Sunday, March 8, 2009

REVIEW: Cure for Cabin Fever...

By Gail Salzman

I didn’t do my museum homework before a spur-of-the-moment trip to NYC last month. I had that highly motivating combination of severe cabin fever and free travel miles -- didn’t even take time to read the NY Times or Google the Met or MOMA before jumping on Jet Blue.

So it was with astonishment that I stumbled, quite literally, upon the show of Pierre Bonnard’s Late Interiors at the Met. Not one of those blockbuster shows where one needs a periscope to see the paintings over the crowds, this exhibit is serenely glowing, without fanfare, in the semi-circular gallery just outside the lower level cafeteria.
I’m not going to attempt a complete review – you can get that online easily. As a fan of Bonnard’s amazing color and oddly touching compositions for several decades, I’ve seen my share of his work in museums and in reproductions. But there is something magical about this show, simultaneously monumental and intimate, that captivated me. There is no one who can mess about with color like Bonnard did, and he did it without ego-flexing bravado – he just quietly went about transforming the way we will see “white” forever after. And don’t get me stared on his oranges, yellows or purples.

One caveat – do not, no matter what, be tempted to buy the Met’s catalog of this show as a substitute to actually being there. We all know what a crap-shoot it is to reproduce any art in print, never mind coming close to the colors this particular visionary invented. But the Bonnard catalog is one of the worst I’ve ever seen, color-wise. And since that’s the main point, best save your money. Better yet, jump on the next bus, train or plane and BE THERE. It’s up through April 19. BTW, in case you didn’t know this, there is an “Educational” entrance to the Met, outside to the left of the grand steps, where there’s never a wait in line, and the entrance fee is a “Suggested” amount, any offerings are welcome.

above left: The Open Window
above right: The Studio with Mimosa