Thursday, October 05, 2017

Max Ernst. Beyond Painting The Museum of Modern Art.

From a statement written for a grant.

“Growing up in New York gave me easy access to all the museums and at an early age I started to go to The Brooklyn Museum, The Museum Of Natural History, The MOMA and The Whitney. I was particularly attracted to the large dioramas at the natural history museum, not for the history they told ,but for how they told that history. I was fascinated by the artificial landscapes and how they were made. At the same time I was also seeing the great works of modern art. The one work that stands out as having an impact on me as a child was Ernst's "Two Children Are Threatened By A Nightingale" which left a lasting impression on me because of Ernst's use of strange perspective, bright almost acidy coloration and the three-dimensional miniaturization of a gate and house. Some other influences were amusement parks, notably Steeplechase Park, movies, Times Square and the artists Joseph Cornell and Louise Nevelson. Knowing their work from an early age was an education. Seeing what they (and others) had done with assemblage was inspiring and made me realize that although their accomplishments were magnificent, there was still room for an original new voice to be heard.”

Which brings me to the fine but small Max Ernst show now showing at the Moma “Max Ernst Beyond Painting” which is comprised of works from the Moma’s collection. I was hoping for a much larger spread than the 100 or so pieces comprising paintings, sculptures, etchings, collages and books but this will have to do for now, and it does so nicely. I have been an admirer of this Surrealist Dada artist since I was a kid (see my statement above) and this nicely installed show reunites me with many familiar and often seen works especially “Two Children” (again see my statement above). There were also some surprises for me like the tiny tiny painting Adam and Eve Expelled From The Garden Of Eden which measures ½” x 1 3/8” one of several that Ernst painted in this scale and which he called “Microbes”. Also outstanding were his small etchings and his frottages (rubbings) which also take on a delicious sexual connotation especially in the gay world. Also notable and visually wonderful are the pages from 65 Maximiliana which is a series of twenty-eight etchings that Ernst mixed with text and haunting images inspired by a planetoid discovered in 1861 by the German astronomer Ernst Wilhelm Tempel. Scattered here and there are several sculptures and paintings but not enough to give someone a good idea of his movement and importance in these mediums. Maybe some other time. The show is really an introduction, a taste, a box of chocolates to be sampled especially for the many visitors who are unfamiliar with this great artist’s work and his long career and eventful life that would make one hell of a movie.


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