Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Wols At The Menil Collection

Wols Brad Ford Smith
I first saw Wols artwork at the Barnes Foundation in 2009, three small watercolors nestled amongst the vast collection of Post Impressionist masterpieces. I noted his name in my sketch book but never followed up on him.

This past fall I flew up to Philadelphia to see the Barns Foundation in its new home, and there were those three little scribbles on torn out book pages. Again I noted down his name. When I got back to Dallas I saw that the Menil Collection in Houston was having a Wols retrospective. And so, after a few false starts I made the three and a half hour road trip from Dallas to Houston.

Was it worth the drive? Yes!

Wols (1913- 1951) is one of those artists who made a great impact while he was alive, and in Europe he maintained a high profile after his death. But he quickly disappeared from the annuals of art history as seen from the American vantage point. Talking with the book buyer at the Menil Book Store I learned that there are only two books on Wols written in english, one being the must have Wols Retrospective catalogue published by the Menil Collection.

Wols retrospective
I am a sucker for artists such as Paul Klee, Max Ernst, Hans Bellmer, and Joan Miro. Artists who function on that edge of subconscious abstraction and the exploration of lush materials.

Wols Works on paper
This retrospective of Wols artwork is like finding new chapters to your favorite book. It brings a new perspective to art history, and makes you question how much Wols was influenced by his comrades and how much they were influenced by him.

I don't know much about Wols' life other than a few intriguing hints of drama such as being imprisoned in France with Max Ernst and Hans Bellmer for 19 months, dieing of food poisoning, and that his wife continued to create and sell his paints long after he was dead. Sounds like this catalogue is going to be a good read.

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