Unreal Nature

December 30, 2014

The Raging Sickness of Color

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:54 am

… One can glimpse through the badness of his painting how greatly Masson conceives …

This is from ‘Review of an Exhibition of André Masson‘ (1942) found in Clement Greenberg: The Collected Essays and Criticism, Vol. 1, edited by John O’Brian (1986):

… There is little of the dull or second-rate about his work, and to fail as he does is more worthy than to succeed as any dozen safe and minor artists can. Masson is a surrealist, but he has absorbed enough cubism, in spite of himself, never to lose sight of the direction in which the pictorial art of our times must go in order to be great. His endeavor to expand painting concentrates on the means, not on the subject; color and line are to be detached and dissociated from their old habits of meaning, and made to express or suggest what is inconceivable to anything but the eye’s imagination.

[line break added to make this easier to read online] One can glimpse through the badness of his painting how greatly Masson conceives; and so it is only by some physiological, tactile deficiency in himself that I can explain the collapse of his actual work; the raging sickness of color, the obtuseness with which he rattles together pigment, design, space — the art nouveau, the hard, machined insensitivity of line in his drawings, and their maladroit literary flourishes. A débacle, in which there are at the most three acceptable pictures; but as I have said, little that is second-rate, nothing that is stereotype. Masson could cover up his faults rather plausibly and without too obvious dishonesty, and I praise him for his unwillingness to be anything but himself.

Masson_meditation-on-an-oak-leaf
André Masson, Meditation on an Oak Leaf [image from WikiArt]

-Julie

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