Chaos and Classicism feels like the forced scholarly sort of show that, were it not for the many wonderful works in the exhibition, would leave a person wondering why anyone would curate such a broad theme that, for all intents and purposes, could have included any number of artworks from any period in history.
Concentrating on the years between the wars in France, Italy, and Germany, every work in Chaos and Classicism depicts or references the human figure, during a time when creators and societies were purportedly returning to ideals of modeled forms and cleaner lines, and away from abstraction. Getting back in touch with the body, there are examples in all media, from art to furniture and costume design. Iconic paintings by Picasso and Balthus share the walls with lesser-known Braques and even lesser-known artists whose chairs, dresses, vases, and sculptures give but a snippet of the vast shifts changing life and art globally during that time – the exhibition is divided into seven neat sections (such as “The Dark Side of Classicism”) that attempt to categorize what ultimately may be more chaos than classicism.
There are especially wonderful works such as De Chirico’s ballet costume designed for Balanchine’s Le bal, which in its presentation resembles a modern sculpture by Yinka Shonibare, and Andre Derain’s metal portrait masks that are familiarly ominous and relic-like. Despite all the heaviness of Chaos and Classicsm’s curatorial underpinnings, works like these allow us to forgo all that and just enjoy the intuitive, personal aspects of art that move us to it in the first place.
~Trong G. Nguyen
Images: Pablo Picasso, Bust of a Woman, Arms Raised, 1922, oil on canvas. Collection Michael and Judy Steinhardt. Copyright 2010 the estate of Pablo Picasso/ARS. Photo: Christopher Burke; Giorgio de Chirico, Ballet costume for Nicolas Efimov as a male guest in George Balanchine’s Le bal (1929), 1929, three-piece wool suit, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut, Purchased through the gift of James Junius Goodwin, and the special Gift Account. Photo: Hannes Bend.