Sunday, November 5, 2023


Last week we went down to the Albuquerque Museum to see an exhibition of the work of both Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) and Henry Moore (1898-1986). This is a traveling exhibition called logically enough “O’Keeffe and Moore” originated by the San Diego Museum of Art and curated by Anita Feldman, San Diego’s Director for Curatorial Affairs.

As I have quoted a former museum director before, the art museum “is a small corner of the entertainment world”. It follows that the curators and/or director are responsible for enticing the art interested public to come for a visit. They must think of exhibitions that either show a new concept or a twist on something old to achieve this goal. Even though bringing together works by an artist like Vermeer can be a big draw, that can only be attempted once in a generation.

For the current exhibition Ms. Feldman brought together works by O’Keeffe and Moore because they “pioneered and shared a coherent vision and approach to Modernism.” She sees a common denominator between them in their reliance on found objects. I liked the fact that the exhibition centered on recreations of the artists’ studios, O’Keeffe’s in New Mexico and Moore’s in Hertfordshire, England, both filled with a number of those found objects. No need to identify which is which here.

The two artists lived and worked almost 5,000 miles apart and met only once at the Museum of Modern Art during a Retrospective of Henry Moore’s work in 1946. O’Keeffe had her retrospective there a few months earlier. Hers was the first MOMA retrospective ever done for a female artist.

I must admit I have trouble understanding what O’Keeffe and Moore have in common beyond the fact that at a time when most abstraction was geometric theirs was more organic. True they both found inspiration in the forms of bones they collected. However, the basic difference I discern in their art is confirmed in the two interviews shown in the exhibition: Moore’s work is born in his head while O’Keeffe’s comes from her gut. His is analytical while hers shows love and passion.

O’Keeffe clearly loves the Southwest and the land and feels before she paints. Here is her Black Place II from the Vilcek Collection and “Pelvis with Distance” from the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

Moore plays with forms and models in his studio. When blown up in bronze in situ, they do come alive and have a calming effect. In the show is this “Reclining Figure” (1968) in wood almost 8 feet wide, one or Moore’s working models for a work which was to be over 40 feet at I.M. Pei’s Dallas City Hall. The final work was split up so that the public could walk through it. Here is the model and an image of the final altered work in situ.

Ending on a whim this image of Moore’s “Moon Head” of 1964 in porcelain with O’Keeffe’s painting of a “Clam Shell” from 1930 in the background appealed to me. Here works by the different artists do seem to have something in common. If you don’t see what I do, join my wife!

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