Ah, Matisse

Sketchbook, Aten

It was a few days saturated and dripping with significance, and also wonderfully airy in thought and idea. The Matisse Cutouts at MoMA, a once in a lifetime experience of seeing many of his late-life things together, as they were created, in some semblance of connected thought. It is one thing to be entranced by Blue Nude II, but quite another to see four world-scattered versions side by side along with his sketchbook pages, also scattered to the four winds, where he worked it out. But this trip started with an intense desire to see Swimming Pool again, not seen by me (or almost anyone else other than restorers) for more than 20 years. Entrancing. And that he made it for himself. This is something I noticed this time. I like the things he made for himself. To enrich his own spaces, his environment. Freer in how they were both conceived and carried out, maybe. I am paying attention to all the under-sketching and use of black. Three times to see Matisse. But then so much more – Cooper Hewitt and the fantastic do-design-right-now exhibits. Dubuffet and his Phenomona and ‘The Incursion of Botany into Lithography’. Ethereal Frankenthaler with paint thinned to translucence. The language and the hope of Group Zero: works called ‘Dissolution of formation’, ‘Vibration white and yellow’, ‘Chronotopo’, ‘Seventh attempt to burn the night’. The marvelous surprise of Indian painter Gaitonde and his breath-catching atmospheric abstracts. He says, first you must absorb all the silences. And then you wait. Wait. Wait. To be both a rasika (one who experiences intuitively) and a rasajña (one who learns analytically). And the Lauder Cubists. It was a revelation to be reminded of the value of superb curation and editorial choice and understanding of vision. I’ve never been fond of the early Picasso-Braque brownish cubism – but, here, fantastic. And paper-collé. I am longing to be in the studio. And Juan Gris – I never appreciated him until reading his story and seeing gorgeous works here – and wow. Gris’ ‘Flowers’ – I am in love. This writing is for me – to remember.

We saw the Matisse Cutouts with close friend and landscape architect Darrel Morrison. The trip’s grand finale was a visit with Darrel to the Native Flora Garden he designed and planted at Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Because all of the art is to help see the natural world and what could be possible.

Nancy Aten

BBG winter composite, Aten
Nancy Aten