Sunday, October 20, 2013
The subtitle of the René Magritte exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art, "The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926-1938," is well chosen. Magritte's surrealism is characterized by the startling juxtaposition of everyday objects, as seen in the cloths covering the faces of the couple above in "The Lovers" (1928). The painting unsettles the viewer, similar to the effect of an dream in which familiarity and fear intermingle. Magritte also subverted assumptions about language and representation; in "The Treachery of Images" (1928-29), a painting of a pipe is complimented by the sentence, "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" (This is not a pipe). Similarly, a painting of an eye is entitled, "The False Mirror." Magritte's insistence that our perceptions are inherently unreliable shows that he was not only a surrealist, but an early postmodernist.
“Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary” will run through Jan. 12 at the Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53rd Street, NYC; (212) 708-9400, www.moma.org.