's wonderful and still fresh Strasse auf Helgoland II
(1924) at the Met.
the painting 2 years ago
but Arthur Segal's Strasse auf Helgoland II
bit of a revival with a shout out from Roberta Smith
. In sychonicity, others like Minus
's Matthew Deleget have just conducted
some private and social media conversations about this gem from 1924 as well. I was thinking
about it last week myself as one of my favorite things in The Metropolitan Museum.
Besides the obvious (that we all have impeccable taste) why the revival? For
me it is partly it's context within the Met. I love to get lost in that place,
wandering aimlessly to see what new surprising room I'll find myself in next.
It's a gigantic wunderkammer full of head spinning quality in quantity and somehow
this modest sized work by a stylistically capricious painter fits the mood perfectly.
It's well painted, discombobulating, seemingly infinite and yet claustrophobic
and it conflates the 2d with the 3d. It literally jumps off the wall... the
way a shorter than you imagined them, but charming beyond belief Hollywood actor
might jump into your field of vision (like the time Nicole Kidman asked me about
my hair being REAL at MOCA).
Steven Holl's psychology building staircase at NYU
Then there is the historical prescience on display. This painting reminds me
of Steven Holl's NYU staircase or any number of Rem Koolhaas buildings. It's
as if Segal's generic cubism predicted Schwitters and the particular way deconstructionist
architecture would often cut buildings into faceted prisms. Sure, Segal was
inconsistent and opportunistic but that is the hallmark of a lot of today's
best architecture. Somehow, this is the painting that ate Rem Koolhaas' lunch
in a time when top
contemporary architecture is blowing its installation art and sculpture colleagues
out of the water.
Rem Koolhaas Condo showroom in Soho (photo Jeff Jahn 2009)
Segal's terrific painting shows how the brush, canvas and frame can beat or
at least equal the box that holds it. It's a David and Goliath moment.
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