§ Thoughts Left Visible: Unfinished & Baseball Opening Day is Nearly Here!

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Breuer is open

30 Lafayette Ave, Brooklyn

Recap: Whitney moves to Chelsea, Met buys Whitney Breuer building, remodels & creates modern & contemporary art venue, opens with a somewhat unusual show plus a dynamic exhibition of a lesser known but brilliant Egyptian artist. An unschooled writer compares the Unfinished show to baseball and spring training.

Elizabeth Peyton Napoleon
Elizabeth Peyton’s Napoleon as modern rock star

I start here with the Unfinished exhibit and add something on the terrific Nasreen Mohamedi in a later post. So, Unfinished has gotten universally meh reviews. I’ve linked to some of the reviews at the end here, but basically for the critics it is a swing and a miss. Some say “a wild, swinging strikeout”, others call it “a weak dribbler to first” while some admit that, while not pretty, “a broken bat single is still a hit.” Heads up: I’m glass more than half full and I highly recommend a visit. The bad misses are more than made up for by wonderful and very fun doubles off the wall followed by a homer or two.

September Update: The recent NYT End of the Show article is fun, with non-experts giving their thoughts on specific pieces. A number of the comments were quite perceptive. So here are some more of my equally non-expert thoughts.

I went back to Unfinished two more times and it is a show, like a good September baseball game, where new discoveries are everywhere. There is a one room with a number of JMW Turner landscapes that astound. The Cezanne dazzles. The Ferdinand Holder is powerful: The End of Show article commenter William Meyerhofer said ““There was something about coming out as a gay man in the ’80s and seeing so many of my friends dying that reminds me of this.” Yes.

And last, for those who complain, the Twombly is impressive. The individual panels don’t make an impression but the panels as a whole, with the paint dripping down the frames, do. It is an experience to walk by the piece, seeing it from various angles. One man’s opinion: this is good.

Maybe I’ll go by today or tomorrow before it closes. Depends on whether there’s a good baseball game on.

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Okay, back to your regularly scheduled review…..

I loved it while still understanding the complaints. The curators stretch the concept, meander, throw some wild pitches, and generally play a bit sloppy. Mixed metaphors and rookie mistakes abound (sounds like this review). Still, it’s mostly an ungainly rookie who’ll make it in a couple of years. Think Nuke LaLoosh tied to the bed listening to Annie read Walt Whitman and then reaching the bigs later and winning a Cy or two.

I mean how can you hate seeing the amazing Alice Neel portrait you see top left? It’s a great and melancholy story but James Hunter Black Draftee is a brilliant piece and really a perfect encapsulation of the conceit of the show. It basically answers the question “Is unfinished really a bad thing?” with a resounding “No!” Who decides anyway? In this case the US government, the draft, serendipity, and Alice did. Grand slam to right!

Without going into too much detail and analysis let’s look at a few and see if they make a visit seem worth it:
Rembrandt unfinished




The Rembrandt to the right reflects a beautiful casualness. Perfection is not the goal but emotion might be. The luminous knife and stunning facial richness makes this piece for me. Is it unfinished? Hard to tell. Triple off the wall for van Rijn!




Freud Self-Portrait Reflection, Fragment





How about this rad Lucien Freud? Double down the line scores two!




Kerry James Marshall




Kerry James Marshall rips a solid single up the middle.




White Painting




Rauschenberg’s creatively titled White Painting? Strikeout on a 3-2 pitch in the dirt with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth. Admittedly the shadow of the woman walking by and ignoring it does help.

Anyway, go see Unfinished with an open mind and a bag of Cracker Jacks.

Other artists featured: Pollock, Twombly, Marden, Mondrian, Newman, Johns, Lewitt, de Kooning, Picasso, Degas, Cezanne, Renoir, Van Gogh, Warhol, Titian, Turner, Bourgeois, Manet, Monet, Giacometti.

Other, more erudite and less obsessed with spring training reviews.

NYT, first Roberta Smith and then Holland Cotter:
Boston Globe

and Hyperallergic:

The Met Breuer Traces the Unfinished to the Deliberately Incomplete in Western Art