April 13, 2009

Morandi: Serial Painter?

Yet another way we might want to bring Morandi into our own time, to modernize him and make him more abstract, is to emphasize the seemingly obvious serialism, the musical variations, in his work. Asked by a contemporary Italian art historian for permission to photograph an entire such series, however, Morandi responded by saying "I'm afraid I've never made a note of where my paintings have ended up...I've become aware that I must always start from the beginning, and ought to burn what I've done in the past."
If we look at paintings that appear to have common elements or salient features that repeat, we find that the sense of repetition vanishes on close examination. Here are three examples, chosen because they have few literal objects in common, which nonetheless seem similar because the light and space are similar.
But they could not be more different, even though the objects seem to be aligned on the same table top in the same general position with similar lighting--that is, at more or less the same time of day. They prove to be not only unique, but to represent three tonal extremes, only one of which can be called monochrome (the last one, a beautiful study entirely in gray.) Or can we say that this sense of starting all over each time is the most modern thing about him?

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