I decided to go to MOMA to see the Matisse show and then wandered over to what I consider one of the most beautiful and poetic exhibitions of the year - not Matisse - but Robert Gober's gut wrenching paintings, objects and installations entitled THE HEART IS NOT A METAPHOR. His works transported me to tears, as I contemplated the tensile fragility of an artist who juxtaposes everyday objects into worlds of extreme delicacy and frailty – chronicling personal history tied to memory and a narrative of pain and injustice, so lovingly crafted that I could feel his touch on everything that I saw. Distance is bridged and we are confronted with an acute sensitivity, evident in the caress of his brushwork in an early painting that we first encounter upon entering the exhibition, when he was still a young man. Robert Gober is an artist whose work reveals his innermost self; his being is nakedly divulged and that rare authenticity is what so moves us.
Matisse made me smile; I really enjoyed watching a short film of the great man cutting shapes out of paper - a certain vocabulary of forms kept repeating over and over - with VERY large scissors. For ten years I did cutouts - totally different of course, with none of Henri Matisse's lightness of being but using small scissors and razor blades, so I was fascinated watching the “master” at work. He constructs a world in his apartment that is sunny and bright - colorful contours floating on the walls, doors, cutout remnants piled up on the floor; having been pared down to their essence – flat and simplified with the external beauty of gorgeous design and dare I say celebrating the "bourgeois" spirit. I also giggled to myself watching his assistant, a lovely young woman with bright red lipstick dressed in a gown, in high heels helping the elderly artist cut and snip away - delicately holding the paper for him - her fingers long and thin a replica of the slivers of paper curling onto the floor. Many of the pieces seen in the movie were on the walls of the Museum – a rich trove of Matisse’s work – including models for major commissions, studies, etc. I was also intrigued that some of his commissions were from collectors living in California often arranged by his son Pierre – a valuable ally.
I felt fortunate to see two artists – Matisse who died in 1954, and Robert Gober who was born that same year - exhibiting together at the Museum of Modern Art; one disbursing the cloudless luminosity of daylight, and the other the tender mysteries of the night complete with stars and the infinite range of human experience.