Friday, October 10, 2008

Giorgio Morandi in New York - I

Giorgio Morandi, Still Life, 1956, oil on canvas, 
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven

Giorgio Morandi, Still Life with five Objects, 1956, etching on copper,
Estorick Collection, London

Edward Hopper, Lighthouse at Two Lights1929, oil on canvas,
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

A couple of weeks ago, 0penhousenewyork took place. For those of you who don’t know, this is an annual event during which significant architectural, engineering and landscape landmarks and spaces, many normally with restricted access, are open to the public. I take advantage of this opportunity and this year, visited Edward Hopper’s studio, now part of New York University on Washington Square North. This may sound like a strange way to lead into a piece on Giorgio Morandi but hang in there. In Hopper’s studio, a bright sun poured through the south facing windows almost blinding me as I viewed the space enclosing such original items as the artist’s easel, model stand and printing press. The old, heavy metal press was particularly interesting for I thought about Hopper pulling his prints, looking at the results and reworking and experimenting accordingly. This had to be hard work. Edward Hopper (1882-1967) was 8 years older than Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964). Both artists excelled in etching as well as painting and watercolor. I can imagine both men delighting in a plate well-inked. Both artists pursued an individualistic way of seeing and were steadfast in their ways – we can recognize a Hopper and Morandi quite easily. Both artists found their own solutions to the effect of light on forms. Both artists are much valued in their native countries and both affected their own country’s great film makers: Hopper on Alfred Hitchcock (Psycho) and Morandi on Frederico Fellini (La Dolce Vita). While Hopper’s work can be characterized by remoteness, melancholia, isolation, alienation, Morandi’s work is filled with relationships, emotions, warmth and tenderness. Both artists worked outside main stream movements, doing their “own thing”, producing, one might say, quiet poems. In America, Hopper is familiar territory and now in New York, Morandi comes into his own.

With an amazing retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art as well as five other concurrent exhibits in Manhattan, we are given the occasion to become intimately acquainted with this remarkable artist. Moreover, we can submerge ourselves in his works on paper and get real close to his sublime etchings. Although not well-known in America, among artists here Morandi is acknowledged as a painter’s painter. He is a painter of subtleties, of relationships, of colors, tones, shades and forms, his paintings seem to materialize before I eyes. Once Morandi having absorbed his early influences such as Giotto, Massacio, Piero della Francesca, Cezanne and the metaphysical works of his Italian contemporaries, he worked outside the main stream movements, doing “his own thing”. He was steadfast in his concentration and dedication to the problems he set up and his solutions. How does light define form? How do we perceive shadows, tones, relationships? How can we ever really depict reality when it is always changing?

Soon to appear on this blog: What not to miss at the Morandi shows and in what order to view them.

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