September 20, 2008

An Afternoon at The Museum of Modern Art

Monday marks the official end of summer, but in many ways the fall season has already started. Take, for instance, a brand new exhibition that just opened at New York's Museum of Modern Art. "Van Gogh and the Colors of the Night" is a small but charming show with an ambitious mission. Throughout his career, Vincent van Gogh sought to overcome the challenge of using color to represent darkness and subsequently to illuminate the spiritual and poetic nature of the twilight and night hours. This tightly curated selection of superb paintings and drawings focuses the visitor's attention on this particular aspect of van Gogh's remarkable œuvre and clearly demonstrates his preoccupation with color and darkness.

"It often seems to me that the night is much more alive and richly colored than the day" quipped the artist in 1888, and indeed paintings such as "The Starry Night Over the Rhône" (left), clearly show how viscerally he reacted to the effects of darkness and light and how magical the night sky becomes on a van Gogh canvas. "Van Gogh and the Colors of the Night" is a timed entry exhibition and is on view until January 5, 2009.

Moving from Impressionism in France to Expressionism in Germany, take a ride on the escalator to the third floor exhibition gallery where "Kirchner and the Berlin Street" is being showcased until November 10. Between 1913-1915, soon after moving to the teaming metropolis of Berlin, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner created a now celebrated series of paintings known at the "Street Scenes". These views of life in the fast lane of a big city are considered Kirchner's finest achievement and this is the most complete collection of works from this series ever assembled.

Described in spiked forms, forceful brushwork, sharp perspectives and discordant colors, female prostitutes take center stage with more mundane urban characteristics like buildings, sidewalks and traffic pushed to the periphery. Kirchner's explosive reaction to the confines of acceptable academic painting and rules of bourgeois society is palpable in works such as "Berlin Street Scene", 1913, (right), and the 6 other oil paintings from the series on display. Also on view is a superb collection of pastels, drawings and woodcut prints that illustrate Kirchner's creative process and his commitment to the theme. Taken together, these works bring to life the decadence, urgency and foreboding atmosphere that prevailed in pre-World War I Berlin and confirm Kirchner's position as a major artist of the Expressionist movement.

If you are still thirsting for more Modern Art, a casual walk through the MoMA's unparalleled permanent collection should fill the bill. From Dada to Pop Art, from Duchamp to Warhol, this museum has it all, and the very best too! Enjoy!

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