Friday, October 10, 2008

MoMA Visit - Francis Bacon

I recently visited the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in NYC and felt as if I was being drawn back particular work of art over and over again. It was a 1946 masterpiece by the artist Francis Bacon named “Painting”. This symbolic painting is located on the 5th floor in an area lit from above by spotlights, protected by glass, and not far from a large window which added additional natural light. This piece is also accompanied by another of Bacon’s works named “Study of a Baboon” which seems to compliment the first work.

I was at once arrested by its dark linear style and color scheme. The macabre scene depicted in spectacular fashion, made me ponder what the artist must have been thinking while creating such a work…what he was trying to tell us. The funeral or butcher shop-inspired work immediately brought several things to mind. The colors he chose to employ in his work, shades of red, black and burgundy conjure up visions of blood, death /mortality and gore. The chunks of beef near the painting’s forefront made me think of that Christmas poem but with a dark twist…“all the bodies are hung by the chimney with care”. The cow carcasses hung in an almost crucifix-like formation I found a bit disturbing. The ominous mortician/politician at the right with the partially obscured face grasped my attention at once. What makes this figure so alluring and simultaneously repulsive is the fact one can not make out his entire countenance. By shrouding part of the face with the umbrella Bacon succeeded in turning him into every politician or mortician. Through anonymity the viewer is free to imagine any politician they choose, resulting in the figure being even more menacing. By painting politician/mortician in those surroundings and placing an eerie grin on his face, Bacon alludes to the fact that there is a morbid inhumanity beneath this figure’s polished exterior.

I believe, given the time period when he created the painting, Bacon was influenced by the events of the then recent World War 2. There was general public mistrust of politicians at the time. I believe Bacon was trying to show us that “evil” politicians create wars leaving dismembered bodies and death in their wake. The purpose of arranging the two large carcasses in the form of a crucifix are meant to signify the human sacrifice that the sinister politician is willing to endure to further his own plans.

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