|Anna Hammond, the Supervising Editor of MoMA, the magazine of The Museum of Modern Art, interviewed the Chief Curator at Large and Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs, John Elderfield in regard to the Bonnard exhibition, which he organized. The following is an excerpt of that interview.|
I've noticed a connection in the shows that you've recently curated--the Matisse show and the Mondrian--and in the artists you've written about recently, say Howard Hodgkin and Richard Diebenkorn: the painting surfaces look extremely animated and there's a kind of obscuring of a narrative going on. Could you comment on this?
I'm especially drawn to trying to understand the defining aspects of early modernism, and what happens to narrative subject matter is certainly one of them. Between 1906 and 1912, between Matisse's Bonheur de vivre, 1905-06, and the invention of collage, there's an amazing change. In these six years, the idea of a painting as a depiction of narrative finally gives way to a kind of painting where the narrative aspect is effectively passed over to the beholder. The beholder is asked to "perform" the picture perceptually and thereby combine the parts to provide the unity (or lack of it) that narrative subject matter did previously. This certainly happens in Bonnard's paintings. And one of the reasons for the great change in his art in the teens is that he wakes up to this aspect of contemporary painting.