October 27, 2007

Seurat's light and shadow

"Georges Seurat: The Drawings," curated by Jodi Hauptman. Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY. Through Jan. 7.

This exhibition, the first NYC show of Seurat's work in fifteen years, includes conté drawings along with a few oil sketches and paintings. Surveying the artist's entire career, from his academic training through to the studies made for his famous pointillist paintings like A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, the exhibition presents new ideas about his artistic strategies and materials. Roberta Smith reports in the NYTimes: "It could be argued that the future that Seurat helped create for pictorial space and figurative art did not really flower until near the end of the 20th century, when Conceptual art interrupted the linear march of abstraction and reopened all mediums to narrative. It is now more widely accepted that representation and abstraction can coexist within a work of art. Really, they can’t live without each other, and never have, as Seurat so sublimely affirms." Read more.

In the NYSun, Lance Esplund suggests that the Seurat show makes up for disappointing Kara Walker and Richard Prince retrospectives, and gives curator Hauptman a pat on the back. "Seurat's black forms are fleeting, and they swallow light. They hover like apparitions and they rise and fall, and open and close, as if they are breathing. They are shadows that shift into volumes that quiver at their edges and twinkle like stardust at their centers. Seurat makes the ephemeral tangible, lasting, and classical; and that which is solid he makes diffused — transformed into something mysterious, if not religious....'Georges Seurat: The Drawings' towers above the throwaway exhibits of Kara Walker and Richard Prince. Ms. Hauptman, a Joseph Cornell scholar who also brought us last year's stellar exhibition 'Beyond the Visible: The Art of Odilon Redon,' is one of the bright lights in MoMA's dim present. Part of the pleasure of 'The Drawings' is that walking through its galleries feels like old-home week at MoMA. As I was pulled by masterpiece after masterpiece, across gallery after gallery, I thought, 'This show, and its curator — as well as the promise of more shows of this caliber — are what make the Museum of Modern Art so damn important and essential.'" Read more.

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