Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Eric Fischl: The Best Show of 2012

I know it when I see it.  Every year I see, what for me, will be the best show of the year. Dive Deep: Eric Fischl and the Process of Painting at the San Jose Museum of Art takes the prize.  It is only March, and I might get to see something better in 2012, but I am pretty certain we have a winner.

I first discovered Eric Fischl about 10 years ago, saw a few paintings and now have his work in a few art books.  Since that time, I have been wanting and waiting to see a retrospective of his work.  I rarely get down to the San Jose Museum of Art, and, when I do, I am never disappointed.  Today I was, well, amazed.  I was expecting nothing more than an opportunity to see a few rooms full of big, bold paintings in person.  Work I only knew from the printed page.

Certainly I could have read more about the show beforehand.  The website has an excellent description and a video interview I recommend.  Yes, I recognize that I am suggesting you read up on the show, when I didn’t.  Over the years I have developed a serious case of hype-fatigue when it comes to museum shows.  So many museums go from blockbuster to blockbuster, hyping each show up like the latest action movie out of Hollywood.  I tend to tune out the press and just go see the art.

The folks in San Jose haven’t, by any means, hyped the show.  Sure, it’s been promoted, but with this exhibit, the energy is put into curation.  The show really lives up to the title, yes, you can just view the work on its own, but what is offered is true insight into the artist’s process.  There are plenty of big paintings.  But there are also studies, prints, watercolors, maquettes and photography that all lead up to those bigger paintings.  If you were new to Fischl’s work and only saw some of the small watercolors or the maquettes he starts with, you’d be impressed with those as finished work.  But this exhibit gives you a much, no pun intended, bigger picture.  There is also a short piece of film included where Eric Fischl discusses his process.  When I feel compelled to watch a film as part of an exhibit (something I never do), well, that alone says how much I think of the show.  The only thing missing, and I really have no complaints, but I would have liked to see an even bigger show and more of those massive Fischl paintings.

You have until May 12th to see the best show of 2012.  So head down to San Jose soon.

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