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Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs

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Jed Perl reviews Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs at MoMA, New York, on view through February 8, 2015.

Perl writes: "Matisse brought an audacious, breakaway intelligence to traditional artistic conceptions and modes of expression. In his final decade he embarked on a mind-bending reconsideration of what may be the primal argument in European art, between the claims of line and the claims of color, which Renaissance artists and theorists had framed as a contest between the Florentine faith in disegno and the Venetian faith in colore… The lines in [Matisse's] late drawings are far too independent to be tethered to color. As for the cut-outs, which Matisse said were produced by drawing with scissors, their coloristic explosions could never be contained by the rationality of a line. Matisse’s endgame had everything to do with sundering color and line from one another—and, perhaps, with seeing if color could do the structural work of line and line could achieve an empathetic power more usually associated with color. What is certain is that Matisse set color and line on their separate—dialectically fraught, perhaps ultimately irreconcilable—paths."

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