How the Matisse / Diebenkorn exhibit led me to “Be careful only in a perverse way” over “Coffee”.

With the SFMOMA open late on a Thursday and my calendar free (and wanting to do some late night research on the neighborhood), I went to the Matisse / Diebenkorn exhibit. (Members get in with their membership.)

I don’t know much about Matisse, and going through the show, I was haunted by a friend’s story of a  bad first date to this museum: her date, in reference to some abstract paintings, remarked that he wished his 5 year old could be so successful. My friend found her date’s lack of understanding and callous attitude a good enough reason to be done with the evening as quick as possible.

Yet, there I was, wondering about why Matisse mattered. And who this Diebenkorn guy was.

So, with illumination as close as the glowing screen in my pocket, I Googled:

And because we live in a world where nice people have taken the time, effort and resources to give answers freely:

Which helped.

But, still, Matisse, as displayed, didn’t strike a cord.

But, this Diebenkorn guy… He had one that very much resonated with me:

I love coffee. My emotional entanglement was immediate. I loved the stories it evoked, and the ideas it spun. (Please, let me know when you want to go to coffee. Consider this an open invitation.)

And so, I decided to download the photo, so I can keep it in my inspiration swipe file. And then I stumbled over this:

Someone else who sort of fell in love with the same painting. A painter. And, looking at his work, I immediately felt a gleeful swirling towards it.

And, perhaps my favorites:

After watching Bechtle talk about Diebenkorn’s “Coffee”, I felt a much closer kinship to the work, the artist and painting in general after this. It raised a new thought for me: perhaps, the contemplation required for a painting, in our current over-synthesized experience, may be a balm for the current condition.

I also really liked the passage he read, from Diebenkorn on starting a new painting:

# 10 is  – “Be careful only in a perverse way.”

This lead me to find the definition of perverse:

showing a deliberate and obstinate desire to behave in a way that is unreasonable or unacceptable, often in spite of the consequences.

Which makes me think – that is a great way to define art: only by being deliberate and unreasonable despite the risks do we throw a contrasting light on the rest of society.

And that brings me back to Matisse. In a world of strict portraiture, he was the “pervert”, letting go of form, and focusing on color – deliberately acting unacceptably to current standards unapologetically.

Perhaps our database / computerize life would be better off with more focus on the abstract.

Side note:  In a text conversation with my earlier aforementioned friend, it also became clear to me that research is a powerful drug: mind opening, pulse quickening, hallucinogenic and euphoric.

Also, I am serious about getting that cup of coffee with you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *