Thursday, November 19, 2009

Mercedes Matter review in the Wall Street Journal

Below is a review of my grandmother's retrospective by the Wall Street Journal. I wish she was alive to see it, but I'm certain she'd be dissatisfied- Matters share a perfectionist streak. The show is in NYC until early December. I may be biased, but I think it's well worth seeing. I grew up looking at these paintings leaning against walls in her studio (see photos above, taken shortly before her death)- I was amazed to discover how beautiful they are when displayed properly. Last night I attended a panel discussion on her at the New York Studio School, and learned things about her I never knew. I'm very proud- too bad I can't tell her that.

A New York School Standout


New York

"Mercedes Matter: A Retrospective Exhibition"

Sidney Mishkin Gallery

Baruch College

135 E. 22nd St.

Through Dec. 14

One of the best New York painting exhibitions is not in a museum but in a gallery, and off the beaten path. The traveling Mercedes Matter retrospective of 33 well-chosen works spanning her entire career, though it should be much larger and headlining a museum, gives us, in a nutshell, the monumental achievement of a monumental, but sadly overlooked, artist.

New Art Exhibits

Sidney Mishkin Gallery, Baruch College

Mercedes Matter, 'Tabletop Still Life' (c.1936).

A central figure of the New York School, Matter (1913-2001) studied with Fernand L├ęger and Hans Hofmann; but important also were her father the painter Arthur B. Carles (a student of Matisse), her friends Giacometti and de Kooning and her husband the photographer and graphic designer Herbert Matter. Included in this show are extremely accomplished early works from her teens; Fauvist-inspired nudes, still lifes and landscapes, as well as pure abstractions, all from her 20s; and the masterly drawings and paintings—the crowded, jostling, mountainous still lifes, in quicksilver-charcoal line and bold, racing color—of her mature period. Some of these late works rank among the finest the New York School has to offer.

Matter's own legacy lives on not just through her artwork but also through her teaching at the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture, which she co-founded in 1964. Unfortunately, the organizers of the lavish monograph that accompanies the show don't seem to trust entirely in the strength of Matter's art: A seminude portrait photograph of Matter (taken by her husband) graces the book's cover, and throughout the catalog undue emphasis is placed on Matter's more-famous male peers. Her powerful paintings and drawings, however, are the strongest form of rebuttal.

The exhibition will travel on to Pepperdine University's Weisman Museum of Art in Malibu, Calif.; Guild Hall in East Hampton, N.Y.; and Knox College's Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa.