Sunday, October 25, 2015

Joaquin Torres-Garcia: The Arcadian Modern." The Museum Of Modern Art

            Maybe it’s me but lately I’ve not been getting much joy or pleasure from what I’ve been seeing in the galleries. When I start admiring the floors instead of the art, then I know something is wrong. True these galleries are limited to Chelsea, and because of my own personal trials and tribulations, It’s difficult for me to get to the more hip areas of the city where many galleries are located. My bad.
            Oh occasionally for old times sake I’ll travel up to 57th street and take in a few shows in the remaining few galleries on that once beautiful street that is now scared and vicious with ugly tall cylinders that have ruined the scale of block, but I have to make do with what I can do so my complaints are indeed focused on Chelsea.
            This is a neighborhood that you might say I grew up in, having moved to an 6th floor walkup apartment on 8th avenue when I was barely 19 years old and I stayed  in the neighborhood here and there  for over 30 years.  Part of the problem is the slick, slack and commercial texture that this area has become. To some degree everything looks shiny, new, expensive and fake and this includes much of the art and the spaces that show it.
                  Take the other day, what I saw to a large extent was all gloss and superficial.  Everything looked like Tiffany windows full of bubbles bangles and beads, and everything was on the same low level both in energy and artistic chops. Whether they were paintings or objects it all looked the same and left me feeling drained, uninterested and somewhat depressed.  
              Happily though I have been getting my kicks in art viewing at the great museums that fill this Gotham of mine and I can now without haste or hesitation say that the newly installed retrospective of the great and mostly unknown (in this country anyway) Joaquin Torres Garcia at the Moma is a beguiling and intricately  stunning show. 
              Beautifully installed in one of the awkward 6th floor galleries,  the exhibition covers his entire career of art making and I left the show feeling that this was an art life well lived. This feeling doesn’t happen that often for me, especially at this place. Born in Uruguay   he straddled  both the late 19th century and the 20th dying at mid-century in 1949 at 75, not very old by today’s standard of old age.  
           His most famous and best known works are probably his grid like picto paintings that are here in force, delicate and mostly grey and minimal but lively and magical because of what he put in these landscapes of ups and downs, of lines and cubes. These are the works that do doubt gave inspiration to Adolph Gottlieb and others with their tight complicated little spaces filled with tiny hearts and faces. Boats  and suns, fish and clocks. He took cubism and made it personal mixing the abstract with representation. He came to New York City and loved it so much that he stayed for three years absorbing the energy and the artists living and working here and taking the shapes lines and colors for his paintings. Also great and well represented in the exhibition are many of his small (and a few big ones) wood constructions that are rough but elegant at the same time, and these pieces were really of interest to me, how could they not be? Also marvelous are his simple wooden toys that I remember seeing when I was a very young artist maybe at the Guggenheim. Here they are exhibited mainly in a large wall display hung in a way that brings to mind a toy store window. This show will hold me with hope and excitement until I get to see something wonderful elsewhere which will most likely be in my own small art making room in my small apartment in Brooklyn. The exhibition is on display until February.    


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