BURNAWAY is honored to have Rocio Rodiguez set the stage for our new Artists on Art column, featuring artists discussing artists or artworks that have informed, irked or inspired them.
I am not comfortable with only what I know; it is what I don’t know that I am always seeking. That is why I pay attention when confronting an artist’s work that, at first, I don’t respond to. As an artist, what I find most useful is to have my eyes opened by someone else’s work that is very unlike mine.
I remember the first time I encountered Giorgio Morandi’s work—I hated it. The subject was a repetitive parade of badly drawn dusty bottles and boxes typically in the center of the composition. “Not much color sense,” I thought, “can’t he find a bright red in his palette? How can someone spend a lifetime painting the same objects over and over again?”
Many years later, I stood in front of three Morandis and I was dumbstruck. Upon looking, I found nuances in that work that I had never seen before—a color sense that was very reserved yet seemed expansive in that very contained world that he was depicting. An array of grays went from cool to warm as slowly as honey drips from a spoon. I was mesmerized by the paintings’ awkwardness and yet elegant simplicity. What once looked like bad drawing now seemed personal, autobiographical. The tentativeness of the brushstrokes—this wasn’t about flinging paint around and making noise, this was about being quiet. It is almost as if these paintings contained a question and answer and at the same time also expressed a lot of doubt. Not all of Morandi’s work feels this way to me. Some of his paintings are clumsy. But, I do appreciate an artist that makes great work and also stumbles.
More history on Giorgio Morundi and his works. -BBL
Morandi deliberately limited his choice of still life objects to the unremarkable bottles, boxes, jars, jugs and vases that were commonly found in his everyday domestic environment. He would then 'depersonalize' these objects by removing their labels and painting them with a flat matte color to eliminate any lettering or reflections. In this condition they provided him with an anonymous cast of ready-made forms that he could arrange and rearrange to explore their abstract qualities and relationships.
Morandi's compositions and choice of still life objects allude to his Italian heritage. When assembled together in a still life group, his dusty bottles and boxes take on a monumental quality that evokes the architecture of medieval Italy - a style with which he seems at ease. Morandi's own city of Bologna has many examples of medieval architecture and is home to the oldest functioning university in the world: the "Alma Mater Studiorum", founded in 1088.