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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