Saturday, October 12, 2013

Magritte and the animals

I spent a weekend in New York recently, and had a swell time. Hung out with friends. Enjoyed lovely weather. Had another delicious lunch at Candle Café. (They have frozen entrees now, available at Whole Foods. I tried the tofu and spinach ravioli, and it was quite nice as frozen food goes. They’re pretty pricey, but I would get some more if they were on sale.) Finally got to Moo Shoes and picked up some desperately needed boots. (I’ve been fortunate the weather in the northeast has been unseasonably warm, but I was beginning to feel chilly, and would be starting to look silly, continuing to wear flip flops.) Stayed in the lap of luxury in a suite in a midtown hotel, which I was pained to have to leave after such a short stay.

A highlight was a visit to the Museum of Modern Art. I’d planned to go for the “American Modern: Hopper to O’Keeffe” show, which was well worth a visit, but was over the moon to learn that the exhibit “Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926-1938” had opened that weekend. Magritte has been one of my favorite artists for pretty much ever, and I enjoyed the exhibit immensely. It was a reasonable size, and the period featured is when he did what I consider his best work. I just love his style – the clarity of design, the sophistication of color, the blend of seriousness and play. And everything is so neat and crisp and contained. (…But then I’m probably the only one who actually liked Monk’s paintings.)

Of course, I took special notice of animal themes. I hadn’t been familiar with many of Magritte’s animal-related paintings before, but there were several on display and I found more later online.*

One featured in the exhibit was Pleasure (1927):

One I found online (and I’m surprised I hadn’t come across it before) is Collective Invention (1935):

Another example is Homesickness (1940):

But my favorite work in the show by far, to which I kept returning, was Hunters at the Edge of Night (1928):

It’s not that I believe Magritte was trying in these works to say something about other animals or humans’ relationships with them – that seems very unlikely - but that his use of animal and animal-related imagery in these poetic juxtapositions can evoke feelings and ideas about them that transcend his original intent. These ideas remain consistent, though, with his interest in subverting ordinary understandings.

*The colors in these are terribly distorted, which is unfortunate.

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