At the SFMOMA, I wanted to see René Magritte: The Fifth Season. I was delighted to discover that along with being an accomplished artist, Magritte was also a funny guy. The caption accompanying "Les valeurs personnelles (Personal Values)" reads, "Magritte’s dealer Alexander Lolas initially found the work nauseating, to which the artist replied, “A picture which is really alive should make the spectator feel ill."
Magritte's dark humor is also apparent in the What Good is Painting? section label:
Acknowledging that some of the Surrealist movement's absurd objectives, such as causing panic or confusion, had been "achieved much better by the Nazi idiots than by us," Magritte invented a completely new mode of Surrealism that skirted censorship while also testing his theory that "bad painting" might result in social good. "I live in a very unpleasant world," he commented in 1947. "That's why my painting is a battle, or rather a counteroffensive."
One of my favorite Magritte paintings in the exhibit was an image of a giant rock peeking outside a window. The curtain gently pushed to one side is all it takes to make the rock seem alive.
While at SFMOMA, I also stopped by a smaller, less populated exhibit, "Louise Bourgeois Spiders." I'm familiar with Louise Bourgeois, because a friend of mine is a
bug big fan of her work and told me to check out Crouching Spider when it was at the Embarcadero. All of her spiders are creepy and beautiful, but the sculpture that I found most hypnotic was in an easily overlooked small space. Follow the 'exhibition continues' sign and find yourself in a small room. In it, a glass box with a fabric person inside, hunched over, hands wrapped around its stomach, pierced by steel spider legs. Prey?
The choice of fabric is significant. The Bourgeois family had a workshop for tapestry restoration and Louise would assist in repairs. She did not have a happy childhood and reading this piece in the New York Times made made my heart ache.
Truth and Beauty: The Pre-Raphaelites and the Old Masters opened today at The Legion of Honor. I thought I would avoid crowds by going on the Member Preview day, yesterday. WRONG. I complained to a patient cashier in the gift shop about all the people milling about in the afternoon and he told me, "You should've seen it in the morning. People were waiting in line outside for the museum to open!"
It's nice to see exhibits when there are less people around, but I am glad that people want to see art.
Downstairs in the cool dark calm of the Reva and David Logan Gallery of Illustrated Books, a colorful piece of art caught my eye, Prose on the Trans-Siberian Railway and of Little Jehanne of France by Sonia Delauney. I like her bold colors and the cascading text. Here's an English translation of the poem from the Yale Library.