Art from the Centre Georges Pompidou
I’m glad I saw the Jackson Pollock show at the modern before I saw this one. It gave one a sense of perspective. Something like “How Europe sees us”. Jackson Pollock is a good example. He is represented in this collection by two small classic “drip paintings”. And a large early work during his “constructivist” period. After the truly mind expanding experience of seeing Pollock's work en masse, this small smattering of tasteful Pollock sets the tone for the rest of the show, ‘a polite offering of genuinely explosive material’. DeKooning has never seemed tamer.
Eva Hesse and Richard Serra dominated the most current sculpture room; both of whose work seemed compelling and new in a room of survivors from a generation ago. These two artists easily fill the rôle of American Masters and give support to the idea that the ongoing impulse to create new art still rests on this side of the Atlantic.
As a matter of fact one of the subthemes of show could be “New American Art and its reflection in Europe.” The American Art of the past fifty years is given an almost academic presentation. There is much American Art in this collection and it certainly is dominant. This feeling is reinforced by the inclusion of the work of Soulages among the Americans of that period.
But there is some excellent French Art, notably the Dubuffet and Tinguely. There are about five large DuBuffets, which are exquisite. His work seems authentic. He is not serving up Abstract Expressionist rhetoric. His grotesque but involving women are built out of mounds of paint built up on the canvas, monochromatic. Sculpture by Tinguely is animate but unfortunately not plugged in, so one does not see this art in motion as Tinguely planned it fifty years ago. I remember seeing a Tinguely piano destroy itself some years ago in the garden of MOMA. It was a witty and charming event.
One of the really amazing paintings in the show is the oversized Picabia from 1913. The sheer size of this picture is impressive. Seen at a distance it is an agreeable cubist statement, but walking up close, the painting takes on a heroic stature. Its forms rumble in a mountain like heft. It becomes clear that Picabia was a major talent.
Suddenly I am comfortable with all the great collections I am surrounded by here in New York City. There’s not much we are missing in the art of the past century. What the Pompidou Center has, we, the New York art-going public have seen in aces.