Thursday, June 4, 2009

To Shutter, or Not

Filleted carcases, ghostly dogs, screaming popes, and wrestling men, all conjure up the Francis Bacon exhibit that opened recently at the Met.

Last Sunday, I decided to stop off at the museum to see the Bacon show before going into the office for a couple hours. I even splurged for a headset. I usually don't do headsets because I like to view art without dialogue, and I'm lazy and cheap. But I love Bacon and wanted to learn more about his process.

Luckily it wasn't too crowded, but just enough to see what Bacon wanted. The viewers in his art. Bacon requested that his paintings be presented behind glass so that his audience could be part of his twisted world.

As I walked though the horror show, I couldn't decide which works were more disturbing. The paintings that used shuttering, where the image fades in and out, or the works with minimal backgrounds. I decided it was the simple ones. Although the canvases with shuttering were darker in appearance and more dramatic, the brighter and lusher colors of the minimal backgrounds put the terror into the everyday realm. Pain and suffering wasn't hiding in his cluttered studio in Chelsea, but out on the streets and in the landscape of the living.

Bacon painted a number of wrestling men, possibly to work out his "affliction" as he called it or homosexuality. Homosexuality was a no, no back in his day, punishable by law. The black-widow Bacon painted his lovers, two of whom committed suicide on his watch. Most of his lovers were thieves or transients, and he met one of them while being robbed in his home. Who needs Match.com?

Some of my favorite paintings had raw canvas showing through, a technique he discovered when he would paint on the back of canvases to save money. And his triptychs are always curious and stimulating. He framed them individually to tell or not -- an allusive story.

Leaving the Bacon show, I was exhilarated with a new found appreciation of his style of the grotesque figure, material I could use in my figurative work -- but of course tailored to my own unique point of view.

It wouldn't be a trip to the MET without a stop at E.A.T. on Madison for lunch. You never know who you'll run into at eat. In the last couple of years, I have spotted Meryl Streep, Lena Olin, and Peter Boyle. E.A.T. offers delicious soups, salads, and sandwiches on freshly baked bread. I started with the carrot soup and then moved on to the chicken salad sandwich, of course with a side of scrumptious potato salad. And since it's summer -- I had to have a glass of rose wine to top off lunch and to toast Francis Bacon on his extraordinary dark engrossing paintings.