Today is the last day of the Francis Bacon show in NYC. This show was one impetus for my trip last week to the city, and seven days later I have finally mulled over the ideas I carried home with me on the bus.
1) The vertical striping I had always perceived as bars were actually intended to represent the wrinkles of a curtain. One of the many useful, if repetitive, museum plaques described Bacon’s frequent use of this device as a context through which he wove the figure. Why is this an important distinction? The bars I originally responded to made the paintings’ meanings seem more negative and dark than intended – Bacon’s actual message was obscured for me. I may still not be sure what he wanted to convey; however, at least I am now seeing his symbolism correctly.
2) Bacon worked with open mouths a lot. He reportedly wanted to paint them with Monet-esc expressivity and attention to color. Eccentric, sure, yet I can see the importance of rendering the open mouth to Bacon’s efforts at conveying rawness.
3) There is some pretty sweet roundness implied with his use of white paint as though it was dry chalk. On a related color note, his use of flat, black shadows is unique and interesting to me. I’m usually drawn to strongly observed shadows, showing all traces of reflected color – but Bacon’s opposite approach to shadows is powerful.
4) I discovered two other intentions reported by the museum research:
a) Bacon’s use of the exposed back is meant to show an increased consciousness of the vulnerability of the rest of the figure, and
b) Bacon’s distortion of the appearance of his sitters was done out of the desire to reach a deeper truth about their lives.
These two ideas are part of what draws me to Bacon. Despite his grotesquely painted figures, which originally held no appeal to me as an art student wanting a figural role model, I now appreciate his connection with the human psyche through the portrayal of select body parts. I’d like to see work by him and Maria Lassnig in a two-person show. Both artists have an abstracted image embodying a fleshy truth – the saturated colors of one next to the other’s pastels would be jarring, but the figures would create a lot of good conversations. Once I've read up on both, I'll post some informed examples of those potential dialogues.