Unlikely Hangover Cure: The BMA’s Cool Contemporary Wing

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“Art” lovers, I don’t mean to pry: Have you ever enjoyed a cold Negroni (one part gin, one part Campari, one part sweet vermouth) on a warm spring evening? And have you ever experienced the work of American modernist painter Max Weber (one part Matisse-trained, one part Picasso-influenced, one part Rousseau-befriended) on the following sun-drenched afternoon?

Weekend recipe advice from a novice: If you gulp your gorgeous pre-prandial Negroni too quickly tonight – it tastes like sweet, spiky red juice – as I did just last weekend, you may feel it tomorrow. If you feel it tomorrow, especially if your head pulses with a heat as red as the cocktail you chugged, reconsider staying in bed all day – instead, consider visiting the BMA’s immense new Contemporary Wing instead, which you can comb through calmly, mounting stairs in slow motion, soaking up the soothing gray walls, and when you’re ready, and only then, you may begin to process the elegantly simple, user-friendly story of Weber’s formative years in Paris, “when he transformed his painting style from classical representations of figures to bold interpretations of cubism and futurism,” according to the wise BMA website. You’ll also tour a number of important paintings from the artist’s personal collection by Matisse, Rousseau, and Picasso. (Note: When Weber returned to America in 1909, he brought with him the first paintings by Picasso and Rousseau to enter the U.S., plus reproductions of Cezanne and one of the first African sculptures to be presented in this country. This exhibit runs through June 23rd.)

As your hangover adviser, I recommend you first study closely the striking sketches and paintings of Weber and his master, Matisse, positioned strategically to help you understand the latter’s linear effect on his gifted apprentice. As you identify similarities and differences, you’ll achieve a momentary sense of clean yet complex mental clarity, which will cause the Negroni-linked headache pain to lift, threading from the top of your head like charcoal-drawn smoke.

Matisse above; Weber below


For a vicarious supine recline, take in “Figure Study” by Weber, which is reminiscent of Matisse’s “Blue Nude” in essential ways. This is the first time both pieces have resided together in an exhibit.

See how, according to insider BMA wall copy, Weber “translates the undulating forms of Matisse’s [work] into the flattened planes Weber had seen in Picasso’s only Cubist painting, ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon in Paris.’”

Weber's "Figure Study"
Weber’s “Figure Study”
Matisse's "Blue Nude"
Matisse’s “Blue Nude”

Be dazzled (and revived) by Weber’s “The Apollo in Matisse’s Studio,” which gives us insight into Matisse’s manner of teaching. This painting, in which the lavender and green pay homage to Matisse’s arbitrary color “with its emphasis on the interaction of complementary hues,” will bring the color back to your cheeks. “The flattened planes, heavy brushstrokes, and photographic cropping of the student at his easel would become hallmarks of Weber’s modernist style,” says the knowing BMA wall.

"The Apollo in Matisse's Studio" - Weber
“The Apollo in Matisse’s Studio” – Weber

Here’s a portrait of Matisse sketched on the spot by Weber (below; and apologies for the crappy cell-phone shooting). Once you’re feeling better, you’ll smile at the liquid line and the warm humor present in the gentle persona.


Depending on how many Negronis the consumption of which you are recovering from, you may want to tour every inch of the new wing’s wonderful healing space. Running through June 9th, “Surreal Selves” offers up some highly imaginative (and totally awesome/freaky/fascinating) large-scale work by Sascha Braunig, Erik Thor Sandberg, and Aya Uekawa. Then there’s the always reliable Cone Collection, where you can rest your throbbing thoughts on a stock supply of Matisse classics and much more. If you’ve still got it bad, take two: First, stand in front of Jean Dubuffet’s miraculously playful masterpiece (below). Don’t think about the fact that Dubuffet took a detour from art into the wine industry for a serious stretch. Don’t think about anything. Drink in his carefree spirit, inhale, exhale


Next, study this beautiful blue-sky, text-tastic image by Ed Ruscha and promise yourself you won’t down your next Negroni too fast; you’ll nurse it; you’ll appreciate each artfully prepared little sip. Ahhh…

Ed Ruscha


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