The current show at SAM, (the Seattle Art Museum), features paintings from various periods in the long career of Andrew Wyeth. The work is always labeled as realism but he expressed more interest ‘in the mood of a thing than the truth of a thing’. That makes sense when wandering through the galleries, it feels as if he obsessed on the moods of mystery and stillness throughout most of his adult life. The colorful seasons of spring and summer do not exist in the world he created. The season he evoked instead simultaneously holds both the solemnity of death and a promise of spring, somewhere under all that relentless dead grass. I loved many of his paintings as a youngster for their blend of formal composition with the granular Northern European eye that lavished attention to small detail.
In another Wyeth quote, he states that in his view nothing is ‘really magical unless it had a terrifying quality’. This ties nicely into recent thoughts about the meaning of the sublime that I’ve been having since reading about Edmund Burkes book on the subject. Those two quotes are good companions to hold close as you take in the show.
In his review of the show in the Seattle Weekly, writer TS Flock casually drops some mid-century art world catnip by asserting that critic Clement Greenberg, champion of abstract expressionism, was on the payroll of the CIA. Worth a read.
Show is on display until January 15, ’18.