Saturday, December 02, 2006

German Expressionism at the Met

We don't get real art shows in Tucson -- certainly not the traveling exhibitions of great European art that visit the bigger cities. So it is with envy that I read about new exhibits from time to time. Newsweek has an article on the new German Expressionism exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.
The exhibition “Glitter and Doom: German Portraits from the 1920s,” on view through Feb. 19 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, displays 100 works—40 paintings and 60 drawings—by Beckmann and his peers. They’re all portraits of one kind or another, but except in a few instances, they disembowel rather than flatter their subjects. The amazing thing is that in so many cases artistic savagery arises more out of empathy than anger. Otto Dix’s tall, blood-red picture, “The Dancer Anita Berber” (1925) looks like the portrait of a septuagenarian plastic-surgery queen caked in makeup and trying to disguise an arthritic hip with a sexy pose. Berber—whom the exhibition’s catalog describes as a “notorious ... dancer and nude performer, an actress, a seductress of men and women, and a cocaine and opium addict”—was only 26 when Dix painted her. Three years later, she died of the effects of cold-turkey withdrawal. The lesser-known artist Rudolph Schlichter’s “Margot” portrays a rather plain, ordinary-looking woman, dressed demurely in a white blouse and black skirt, standing in a dreary urban courtyard. But she’s got a cigarette dangling from one hand, the other on her hip, and a “What’s it to ya, buster?” expression on her face. Turns out she’s a prostitute, taking a break between customers.
If you get a chance to see this, it sounds great. If not, the rest this article is pretty good.

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