Walking through “From Picasso to Warhol” at the High Museum in Atlanta, two paintings grabbed me enough for me to want to grab them. One did it from afar, the other from the side, reminding me once again the effect that distance and angle have on the way we perceive paintings. “Interior with Violin Case” by Matisse lured me from across the gallery: from afar the light and the angles are — perfect.
When you get up close (and this will probably not really come through in my snapshots), the sun hitting the floor morphs from warm rays to pink paint streaks and suddenly you see the object for what it is: pigment on canvas forming a lively pattern of colors and lines and planes that are just a tad wonky.
Then there is De Chirico’s “The Enigma of the Day” that I would hang in such a way as to always approach it from the side. I’ve always liked De Chirico’s work and there are so many times when I feel like I’ve stepped into one of his paintings — sometimes in the most unlikely places . When I was embedded with the US military in Afghanistan we were in a camp in the South where the army had built a series of concrete barracks. Row upon row upon row on a sea of gravel set in a bowl encircled by mountains. The sun hit down hard, painting black angular shadows. Much of the time, there was nobody outside. It felt desolate, stark, and surreal.
I thought I was done ‘collecting’ for the day, but we went to the lower level to see “Bill Traylor: Drawings from the Collections of the High Museum of Art and the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts.” A true outsider artist who sat on the street drawing what he saw. Charming, funny, lively. And one of them totally irresistible. It is untitled. What Traylor tended to say when asked what such scenes depicted was, “That’s an exciting event.” Indeed.