On a recent Spotlight Tour, Joseph Marioni’s bright canvases left many in the group cold. Responses ranged from a resolute “not interested” to a searching, “what do they add to the history of art?” Gallery Educator Alice Shih pointed out that, for some, Joseph Marioni‘s paintings may be best brought into focus by the work of other artists hanging nearby. Alice pointed out sight lines from Marioni to Matisse, to Kandinsky, and along a river of blues and pinks in Gene Davis, to Morris Louis, Adolph Gottlieb, diving into two deep blue Marionis a few galleries beyond.
Alice built further context through metaphor. She told us that the feeling of “egg yolk” pops into her head when she looks at a particular yellow painting by Marioni. (I see pollen, which leads me to the work of another artist recently at the Phillips–Wolfgang Laib).
Later I asked Alice if this kind of color association happens for her with other works by Marioni. She shared this list:
*Red Painting (2002): lava
*Yellow Painting, (2011): the song Good Day Sunshine by The Beatles
*Blue Painting (1995): the night sky (it has spotty moments when it could seem like stars)
Does Marioni’s work bring up particular memories, sensations, references, or metaphors for you? Please comment and let us know.
Cecilia Wichmann, Publicity and Marketing Manager
A blue canvas is a blue canvas is a blue canvas, with a wink to Stein’s ghost who would probably have some nifty insight, alas not I. Appreciating or “getting” a work of art because of juxtaposition or sight lines kinda, sorta feels like interior decorating. I would prefer to be drawn in, appreciating it on its on merit.
I was stopped cold by the previous comment, which led me to open to the possibility that while I don’t understand monochromatic art, perhaps I should learn more. Some further reading (below) has lead me to conclude, as indicated in Fried’s review, that I would do well to get myself to The Phillips to see Blue Painting as it is meant to be seen…alive and breathing in its essence, not an illustration on an Ipad!
“… but no illustration can begin to capture the absolute specificity, which in this case also means the transfixing intensity, of the ultimate hue, or the tensile integrity of the paint surface, or the sheer rightness of the color in relation to the size and shape of the support, or the suggestion of depth within or behind the paint surface, an effect that has become increasingly important to his art. In Blue Painting that suggestion of depth is largely the work of the layer of transparent ultramarine, which functions as a kind of “spacer” within the material substance of the colored field.” ( Review of Joseph Marioni, Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Art Forum, September 1998, by Michael Fried)
Thanks so much for your comments, Pat, and for sharing Michael Fried’s review! Another source worth looking at is Karen Wilkin’s article on Marioni in last month’s The New Criterion. I think advocates of Marioni’s paintings agree that they are best experienced in person and over time. I personally had a feeling of surprise at my keen interest and attraction when I first saw them on the gallery walls, having known them only as jpegs on my screen beforehand. If you’re able to come see them in person at the Phillips before the show closes January 29, I would love hear your impressions.
I believe that all paintings should be seen in person. Sculpture, installation, photography, video, performance…in an ideal world, all art should be experienced. Once we are in that space, it is important to take a moment to consider the context in which the work is being presented to us. Although it may not influence how we feel about the piece, it was a deliberate decision made by the curator to be hung in the room on that particular wall in that specific location. In response to Pat’s previous comments, a more informed opinion, either positive or negative, can result from a personal experience.
Indeed, Alice, you are correct which is what I was saying above. Having researched the artist (after my initial post) and reading Michael Fried’s review in Art Forum, of his own reactions– his awakening upon the impact of seeing Blue Painting in person and its effect on him–jolted me awake to the realization that I had no earthly idea what I was talking about. Hence the comment… “that I would do well to get myself to The Phillips to see Blue Painting as it is meant to be seen…alive and breathing in its essence…” and, as you so well say, within the well thought out placement in the gallery.
My head hangeth low, but I am buoyed by discovery and greater understanding. (Ah the easy dismissiveness of ignorance!”) I am grateful for the efforts, via this blog, to hear about art and ideas in the absence of being there. Working on that “personal experience”!