Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible

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Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible, the title for the current show at the Met Breuer, is the one thing of finished perfection in a show devoted to works that are either intentionally or unintentionally unfinished. Balzac wrote "The Unknown Masterpiece," in which Poussin plays a cameo as he does in the current exhibit which shows his "Midas Washing at the Source of the Pactolus (1627). However, Balzac was interested in the kind of implosion of the artistic personality in the striving for greatness. The "Non Finito" works on display at the Met are more matter of fact in their intention. Pliny is cited early in the exhibition since he encouraged the artist to "take his hand off the painting." Da Vinci's "Head and Shoulders of a Woman (La Scapagliata)" is a perfect illustration of the point, as the head itself is pure perfection while the hair is left to the imagination. In the modernist framework Picasso is quoted thusly, "To finish a picture? What nonsense! To finish means to be through with it, to kill it, to rid it of its soul" and here is the conceptualist Robert Morris, "Under attack is the rationalist notion that art is a form of work that results in a finished product." A room devoted to J.M.W. Turner poses the question of what the impressionist style is, e.g. an absence of decision in which reality is only partially limned or in fact the scrim through which the artist's vision ultimately comes to life. A parallel can be made with Kafka whose ending for The Trial might be seen as the absence of an ending.The air of unfinished business of course lies over the whole cannon of modern and post-modernism as is illustrated by Cage and Cunningham and certainly by Pollock whose Number 28 from l950 is exhibited opposite a work by Sol Lewitt fittingly titled "Incomplete Open Cubes."

{This was originally posted to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy's blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture}

photograph of Jackson Pollock's "Number 28" and Sol Lewitt's "Incomplete Open Cubes" by Hallie Cohen