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It Speaks to Me: Lari Pittman on Henri Matisse's 'The Black Shawl' at the Norton Simon

November 17, 2010 |  7:08 am

This week Culture Monster is introducing a new feature, asking a local artist to discuss a work from a local museum that means something to him or her. Our first artist is painter Lari Pittman.


This painting has a physical muscularity that we don’t always associate with Matisse. There’s a perception of his work as a type of “lite” decoration, but here — as in the recent MOMA show — he is a rather ruthless painter. Look at the lace, which a Dutch Master would have approached very differently. Matisse almost claws at the lace — he drags and stabs the brush. There’s a roughness to the surface that contradicts the traditional bourgeois subject. I think the painting feels very contemporary, with the figure serving as an armature for color, pattern, texture, movement, transparency, opacity. For me the painting is not about the woman but about that tornado of a dress. I probably visit it three times a year.

--Lari Pittman, as told to Jori Finkel


Image: Henri Matisse's "The Black Shawl (Lorette VII)," 1918; Oil on canvas. Norton Simon Art Foundation, Gift of Mr. Norton Simon. © 2010 Succession H. Matisse, Paris / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Comments () | Archives (18)

It is one of Matisse worst paintings from a fallow period. No artist is great all the time, few for more than about ten year periods, hero worshipping the sign of weakness and lack of independant judgment. It is simply badly done, and yes, is very contemporary in more ways than one. Weak, insipd color, no structure, no layering of patterns, no sensuality, but a false impotent one. The figure is not integrated into a world in which she should be a goddess, where all is connected, but a puny girl laying down and dreaming of growing up into adulthood.

No wonder pitman likes it, it is so very contempt. Sorry Henri, we know you did a few million times better. But bet some fool paid a few million bucks for it, not that you saw any of that. LA doesnt have any good Matisse, the ceramic more a nice design that should be outside than true work of creative art. If this fool was any good as a painter, he would be talking some of the excellent Cezannes we have. They are far from being his best, but any painter worth a damn knows, Cezannes is the father of us all, including Henri. But then, you aint us.

art collegia delenda est

It is one of Frazzels worst posts from a fallow period. No internet yobbo is great all the time, few for more than about ten posts, critiqueing his betters the sign of weakness and lack of independant judgment. It is simply badly written, and yes, is very contemporary in more ways than one. Weak, inchoate statements, misspellings and grammatical errors, no structure, no building to a conclusion, no insight, but a false impotent one. The post is not integrated into a context where all is connected, but a lame post falling back into the art school criticism it denounces.

Not bad, you get props for that one. But as usual, as it doesn't come to an obvious, simplistic and hollow conceptual presentation of absurdist, academic "ideas", it is therefore incomprehensible to the singular thought process of contempt pavlovian thought.

Imperial Clothing. Henri was taking a break after a dozen years of hard work, he said so himself. It was basically his form of doodling, and relaxing his mind and soul with the ending of the Great War. But as art is not studied outside of a silly one eyar art history class, as deep and insightful as most history college classes, I was a history major, art is unkown. As students are busy reading silly careerist critics and theoritician's, isntead of the artists works themselves.

Matisse created probably two of the five greatest works of the 20th century. this aint one of em.

Save the spiritual, and Matissean Watts Towers, tear down the sterile and insipid Ivories

re.Donald Frazell...Pablo Picasso,definitely a painter "worth a damn" ..."all things considered...there's only Matisse"! And yes, LA not only has some good Matisses...it has a great one, Odalesque with Tambourine (Harmony in Blue),1926,oil on canvas...also at the Norton Simon Museum.

Seen it many times, very few of his works from that period, especially odalisques are any good. H was admittedly exhausted at the time, til he got teh Barnes commission and started with large design again. no one said Matisse sucked, its jsut that baad painters will pick baad works by great artists to measure their own againse, and so come out smelling roses, when truly manure.

Not counting Cezannes late work, as his greatest were at the end in 1906 and who knows what he could have made if he hadnt died of pneumonia, the greatest artists of the 20th century were Matisse, Picasso, Braque, underrated by far, Klee, and Miro. no Americans you can see, nowhere close. WE grossly overate ourselves, Rufino Tamayo was better than any Norte Americanoa, and euros like Soulages and de stael at least as good as our AbEx guys.

I know art ahs been diminished to a signature for investment thees tdddays, but jsut because an artist is great, doesnt make every thing he did great. Thats just childish hero worship, and teh lack of individual discernment, of independant thought in the arts has become an epidemic.


I could add Gaguins last thre years, but definitely should put Monet on that list. As cezanne said, he waas only an eye, but what an eye. His lassst waterlillies are incredibble, and supaas mosst aabEx by faar in their abstract, intensity of light and life. And Simon Rodia, only his Nuestro Pueblo is far more than folk art or "outsider", as all great artists come from outside the belly of the beast. His sculpture and constructive use of color are rhythmic, harmonic, and filled with melody, sweet music as all great creative art is. Americans dont understand color, as this fool above has so ably demonstrated wiht his garrish twisted childish dreams. No poetry in them like Miro or Ernst, adolexcent self absortion.

And ALL artists create more crap than good works, most just toss them aside, though Picasso sold everything he made, and never tossed them out. michelangelo burned all taht was not up to his standards. We need more true creative artists like taht thesse days, it has been so damn long, with only a rare Anselm Kiefer to make it real.

Once again,re.Donald Frazell...first of all, Mr. Pittman was asked by the Culture Monster to discuss a work of art from a local museum that "speaks to him"...a very personal, subjective request, for sure. Mr. Pittman's artistic observations about the painting that "speaks to him", Matisse's "The Black Shawl (Lorette VII), are astute, interesting, and "painterly"...and as he says,"for me" (underline the subjectivity here),the painting is about "that tornado of a dress"! Mr. Pittman is certainly not, as you so disrespectfully remark, a "fool" for expressing his own unique,personal perceptions of a painting that has specific artistic value for him.

Secondly, as you identify about yourself, you clearly are not deeply or well educated about either the historical range of art or the artists you so arrogantly purport to evaluate, and,contemptuously, dismiss as lacking, strictly in your view, what constitutes artistic greatness in the 20th century.

Contrary to your assertion, the period of Matisse's series of odalisques, mainly between 1920 to 1926, is one of great pure color intensity, sophisticated interplays of harmonies and contrasts, and the musicality of Moroccan arabesques. A few years earlier, Matisse luxuriated in his time spent in Morocco, and the series of odalisques he painted were a result of his sheer intoxication with these exotic women. As Matisse said, these paintings were the "abundant fruit...of a beautiful living dream", and of "something I experienced almost ecstatically, day and night, under the enchantment of that climate".

Matisse expressed his delight in the odalisque in every part of his painting...her sinuous curves recall the arabesque lines of arabic script, the sumptuous array around her evokes the blazing colors and patterns of exotic rugs and hangings flooded by the Moroccan sun.

The Odalisque with Tambourine is subtitled, "Harmony in Blue"...and as Matisse also wrote "the emotuional interest the odalisque inspires in me is not shown specifically in her body, but in the special lines and values which are scattered over the whole canvas and form its orchestration, its architecture."
He went on to say that "when I have found a reltionship of all the tones, the result must be a living harmony of tones, not unlike that of a musical composition". Matisse's Odalisque with Tambourine with its red patterns in the blue background seems to be swelling and contracting in rhythm with the sound of the music to which she is moving. Matisse's painting is truly an undulating, "Harmony in Blue"!

Lastly, your assertion that "no Americans" are among the "greatest artists of the 20th century", nor do they understand color is simply....ludicrous.
Certainly, to name just two 20th century Americans with significant bodies of artistic work...Jackson Pollock and Georgia O'Keefe are monumental...and incredible "colorists"!

As for your assertion that we are lcking in "true creative artists"...you should make a visit to a few of the thriving artist studios in Los Angeles such as the Santa Fe Art Colony and the Brewery Art Colony which are overflowing with gifted, cutting edge artists in a wide range of creative mediums. To name just one who is evolving into a significant contemporary artist, Davyd Whaley at the Santa Fe Art Colony is creating a significant body of abstract expressionist paintings flooding from his subconscious which are sure to establish him as a creative force with lasting impact in the art world.

Mr. Frazell...you need to take a serious look at your own motivations and agenda...because your judgment is seriously flawed!

Been there, done that and as with your critique, LMAO!!!!

art collegia delenda est
fine art colleges must be destroyed, as no great artist has ever graduated from one of those Bastilles of aesthetic Pharissees. And why the public stays away in droves, fewer going to contempt art than at any time in history, it is irrevelant self absortption,. Art is NOT self expression, it is expressIVE of humanity, nature and god as one. It is passion, not therapy.

Have a nice day!

re.Donald Frazell...while you certainly are entitled to post drivel on any site or blog willing to accommodate it....you do need to be "called out" for it!
estupido es tan estupido no!

So, you are equating this "harmony in blue" with Matisse truly great "Harmony in Red"? And I am the idiot? LMAO!!!

Once again proven, art collegia delenda est

Actually, Donald you are correct. As you typed you "are the idiot."
You are the only one who doesn't realize that you actual embody everything you rant against. You are the one who has contempt for art. You are the one unwilling to try to look at anything you don't already know. You are the one that tries to squash everything that you don't like (down with the ivoires" sound familiar). Maybe you should get off the computer and put your paint brush where your mouth is.

Clean up culture monster. The readers and LA Times writers deserve better treatment than how your treat them Mr. Frazell.

Dont read then, its a free country. The writers have been failures, kowtowing to the status quo. Then CK complains when no artists are in the top 12 in magazine, its because they are no longer important to the industry. It is a business. And art is but a by product. a less and less important one. When artistes cant see for themselves that Matisse work from 1905 to 1917 was among the most important and passionate ever, especially compared to his work in the 20s which had only a few good paintings, and none the level of The Morrocans, Harmony in Red, Dance, Dance with Nasturtiums, etc, well,
art collegia delenda est

re. Donald Frazell...one more time...you're not only obfuscated...you're "irrevelant" (ROTFL!)...BTW..it's only "irrelephant" if it's not about elephants!

I actually enjoy Frazell's comments. Very much. Indeed, often far more interesting than the actual review, many of which, clearly promo ops between dealers and galleries and whoever gets the commission.

It's all a game, and not a very good or interesting one. You see, where Mr. Frazell is certainly right, is when he puts out in the naked eye for the less artsy reader how money in the arts move.

If you consume and don't produce art for a living there wouldn't be any reason why such reader would know what is actually going on.

If you think arts as promoted by the LA times are the real deal, you indeed have fallen for a pretty bad prank.

"The vital art of today continues to emerge from studios and ateliers and urban spaces dense with artists, just as it did one hundred years ago in Montparnasse and fifty years ago in downtown Manhattan. The job of a contemporary critic remains to seek out that vitality, tell us where to find it, and explore its strengths."(J.Panero,The New Criterion)That's what the art critics of the L.A. Times Culture Monster do...at their best!

No, they promote the academic/gallery/museo complex of career and money, allowing their patrons to control the message. A defanged and sterile pet, it now longer has its own life. One can never see the world freely and independantly from within the belly of the beast.

fine art colleges must be destroyed
They are the Bastilles of the Pharisees.

re.donald frazell...you clearly have some personal,subjective "axe to grind"..repeatedly manifested in your adolescent,sophomoric refrains of self-indulgent nonsense..by the looks of your own work...one would have to surmise that you probably would have a hard time "toeing up" with your derivative,non-income generating performances at any first rate "fine arts college" in the country!

Hardly. Grew up around art, mother was a graduate of what is now University of the Arts in Philly. I am the child of an athlete and an artist, I find athletes far more honest and hardworking. As it is measured by court success and not self interested fawning of the wealthy, far more real. Coached many to college, including my sons, and kids have played with two NBA ballers with one a childhood friend, Pac 10 scholastic athlete of the year at Stanford, (Go Knicks, Thunder, Bruins and Navy!) they have far more developed skills. I personaly avoided art schools like the parasitic plague they are upon our people.

You cant draw with intelligence, understand the musical passion color, or have any rhythmic structure of life whatsoever, It is all awkward childish illustration of absurdist "ideas". For intelligent absurdity I go to Comedy Central, not effette and sterile art galleries. I take all putdowns as compliments, for I can see, Imperial Clothing is not for me.

We see this for what it is, self delusion for class seperation and entitled arrogance(ignorance). You have no connection to our people, Contempt art is apart from life, not a part of it. And so no one cares. Modern art won over the interested public almost immediately, it was the critics and academics with vested interests who fought it for decades, til they all lost in the aftermath of WWII. The armory show was popular because of cubism, expressionism and fauvism, the great Post Impresionists had won the day. The absurdisty of your god Duchamp hadnt happened yet, it was his cubist/futurist work that drew scorn from critics and interest from the public. They didnt care about R Mutt, the hacks and anti modernists loved that. It showed the way to return from a vanquished place, where careerist mediocrity could once again return. With Dali and Balthus they showed how self aborbtion could return, once they infiltrated the schools.

"Fine" arts are to give the rich their sense of control and seperation from the riff raff, Modernism appealed to the intelligent in all fields of human endeavor. Creative art is what lasts and counts, this is fashion, and doomed as always to the trashcan of history. To be resuscitaed in decadent times, as we are leaving now. It is time to reassert a common humanity, to create the myths that bind, to find what is essential to Mankind, not to seperate the delusional and supporters of the status quo from the intelligent workers. For artists ARE workers, not soft academics, we have calouses, muscles, and passion. We don't sit on our duffs and proclaim our cleverness, we Do.

As Simon Rodia did, Cezanne, Gauguin, yes Matisse, Pollock and Dubuffet, we scorn the effete. We avoid the mediocrity of academia. Creative art is for and by the strong of mind, body and soul. We see through the Imperial Clothing, for it is but a lie. You are naked of soul. Academic art is once more bound for the trashcan. Unfortunately, we keep on forgetting to hit delete.

art collegia delenda est
fine art colleges must be destroyed
Bought Xeroxed(Too skilless to use Photoshop creatively like us applied artists) degrees of self-therapy, absurdist entertainment and framed wallpaper must end.
Have a nice day!


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