Joel Meyerowitz, Morandi, Cézanne and Me @Howard Greenberg

JTF (just the facts): A total of 15 color photographs, variously framed and matted, and hung against olive colored walls in the second gallery space. All of the works are archival pigment prints, made between 2013 and 2017 and printed later. The prints from the Morandi’s Objects series are each sized 20×16 and are available in editions of 10. The prints from the Teatro series are sixed 40×30/40×32 and are also available in editions of 10. The prints from the Cezanne’s Objects series are either single images sized 40×30 (in edition of 10) or composite grids of images sized roughly 60×78 (in editions of 4). Monographs of Morandi’s Objects and Cézanne’s Objects have recently been published by Damiani, in 2015 (here) and 2017 (here) respectively. (Installation shots below.)

Comments/Context: In the past few years, Joel Meyerowitz has spent much of his time rediscovering the joys of the humble photographic still life. Unlike the chaos of the streets or the serenity of the seaside, working in the controlled environment of the studio (his own, or those of the celebrated painters Paul Cézanne and Giorgio Morandi) has offered him a different set of challenges, from finding his own voice within the restrained vocabulary of deliberate isolation to tuning his perceptions to the subtleties of slow, exacting observation.

This small survey exhibit brings us up to speed on three separate projects Meyerowitz has been pursuing of late, following up on a previous first look at this body of work in 2014 (reviewed here). In large part, the works on view from his foray into Cézanne’s studio and a couple of selections from his own flea market finds in Italy reprise what we have seen before. Cézanne’s objects are either placed into narrow corners or set on a heavily used tabletop, both stagings steeped in the muted tones of middle grey. The single objects are printed large, allowing us to examine every chip in the paint or wrinkle in the water-logged paper, while a large typology of glassware offers more variations of shape and form, from vases and jars to wine bottles and small vials. What makes the Cézanne pictures work is how Meyerowitz has captured the nuanced patinas of the everyday objects – even the most forgettable bottles shine with complexity, reminding us of the magical tactile surfaces of Cézanne’s own still life paintings.

The more recent pictures from Morandi’s studio are even stronger. Set on a scarred and dusty work table against a warm mustard colored wall, Morandi’s objects are so formally resonant that they stand with much greater authority than nearly any of Cézanne’s gatherings can muster. Water pitchers, oil cans, tin boxes, and a selection of vases and bottles make up the parade of objects, each one a humble but astonishingly singular form, its surface muted by earthy paint colors.

Meyerowitz’ portraits of these things channel Morandi’s own particular aesthetic, merging an elemental simplicity with an exacting sense of proportion and spatial relationships. The balance of positive and negative space becomes more pronounced as the objects seem to dissolve into painterly two-dimensional flatness, the dividing line between wall and table in the background neatly interrupting each object. Every item is wholly forgettable and yet entirely engrossing, the refined elegance of the curves and geometries both utterly clear and gently softened. The modern photographs seem to quietly evolve into something timeless right before our eyes, the meticulous subtleties of the objects seeming to shimmer into Morandi-like essences and ephemerality, even though they of course stay entirely crisp.

For aficionados of the paintings of Cézanne and Morandi, Meyerowitz’ systematic still lifes function on several levels, providing both precise historical documentation of the contents of their respective studios and using those same objects as a jumping off point for his own artistic reinterpretations. And as Meyerowitz is progressing through this rediscovery of still life, the works are getting better. The Morandi pictures are consistently well-executed, turning respectful homage into something durably engaging.

Collector’s POV: The prints in this show are priced at $10000, $20000, $20500, or $90000 based on size. Meyerowitz’ work is routinely available in the secondary markets, particularly prints of his 1970s images made in large editions (75 or even 100). Prices have typically ranged from $1000 to $24000.

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Read more about: Joel Meyerowitz, Howard Greenberg Gallery, Damiani Editore

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JTF (just the facts): Published in 2024 by Skinnerboox (here). Softcover with Swiss binding, 24 x 28 cm, 108 pages, with 40 black-and-white reproductions and 14 contact sheet pages. Includes ... Read on.

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