Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Fleeting Joys of Mortality, or Ensor’s Modernist Light

James Ensor, The Skeleton Painter

The James Ensor (1860-1949) Retrospective at the MOMA will soon be packed into so many fine art coffins and shipped to the Musee D'Orsay! Like a harbinger of autumn or the death knell of summer, the exhibit should be relished for its sheer scope, and its unique curatorial insight into the mind and masterworks of the modernist magician. The exhibition includes drawings, paintings, and etchings spanning Ensor's influential career with a concentration on his most creative period (1880-1890's).
This exhibit confronts visitors at the outset with two walls of vivid color, one a bright red-orange featuring the exhibits preface, the other a vibrant blue with a blow-up of several simply sketched figures bearing away an all too familiar box. The preface informs of Ensor's self-fascination, his intrigue with the sea, light, and death, and warns how historical impact is often complicated by the use of satire and a ribald sense of humor. A visitor need only glimpse the photo of Ensor perched on his Ostend chimney playing the fife to catch the artist winking back across the decades. The first gallery functions as a rather staid introduction to Ensor's early career with salon paintings and portraits done in a more traditional/realistic style devoid of vibrant color or unsettling whimsical subject matter.

Read more of Nick Korbee's article in KiptonART magazine!
Kipton Cronkite Approved!

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