Friday, December 09, 2005

Seeing: Modern Realism

On a walk the other night I stumbled across the Caja Madrid gallery in the Plaza San Martin, with Edward Hopper on the banner. Inside, an exhibition right up my alley: 1920s and 30s realism, with heavy emphasis on carnivals and dancehalls, and a charming farm scene, complete with donkey, by a pre-abstract Joan Miró. I was a bit confused, however, by the absence of the very painting on the banner, the melancholic Hotel Room. Had they taken down the star attraction of their show? Had I missed a room somewhere?

No, they had not and I had not. The exhibit is divided in two, with the really big gun paintings over at the Thyssen-Bornemisza. So Thursday being a holiday and all that, I decided to take in part two. Hotel Room was indeed there, and quite entrancing a painting it is. The longer I looked at it--the harsh light, the two suitcases, the carefulness with which the woman unfolds the paper--the more certain I became that something tragic was going to happen. But what I loved was that no matter how long I looked, I couldn't tell if the tragedy had occurred yet, or if it were still to come.

Away from the Hoppers, I had one of those experiences where I kept finding paintings I liked, and everytime I checked for the artist's name, it was the same one: Felice Casorati. He painted a lot of women, but it was the eggs on a battered black desk that I liked best.

Realismos Modernos is at the Fundacíon Caja Madrid (Plaza San Martin, 1) and the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza (Paseo del Prado, 8) until January 8.

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