RAUSCHENBERG, WAR, AND PALMER. If you're not planning to see the Metropolitan Museum of Art's exhibition of Robert Rauschenberg's "combines" before it closes on April 2, 2006, consider changing your mind...before it's too late!
True to their name, the Combines fuse styles and modes. They are part painting, part collage, part sculpture, part conceptual. The colors are often beautiful. When you're in front of the works, you also get to appreciate the textures, the size, and, in some cases, the experience of walking around them and appreciating them from different perspectives. You can get up real close to the works and notice the details (also important in the work of Jasper Johns) and also stand back to appreciate the composition. You might notice things that make you laugh. If you have any affection for the work of Johns or Joseph Cornell or Jackson Pollock or Kurt Schwitters or any number of other artists, you'll appreciate the connections. And it's a good companion to the Dada show now in DC but coming to town later this year.
Here are pictures of some of the artworks. Here's a very good article by Michael Kimmelman of The New York Times. It includes this great Rauschenberg quotation: "I really feel sorry for people who think things like soap dishes or mirrors or Coke bottles are ugly, because they're surrounded by things like that all day long, and it must make them miserable."
Here's New York's Mark Stevens on this important but not very large show. Here's the Met's online write-up.
If you keep your eyes peeled when walking the second floor hallway from the main stairway to the wing with that Moureau sphinx, you'll notice some graphics by Rauschenberg, too. On the other side of the hallway is a set of war-related paintings from different times and different places.
Also off the hallway is a striking exhibit of work by 19th century English artist Samuel Palmer, whose expertise in rendering landscapes is stunning. Make sure you see this exhibition, which closes May 29, 2006. (If you happen to visit museums in London, you can see some of his work there too.) The intensity of detail is amazing, and his excursions into the fantastic anticipate the work of many important artists who followed him.
Here's a digital version of one of his most impressive works; it's shocking that one of his sons destroyed many others from the same period! Here's a Wikipedia entry with that information. Here's a page about Palmer.
If the weather's any good, don't spend all your time at the museum. Spring has arrived in Central Park! See the preceding post for the evidence.
Photo: David Marc Fischer