Saturday, April 23, 2016

Degas's A Strange New Beauty at MOMA

A Strange New Beauty at the Museum of Modern Art is an exhibition of no strangeness at all. It is the same classic Degas aesthetic seen countless times- just in a new medium; printmaking. A medium, the Degas obsessively returned to again and again.

There is no doubt that the prints are beautiful; the monotype printmaking process helped Degas proliferate works on paper quickly, in a way that helped generate ideas and that would later have the possibility of becoming masterful works- but why discredit printmaking as a primitive and elementary form of mark making, that Degas only used to experiment with? I think it is a disservice for the exhibition to be advertised as "experiments" and printed works of "potential".  These works may have initially been intended as sketches or base layers of multi-media works, but disregarding their importance in comparison to his paintings is misleading an audience- there is no need for a sense of authority to be felt because of a differing medium, and the advertisement for the show does that. 

In fact, Degas’s ability to transition so smoothly into this medium makes it difficult for a viewer to even recognize it as a print is high praise to the artist- he was a master of all. And perhaps the preoccupation that came with him using the monotype process over and over again could be because he saw past “wanting to innovate” and was trying to catch a fleeting moment, with a fleeting process.

It makes sense, that this act would be applied to his subject matter; nature and dancing, processes that are also never the same, no matter how similar they appear. I thought that the majority of his prints were standard of his airy motif, but there would be moments when walking through the gallery where you would find one that stood out in a different way. Maybe it was the use of this dark teal that forcibly overpowers the rest of the palette. Or perchance it was the fleeting incompletion, with a lone figure looking empty on a naked piece of paper. Either way, there was a mood that was captured; a strange darkness, an emotion that maybe could only be experienced and therefore captured through the physical act of making a plate to print. 

1 comment:

  1. I think the second sentence in the opening paragraph is too informal. There is no need for a comma after “medium” in the last sentence of the paragraph.
    I like the way you are defending printmaking as a medium, but where in the show you saw that it has a lesser importance than the ones Degas worked with? No one is insulting him, nor his prints.

    The two last paragraphs are beautiful, you show knowledge and familiarity with the work of Degas and the media he used. I like the way you described the act of dancing and how he made use of movement in his work.

    The closing sentences are poetic and convey very coherently the mood of the exhibition.