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Memories of '03 — by Mark Barry

Ionarts is happy to welcome a new guest contributor, artist Mark Barry, who will be writing about art from an artist's point of view. Mark weighs in today with a quick review of favorite exhibits in 2003.

One last remembrance for 2003: first of all, I still can't get used to the idea of 2000, let alone 2003. As an artist I have felt for some time that the new century would have significance in our lives, more than just an array of numbers or y2k. It would be a time to take stock, sum up, stretch limits. Then came 9/11, Afghanistan, Iraq, turmoil in Africa, the World Bank, fires, floods. There is precious little time to take stock of any one particular event. It was several years before Picasso painted Guernica, and it will be several more before we can adequately commemorate what transpired on September 11th.

Picasso loomed large again this year along with Matisse, at their fabulous painting-fest (Matisse Picasso) at MoMA Queens, one incredible work after another: matching each other, one large juicy painting for painting to the very end. Another painter of large canvases who never shied away from pushing the limits, in this case to the heavens, was Velázquez, at the Met. After paying my 5 cents to get in (artist's benefit), I found that it was a members-only preview, so I had to slip in through the gift shop and view the show in reverse. Just as well: what a bold painter he was; how can you not be a believer?

There was Romare Bearden and Édouard Vuillard at the National Gallery, both building on wonderful complex patterns of color, which reminded me of the Bonnard exhibit at the Phillips earlier this year. Those baths of Mr. Bonnard, to see a room full of them was a highlight of my year. George Inness reminded me again of the simple beauty of landscape painting in a really nice, small exhibit, at the National Academy of Design. A few blocks down, at the Guggenheim, the Rosenquist retrospective was over the top and all over the building, an amazing amount of work and still going. The press was rolling for the John Currin retrospective at the Whitney. He's a good painter, with lots of imagination and humor; no one can live up to so much hype, nor should they. One of my favorite places, the American Visionary Art Museum, ends the year with an opening, a new exhibit called Golden Blessings of Old Age. There is art after 50!

I haven't even mentioned all the gallery shows of this year, mine included, or the fate of the Barnes Foundation (see it while you can), but there is a lot to celebrate; amazing art is being made all around the country. There will be a fitting response to 9/11 at some point; it's happening in small ways right now. Here's to great art to be made and seen in 2004.

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