There’s More Than Meets the Eye: A René Magritte Survey

Holland Cottor in The New York Times:

MagOh, no, I thought when I heard that the Museum of Modern Art’s big fall show was a René Magritte survey. Dozens of undersung modernist painters, many of them women, on at least five continents, have never had a New York moment, and here we’re getting an artist we practically can’t avoid. The pipe; the giant eye; the choo-choo in the fireplace. As it turns out, “Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926-1938,” which opens at MoMA on Saturday, is good solid fun, because Magritte is solid and fun. There’s no mystery about why he’s so popular. His paint-by-numbers illustrational mode reads loud and clear from across a room — a good thing, as the exhibition galleries are sure to be jammed — and reproduces faultlessly, even on a cellphone screen. And he had ideas. He was a sophisticated trickster, a bourgeois gentilhomme with a geek inside, hacking into everyday life and planting little weirdness bugs: legs sprouting from shirt collars, rain falling upward, words having lives of their own. He was an attention-grabber with one gift, but a crucial one: for puzzle-making. You may not get, at first glance, what’s going on in his paintings, but you get that there’s something to get. So you look again. And again. Which is, of course, a marketer’s dream.

One thing’s for sure: We’re unlikely ever to see Magritte look better than he does in the MoMA show. Its organizers, Anne Umland, a curator of painting and drawing at the museum, and Danielle Johnson, a curatorial assistant, have zeroed in on a single — and I would say the only — consistently fresh and interesting decade in his long career, when he was inventing the artist he wanted to be and when his art was all over the place in a good way: witty, nasty, brilliant and bad at the same time.

More here. (Note: Saw the show. Loved it. Recommend highly.)