Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Proust! Expressionism! Murnau!

Several times, it might take, to feel at ease in the display of  Proust's tiny notebooks and some excerpts, carefully chosen... I went, as many of us did, to the Morgan Library, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the publication of the first volume of the great A la recherche du temps perdu -- here you could see his wondering about whether to write as an essayist or a novelist, you could see the development of the novel from the beginnings in his Contre Sainte-Beuve, the waking scenes and the going to bed scenes.. I loved writing it up for Hyperallergicweekend,


 and Antoine Compagnon's lecture was superb, showing the changes in the manuscript and on the cover.. it was all a great joy.

As is the German Expressionism at the Neue Galerie, 1900-1930 (lots of things from Die  Brucke, and from the Blaue Reiter) with particularly unusual items lent by Estee Lauder. The first thing that struck me was the Lovis Corinth  Fruit Bowl of 1923, where the pedestal of one fruit dish was leaning to one side, the fruit was tipping into the next bowl, and above that,a fruit dish with a lot of empty space. A small squish of white balanced a dab of blue, and the flowing strokes up to down were so strong that a veritable current was created, only interrupted by a small dangle of grey at the top.

And, of course, the Christian Schad, say, the Two Girls of 1929, all intertwined , hands on lips and dark stockings, and eyes cast down with a small smile, a red flower on the right dark stocking, then other rolled down past the knee-- with above them, a white mess of a sheet or a pillow or something, with the end of a leather strap just sitting there. Facing us, a half-slip pulled down over a breast, a left arm obscuring the left eye of the woman behind... all in perfect and ghastly symmetry.

Otto Dix portraits are staring at you, one with a Seated terrified woman, and a scarier one still, called the Female Nude with Red Hair and Stockings in Front of Pink Cloth.  Spell it out in the title, and indeed she does have red hair and stockings... the titles don't lie, they describe, in detail, what you are looking at. Rudolf Schlichter's Woman in a Tie of 1923 already says what you see -- if you think of Annie Hall and that groovy tie, so much the better.

George Grosz spells it out too: Portrait of John Forste, Man with Glass Eye. Of course you want immediately to know which is the glass, which the real...The guy did great stuff. Take the Night of 1917 with the face desperately distressed, a tiny figure lost, a tall one smirking...I could have stopped right there, but the plenteousness got me. Max Beckmann I have taught so often, and cared about -- that amazing play by the Bauers, the Blue Flower, was based on him. He did over 80 self-portraits, which may tell us something about his oversized personality: here is the Self-Portrait with Horn, when he  had just fled Berlin, targeted by the Nazis, fleeing to Amsterdam in 1938. He is wearing stripes like the prisoner he might have been: everything is brutal and raw.Overpowering.

As for titles, Paul Klee took the cookie. How about The Moon was on the Wane and Showed me the Grimace of a Notorious Lord...I especially take to the tiny shapes he places in a large frame, but points to them in the title, such as the Yellow House of 1915, and the Small Black Door, these encased in other colors and shapes...

Downstairs they showed a Murnau silent film, The Last Laugh, and with all its misery, totally convincing, a sudden more than happy end, stuck on, as the credits say. To please! and it did. 

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