ART: Odilon Redon Exhibition, Chicago Art Institute.

From: IN%"[email protected]" "Art Criticism Discussion Forum" 13-JUL-1994
To: IN%"[email protected]" "Howard Lawrence"
Subj: Odilon Redon Exhibit

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Date: Wed, 13 Jul 1994 17:34:50 CDT
From: David Westling <[email protected]>
Subject: Odilon Redon Exhibit
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To: Howard Lawrence <[email protected]>
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A major exhibit on the great Odilon Redon opened recently at the
Chicago Art Institute. The remarkable transition from the "noirs"
of the early period to the amazing oils, rich with delicate and
striking color, is fully articulated. Redon wanted to put "the
logic of the visible at the service of the invisible", and his
ecstatic visions are ample testimony to this desire.
So many amazing things. An eerie rendition called "The Teeth",
based on the Poe story, depicts a monomainiac's obsession with
the teeth of the object of his affection, glowing against a darkened
background, in muted charcoal. A variant on the famous grinning
spider drawing has a sensitive, tortured head on the body of the
spider--the meaning of the former is pretty clear, but what does
Redon have in mind with this suffering sensitive soul? He seems
to be alluding to Christ--Redon struggled with the duality of
humanity's low begininings in contrast to its potential for
spiritual exaltation--but what a juxtaposition!
One of the things I have found to be unique about Redon's work
is that he makes full use of the idiom of Symbolism without recourse
to that ubiquitous motif of the others, the Femme Fatale. Redon's
women tend toward spiritually evolved realms, from the "Closed Eyes"
series, which partakes so strongly of the Birth of Venus myth (a
myth also taken up directly in other luminous works), to the
curious work "The Captive" of 1914, depicting a woman huddled into
a cave-like niche, rendered in vibrant reds and greens; this figure
literally blends into the nature that Redon associates so strongly
with womanhood.
As much as I admire the "noirs", those charcoal drawings that
Redon invariably executed before age 40, they fail to express the
delicacy and emotional range, to my mind, that the oils do.
Redon's use of color is nothing short of miraculous. Outstanding
examples include "Mystical Conversation", based on the Mary and
Elizabeth story from the bible; delicate blues and pinks predominate
to evoke a mood of reverence and delight in the sacred conversation.
"Underwater Vision" of 1912 is nearly abstract; a vague swirl of
ochres and blues evoke the mysteries of the oceans real and
metaphorical. Several treatments of "The Windows" evoke the
wonder of perception. Also depicted more than once was "The Boat",
one of which shows a sage shadowed in a rich magenta, guiding a
woman on her spiritual journey.
See this show!
David Westling
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