Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs, the most extensive exhibition of the artist’s late work ever mounted, debuts the newly conserved monumental cut-out The Swimming Pool
Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs
October 12, 2014–February 8, 2015
The Joan and Preston Robert Tisch Exhibition Gallery, sixth floor
With the major exhibition Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs, The Museum of Modern Art offers the most extensive presentation of Matisse’s cut-outs ever mounted, on view from October 12, 2014, through February 8, 2015. This groundbreaking reassessment of the brilliant final chapter of the artist’s career includes approximately 100 cut-outs—drawn from public and private collections around the globe—along with a selection of related drawings, illustrated books, stained glass, and textiles, as well as the post-conservation debut of MoMA’s The Swimming Pool (1952). The last time New York audiences were treated to an in-depth look at the cut-outs was in 1961. Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs is organized by The Museum of Modern Art in collaboration with Tate Modern, London. It is organized at MoMA by Karl Buchberg, Senior Conservator, Department of Conservation, and Jodi Hauptman, Senior Curator, Department of Drawings and Prints, with Samantha Friedman, Assistant Curator, Department of Drawings and Prints. Prior to its presentation at MoMA the exhibition was on view at Tate Modern from April 17 through September 7, 2014.
In the late 1940s, Henri Matisse (1869–1954) worked extensively with cut paper as his primary medium and scissors as his chief implement, introducing a radically new form of art that came to be called a cut-out. Matisse cut painted sheets into various shapes—from the organic to the geometric—which he then arranged into lively compositions, striking for their play with color and contrast, their exploitation of decorative strategies, and their economy of means. Initially, these compositions were of modest size but, over time, their scale grew along with Matisse’s ambitions for them, expanding into mural- or room-size works. The culmination of Matisse’s long career, the cut-outs reflect both a deep engagement with form and color and an inventiveness freshly directed at the status of the work of art, whether as a unique object, environment, ornament, or a hybrid of all of these.
Henri Matisse (French, 1869-1954). The Swimming Pool (La Piscine), late summer 1952. Maquette for ceramic (realized 1999 and 2005). Gouache on paper, cut and pasted, on painted paper. Overall 73 x 647” (185.4 x 1653.3 cm). Installed as nine panels in two parts on burlap-covered walls 136” (345.4 cm) high. Frieze installed at a height of 65” (165 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Mrs Bernard F. Gimbel Fund, 1975 © 2014 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
The exhibition was sparked by a multiyear initiative to conserve the Museum’s monumental cut-out The Swimming Pool, acquired in 1975. This room-size work has not been shown at MoMA for more than 20 years, and will return to view in this exhibition following extensive conservation. Although The Swimming Pool is at the conceptual heart of MoMA's presentation of Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs, the exhibition goes well beyond it, encompassing works of luminous color that engage both abstraction and decoration and range from the intimate to the expansive. The presentation is part of the Museum’s long and deep commitment to Matisse's oeuvre, encompassing an outstanding collection that reflects his activities across mediums, exhibitions that have considered both his entire career and more focused aspects, and a tradition of new scholarship.
The result of in-depth research on two fronts—conservation and curatorial—Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs offers a reconsideration of this body of work by exploring a host of technical and conceptual issues: the artist’s methods and materials and the role and function of the works in his practice; their environmental aspects; their sculptural and temporal presence as their painted surfaces exhibited texture and materiality, curled off the walls, and shifted in position over time; and their double lives, first as contingent and mutable in the studio and, ultimately, made permanent, a transformation accomplished via mounting and framing. The exhibition also mines the tensions that fuel the cut-outs, between economy and complexity, fine art and decoration, drawing and color.
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