06 January 2011

Chaos and Classicism

 "Woman in White" Pablo Picasso (1923)

New Year’s day was spent walking round and round the Guggenheim, taking in the exhibit “Chaos and Classicism: Art in France, Italy, and Germany, 1918-1936.”

The exhibit focuses on European artists who, traumatized by World War I, rejected avant-garde movements and turned to classicism for order and an idealized past. Their need to portray bodies as whole (a reaction to the maiming seen in the war) and to draw more traditional lines like those found in Greek and Roman art did bring about more structure but everything turned ugly in the end when fascism appropriated the ideology for its own nefarious agenda.

 "On the Balcony" Georg Schrimpf (1929)

Few of the works are great yet there are some standouts—the handful of Picassos (I’ve always loved “The Woman in White”) are lovely as is the calming “Women on the Balcony” by Georg Schrimpf. I also enjoyed watching a clip from Cocteau’s The Blood of a Poet in which photographer Lee Miller is cast as a statue. Toward the end of the exhibit are a handful of Mussolini busts—a chilling reminder of what the period finished with—dictators and more death.

A still from The Blood of a Poet (1930)

“Chaos and Classicism” closes January 9. If you can't make the exhibit, you should still visit the Guggenheim. It's not often that one gets to walk around in a building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

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