Morris Louis: Making Faces
July 20, 2009
The son of a Russian immigrant, abstract painter Morris Louis grew up in Baltimore. As an adult, Louis lived in Silver Spring, Maryland, and in Washington, D.C., where, in a small bungalow on Legation Street, NW, he turned his dining room into a studio. Some of his pictures were larger than the room itself, and he had to work on folded canvas. When Louis died before his fiftieth birthday in 1962, six hundred paintings were found rolled up. All of them were quite large, and very few were titled.
So what to make of Faces, then? The wall label cites that as the name of the painting. But it seems unlikely Morris Louis gave that title to the painting. Clement Greenberg, critic and staunch supporter of Louis's work, probably named the painting and gave the title "Veil" to the series.
Jackson Pollock sometimes titled his works with numbers. This system can be confusing, especially as there is more than one One. Titles are useful in that they can provide an entry into what the artist is thinking or feeling, what he or she associates with the work. In Louis's case, however, I'm not sure if the title adds to my understanding and appreciation of it, or if it has led me in a direction that was not the artist's intention. In Louis's art, you can see glimpses or fragments of the world around you. What if instead of Faces, the painting were named Cave or Autobiography ? It would still have the power to draw me to it from across the room, but would my thoughts about the work have been the same?
What associations does the work conjure for you?
See more works by Morris Louis in the museum's collection.
The comments to this entry are closed.