Must-See Treasures at the Met Breuer

Must-See Treasures at the Met Breuer

Ever since the Met announced its takeover of Breuer's flipped ziggurat, press releases have trumpeted the institution's access to thousands of years' worth of art. With this vast cultural taxonomy at hand, the curators would have done better to mash up the almost two hundred paintings and sculptures on display rather than follow a basically chronological track. For instance, instead of hanging de Kooning's Woman, I (1950–'52) on a different floor, why not pair it with the Titian? Not for nothing did the Dutchman declare, "Flesh is the reason oil paint was invented," with the corporeal visions of the old masters forever on his mind. Here, lashes of his brush and palette knife have scored the coagulated layers of pigment, opening wounds in the surface as literal as those implied in the Titian. Patient and then explosive, de Kooning's strokes combine the exploratory verve of sketching with contours that, however much they warp the human form, always express its heft...

Ping-ponging between ages makes the Breuer building — with its encroaching angles, coarse skin, and rough floors thoroughly spiffed up for this second go-round — feel less architecturally polemical. No longer the new kid on the block, the half-century-old bunker has become part of the same matrix of history it is putting on display. — R.C. Baker

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Ever since the Met announced its takeover of Breuer's flipped ziggurat, press releases have trumpeted the institution's access to thousands of years' worth of art. With this vast cultural taxonomy at hand, the curators would have done better to mash up the almost two hundred paintings and sculptures on display rather than follow a basically chronological track. For instance, instead of hanging de Kooning's Woman, I (1950–'52) on a different floor, why not pair it with the Titian? Not for nothing did the Dutchman declare, "Flesh is the reason oil paint was invented," with the corporeal visions of the old masters forever on his mind. Here, lashes of his brush and palette knife have scored the coagulated layers of pigment, opening wounds in the surface as literal as those implied in the Titian. Patient and then explosive, de Kooning's strokes combine the exploratory verve of sketching with contours that, however much they warp the human form, always express its heft...

Ping-ponging between ages makes the Breuer building — with its encroaching angles, coarse skin, and rough floors thoroughly spiffed up for this second go-round — feel less architecturally polemical. No longer the new kid on the block, the half-century-old bunker has become part of the same matrix of history it is putting on display. — R.C. Baker

Read more: 

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