Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Art and Life Closely Bound

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Art and Life Closely Bound

Article excerpt

MAUD MORGAN. Over a half century ago, three major museums each purchased a painting from her first New York show. This spring, to help celebrate her 90th birthday, the Addison Gallery of American Art in Andover, Mass., honored her with its third exhibition of her work in the last 50 years.

I had the pleasure of going with Ms. Morgan to see these latest paintings. Morgan has always made and shown both abstract and realist pictures. It is one of the contradictions that defines her work and just might be the proof of her genius. To her, painting with such differentiated objectives does not show a lack of consistency, but displays a breadth of expression.

In a gallery on the upper level of the museum, eight or nine abstract paintings lined the walls with a lone self-portrait looking on from one corner. It was an uncanny installation. The windblown face in a self-portrait was firmly braced against bad weather. The painting just to its left resembled a wall, a fortress-like alter ego, the less fierce and vulnerable version of that same determined visage. Around the rest of the room hung large vertical abstractions, like open doorways. Each one overflowed, yet with incredible economy realized a striking vision in paint, one that revealed powerful emotions of anger, pain, joy, and hope.

While the style of these paintings could be described as modernist abstraction, pure form arranged in the flat space of the picture, the force of their presence springs from the passion of Morgan's life experience, which makes the work as fresh as its paint.

Although we can still sense the impact of her years of study (1932-40) with the great Abstract Expressionist painter Hans Hofmann, we can also find the lines and shapes of life happening right now all around us.

Each of the abstract paintings in this show defined an evolutionary stage in Morgan's recovery from a recent crisis. She showed me that one extreme was catastrophic and the other was peace, but even in that first stage there was glimpse of light, of hope. She explained, pointing to a painting in the middle of the series, that the Greeks had a word for this process, which like alchemy turned a base emotion into a precious one. …

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