Friday, February 11, 2011

Boneyard of the World -- Multiplication of the Arcs (Yves Tanguy)

Yves Tanguy, Multiplication of the Arcs, 1954, Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York

        During 1952 and 1953 Tanguy produced a marvelous series of drawings, but few paintings, in part because of ill health, in part because he and his wife traveled abroad to attend the openings of their solo exhibitions in Paris and Rome.  (Tanguy also showed his pictures in Milan.)  But back in Woodbury, to his vast relief, he began to work again, painting the fine The Mirage of Time, and the two sparkling little canvases, Saltimbanques and Where Are You?  And during the final months of his life he completed what is almost certainly the greatest work of his entire, dedicated career -- Multiplication of the Arcs.

        I saw Tanguy in Woodbury several times when the Multiplication was in progress. He worked on the picture like one possessed, hurrying back to his studio after a brief lunch, whereas ordinarily he would have sat for hours, talking about literature and pictures (though never his own, unless stubbornly pressed) and the state of the world of art, with its chronic feuds and armistices, its developments and counter-developments.  Clearly he sensed that the Multiplication was to be the summary of lifelong aims and preoccupations; he would arrive at the house at the end of the day exhausted by the long hours of unrelenting concentration.  And what a cosmic image he achieved!  The picture is sort of a boneyard of the world, its inexplicable objects gathered in fantastic profusion before a soft and brooding sky.  The close gradations of light, tone and form are handled with such acumen that a pristine order evolves, whose poetic impact is more than likely to establish the picture as one of the masterworks in the art of our time.

From:  James Thrall Soby, Yves Tanguy, New York, Museum of Modern Art, 1955

Yves Tanguy, Indefinite Divisibility, 1942, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York

Untitled (Wind) 1928, Private collection

Yves Tanguy, Belomancie, 1927, Private collection

Kay Sage

Kay Sage Tanguy, I Saw Three Cities, 1944, Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton, New Jersey


Man Ray, Portrait of Yves Tanguy, 1934

Reader note:  Pre-occupied today as I am, I consider this a sort of downpayment on a more substantial appreciation of Yves Tanguy and his work. When I think about the various maxims about what makes art important and why we respond to art (we all know some; no need to repeat them here), I think back to my first encounters with Tanguy.  No artist's words prescribed (Tanguy's titles were mostly suggested by friends), prompted or spoken.  Hushed rapt attention (quickly turning to preoccupation and unrelenting concentration) silently ignited, focusing on a (sur)realer world.  Married to the marvelous Kay Sage -- a stirring thought.


Yves Tanguy, Chess set, 1950, Carved wood

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