Max Beckman Centre Pompidou, Paris

From: Susan Aurinko
Category: Exhibitions
Date: 04 January 2003


Max Beckman Centre Pompidou, Paris Through 6 January, 2003 Also MOMA, Queens & Tate Modern, London

Max Beckman, the German expressionist painter, was a great observer and portrayer of history. His paintings have the punch of political cartoons, and the poignancy of a man watching the world fall apart. Angst seeps from his work, and one has the feeling that his pigments are mixed with tears and more than a small degree of intense pain. Beckman painted self-portraits; many, many self- portraits, all of which look more or less the same; a man with hollow cheeks and tightly pressed lips stares at the viewer through sharp, probing, haunted eyes. The work, though interesting through a gallery or two, after several dozen canvases, becomes too much alike, too serious, and overly oppressive. There are, however, toward the end of the exhibit, pieces that steal the show. A vertical canvas showing several nude young men in Beckman’s normal expressionistic style is a small preview of the single painting that redeemed this lifetime of work for me; an enormous canvas, far more realistically painted than all the rest, of a group of nude young men clustered on a beach. They exude life, freedom, and reflect the light that is so often missing in Beckman's work. I know nothing of Beckman's life, but cannot help but wonder whether he was a latent homosexual, as most of his works have an air of being created out of torment, and this piece sings with the pure clarity of abandon.