Club Practice Tee Distance: 3 miles, hit bucket of balls, home yoga
Whew, it is almost over. The Matisse Diebenkorn show at SFMOMA. Ciwt is relieved because she can stop looking at her feet when anyone exclaims "I LOVED the Matisse Diebenkorn!! Tell me it isn't the best show you've seen - EVER!"
They are not looking for a real answer. If Ciwt actually gave one, it would be something along the lines of "Well, no."
Those who, like Ciwt, love and have spent time studying Henri Matisse and his art, probably reacted like she did when she walked into the exhibition. Their hearts sank. "Oh, those paintings." Meaning Matisse's paintings from the years 1913-1917.
The show's curators scoured the world to cull those particular paintings, and rightly so from the point of view of clearly demonstrating their effect on Diebenkorn's art. Matisse, 1914 Diebenkorn, 1975
But those paintings are an anomaly for Matisse who is known for exurberant color, dancing lines, arabesque swirls, love of fabric and sensual ease - and capturing JOY. His art makes people happy in a way that no one can quite explain. Except the art he produced during the years 1913-1917. Those were truly dark years personally and professionally for Matisse. And for that four-year experimental moment in his long and important career his art too was dark, chalky, linear, abstract, drab. There are definite internal and external reasons for this, but these are not aluded to, much less explained, by the Matisse Diebenkorn curators.
First let's let the visuals speak. Paintings of open windows in the south of France for instance.
Here is one painted in 1908 (his explosively colorful Fauve period): Henri Matisse, Open Window Collioure, 1904, o/c
Now we see the exact same window and vantage point started but not finished in 1914. Even though never shown in his lifetime or even signed, it hangs in a prominent place in the Matisse Diebenkorn exhibition:
Henri Matisse, French Window at Collioure, 1914, oil/canvas
And here is one of his windows in 1918 again in the south of France painted when his artistic questions were resolving and he began to move out of those years:
Henri Matisse, Interior at Nice, 1918, o/c
One could find similar movement - from exuberant light to dark, then back to pleasing color - in other subject matter such as studio interiors, foliage, musical instruments and his renowned goldfish.
Famously and happily, here they are in gold water in 1912:
Henri Matisse, Goldfish, 1912, o/c
Now abstracted and in chalky white water in the Matisse Diebenkorn featured years:
Henri Matisse, Goldfish and Palette, 1914-15, o/c
And (one could say) in the marvelous cutouts shortly before his death:
Henri Matisse, The Swimming Pool, 1952, burlap/white paper/blue painted paper
Matisse's Dining Room at the Hotel Regina, Nice
So what really was going on for Matisse during those years 1913-1918? Stay tuned, please....
Off the sick list, Ciwt walked to Andy Goldworthy's Spire and noticed something strange: some red and yellow things are the usually bare base of the installation (at the feet of the visitors having their pictures taken). So she walked closer, and, voila, flowers completely circling it.
Then when she was leaving the Presidio, she noticed a white balloon floating free -
No, it's not your eyes; the balloon is a little off center to the right. (Sometimes iphone cameras aren't all they are cracked up to be).
Succulents producing myriad flowers
And decided to take all these lovely events personally: "Welcome back to the world, Ciwt!"
Walk: Just a few errands in horrible, no good, freezing, howling weather (so, there) Distance: Half mile, Home Yoga (nice and warm)
Okay, here is the succulent PhD exam. This poor guy was found today all knarly near the trash and stuck in Ciwt's planter box in the midst of a major wind and cold snap. Will it prevail? Stay tuned.....
So, on this Mothers Day Ciwt continued to keep neighborhood theaters alive by going to an early showing of Chuck. When she got there, crowds of people were standing outside on the sidewalk, and a few minutes later, two hook and ladders showed up.
15-20 minutes later the firemen gave the okay, and people began filing back in. Or maybe not; Ciwt was the only one in Theater One where Chuck was showing. (The movie wasn't that bad, and Liev Schreiber was terrific. Not a Mothers Day movie though).
After the movie, Ciwt went home to make a few Sunday calls - only to find her landline phones were all dead. While she was plugging and unplugging her phones in some attempts to 'solve' the problem, she heard some clatter on the streets. Then louder and louder clatter, so she looked out and her window and saw Four! hook and ladders. Right on her street!
And then a small army of fire personnel and two or three huge ladders were raised. The firemen climbed , the smoke poured out of top windows and then cleared, hot heavy things were dragged to the street and doused with something. Ciwt kept watching wondering if she was going to have to grab Callie and go.....(who knows where). But, about an hour later, the ladders came down, the firemen got in their engines, and truck by truck the street cleared.
For the heck of it, she checked her phones and found they were clear too!
Simply the most lively Mothers Day Ciwt has ever experienced.
Walk: Opera Plaza Cinema (Citizen Jane and Truman) Distance: 4 miles
Before with brassy Cheap Pete's frame that drove Ciwt kind of nuts
After with frame that calmly lets the print - not frame- stand out
Solution Ciwt would probably like better (narrower frame). But the one above was the framer's solution which he liked a lot. Ciwt had already sort of blown his mind by coming up with Frame Job 1 (see yesterday) after he'd given it a bunch of tries, and she didn't want to hurt his feelings. No big deal anyway. The main thing is two areas in her home that were bothering her enough to consider spending some outrageous amount on new art are now easy on her eyes for just a few hundred dollars from a frame shop she could walk to...
*If you want to look closely, you can see Ciwt's hands reflected in the glass.
Excellent Decisions Department: Ciwt seriously considered buying a painting a few weeks ago, but decided instead to reframe a couple of ones she already had. What a difference! Aesthetically and economically.
Walk: Marin Driving Day, Legion of Honor Distance: 1 mile, small yoga
Claude Monet, House on the River Zaan at Zaandam, 1871, Oil on Canvas, 18.77" x 29"
For a respite Ciwt returned to the current Monet show still at the Legion. Really nice to just enjoy the exhibition without having to be think of how she might present and talk about it to clients.
This little painting just captures the room and the viewers with its soft, sweet glow. Even though done quite early in Monet's career (before Impressionism, of which he is considered the father), it is one of the most complex depictions of reflected in his entire body of work.