Monday, August 6, 2018

BRANCUSI, The Originalist at MoMA: Review By Polly Gueri

Mille Pogany, Version 1 1913 
Constantin Brancusi's risk taking and inventive approach to form changed the course of the art that followed. As such he is often regarded as the most important sculptor of the 20th century.  
       "Simplicity is not the end of art. We usually arrive at simplicity as we approach the true sense of things."   Constantin Brancusi quote           
        The Museum of Modern Art's exhibition celebrates MoMA's extraordinary holdings---eleven sculptures by Brancusi are shown together for the first time alongside drawings, films and photographs. A selection of never-before-seen archival materials shed light on his relationship with friends, sitters, and patrons On view through November, 2018
      Looking back at the first showing of Constantin Brancusi's work in the 1913 Armory Show, one writer reflected that sculptures on view were "disturbing, so disturbing that they completely altered the attitude of a great many New Yorkers towards a whole branch of art." 
       Indeed Brancusi's beguilingly simple forms looked like nothing else, then or since. This sculpture is a portrait of Margit Pogany, a Hungarian artist who sat for Brancusi several times, while she was in Paris studying painting. Shortly after her return to Hungary, Brancusi carved a marble Mille Pogany from memory, then cast four versions, including this one in bronze. The work was a significant departure from conventional portraiture. Large almond-shaped eyes overwhelm the oval face, and a black patina represents the hair. As with other motifs, this was a subject Brancusi would return to and rework in the years to come.
     
Bird in Space,  1928
His visionary sculptures often exemplify ideal and archetypal representations of their subject matter. Bearing icon titles such as Fish, Princess X and Bird in Space, his sculptures are deceptively single, with their reduced forms aiming to reveal hidden truths. Unlike Auguste Rodin, for whom Brancusi briefly assisted early in his career, Brancusi worked directly with his materials pioneering the technique of direct carving, rather than working in plaster or clay models. 

       Explaining that "The artist should know how to dig out the being that is within matter." Brancusi sought to create sculptures that conveyed the true essences of his subjects be they animals, people, or objects by concentrating on highly simplified forms free from ornamentation. While many regarded his work as abstract, the artist disagreed; he insisted on representational nature of his works, asserting that they disclosed a fundamental, often concealed, reality.
     Brancusi once said, "Do not look for obscure formulas or mystery in my work. It is pure joy that I offer you. Look at my sculptures until you see them. Those closest to God have seen them"
       Brancusi's work was largely fueled by myths, folklore, and "primitive" cultures.These traditional old-world sources of inspiration formed a unique contrast to the often sleek appearance of his works, resulting in a distinctive blend of modernity and timelessness. 
      Rather than modeling in clay like his peers, Brancusi carved his work directly from wood or stone or cast it in bronze. Simultaneously, he rejected realism, preferring that his sculptures evoke rather than resemble the subjects named in their titles.    
Brancusi Installation at MoMA
CONSTANTIN BRANCUSI (1926-1957) was born in rural Romania and moved to Paris in 1904 where he established his studio and quickly immersed himself in avant-garde art circles. In his adopted city, he embraced an experimental modern spirit, including an interest in modern machines and popular culture. With his friend, Man Ray, he made films that captured his life in the studio--working with his materials and muses, activating his artworks through movement and recombination, and revealing his sources of inspiration such as animals at play, light in nature, and dance. Yet, until his death her proudly presented himself as an outsider, cultivating his image as a peasant, with a long beard, work shirt, and sandals.

      Ta Ta Darlings!!!  The contradiction of Brancusi's appearance also informed his art making which was dependent on ancient techniques as much as modern technologies. Fan mail is always
welcome pollytalknyc@gmail.com.  Visit Polly's other Blogs on www.pollytalk.com.