I am one of those people that badly want to be an artist. Yet my drawings of people are so bad that they have been confused with a child’s etchings of stick figures-remotely comparable to Michelangelo’s ability to mold a human form out of a lump of marble.
So, after being resigned to accept that I will never, ever be an artist, I have become obsessed with observing and supporting the talent of others. Nowhere in my journeys yet as an art reviewer have I seen such a great display of artistic ability as at the Bass Museum’s new Paris Moderne Art exhibit.
This exhibit, publicized as “art deco works from the Musee d’Art de la Ville de Paris,” commemorates the first time these works have traveled outside of France. The purpose of the exhibit’s setup was to immerse the viewer into the life of a 1920s-1930s Parisian. Living room furniture displays were set up around the multiple rooms that made up the top floor of the museum, complete with paintings ornamenting the staged living room walls. After running up the longest plank I’ve ever seen to the second floor, I found the exhibit.
But those thirty minutes (and more, since they let me stay later) were worth my time and I would advise anyone interested enough to be reading my article (thank you, I love you) that it’d be worth your time too. What I liked so much was that the exhibit displayed so many different styles of art. There was impressionism (Monet-style), naturalistic realism (looks so much like the real thing it scares you) and cubism, a term I used to hear thrown around in art lectures, but was too shy to ask what it was. Turns out, cubism is a newfound favorite-an abstract form of art begun by Pablo Picasso.
In one of the cubist works shown at the Bass, “Paysage (Landscape),” artist Leopold Surbage’s work was an urban landscape intruded by geometrical planes made abstract by enlarged pieces of fruit at the forefront of the painting. Imbued with bright pastels, I imagined the painter might have spent some time at South Beach.
The first painting is filled with bright colors showing 110 portraits of the scientists and inventors who contributed to the development of electricity. The scene encompassed all discoverers from the Olympic deities to Newton, Pascal, Da Vinci, Aristotle and Joule. What was so interesting and fun about Raol Dufy’s “La Fee Electicite” was that he personalized these inventors, made them people rather than historical figureheads. This masterpiece traces the lineage and tells the story of this innovation, while being comical in its portraiture of staunch historical figures.
One last favorite was Andre Derain’s “The Back.” The inscription beside it informed me that the artist had apparently utilized Albertian mathematical perspective. This means he used mathematical ratios and numerical proportions to help him in creating a three-dimensional picture on a two-dimensional surface, an incredible effect. The brown tones of the back and the playing of the light enhanced the curvature of the spine.
Interpreting an artist’s work, I feel, is like watching an ice-skater perform in the Olympics. After watching the skater do a triple axle, the people at home watching think, “Man, it looks so easy, I could do that.” Their skill makes it look effortless, so much time and practice to make something incredulous look so easy to do, because objects look so lifelike you forget how much time and effort goes into trying to make figures look as they do in reality.
The Paris Moderne Exhibit is located at the Bass Museum of Art in South Beach, if you long to transport yourself to a street-side caf