Remembering Jackie Matisse, a pioneer of star art and virtual reality art who had a special sense for chance and the power of collaboration

In the early 1960s, a mother in her late 30s, Jackie Matisse was still looking for personal artistic territory that would allow her to express herself. She was “interested in the art of my time,” she recalled in 2000 — she was a granddaughter of Henri Matisse and already collaborated with her stepfather Marcel Duchamp — but sought to understand her place. And then, as he took a taxi from New York City to the airport in 1962, he saw a star flying over the rooftops of Harlem — a “line drawn in the sky” —and noticed the idea of make stars. … and using the sky as a canvas ”.

In 1970, he signed the document Flying Art Poster—declares that the star is “a vehicle that unites spirit and physique,” with six other artists. For the next four decades, Jackie made “flying art” with its brightly colored stars — acrylics on candle cloth — and patterns cut from crepe paper. He made groups of stars to fly inward, to work with the sky, the fields, and the woods; groups that will fly to the light by the sea; and groups, on water-resistant paper, for flying and filming underwater. The idea of ​​submersible stars came to him in 1979 when one of his creations fell into the sea.

He devised ways to show this essentially kinetic art in gallery spaces, with long patterned star tails grouped in groups in a breeze, or looping up and down in mechanical rollers, in a seemingly perpetual motion. He presented himself in Paris in 1972, in London in 1976 —at the Institute of Contemporary Arts— and in exhibitions throughout Europe and the United States, with major retrospectives in 2000—.Art that Soars: Kites and Tails by Jackie Matisse at the Mingei International Museum in San Diego and in 2013 at the Musée Matisse in Le Cateau-Cambrésis, Normandy.

Jackie stood out in his field for his characteristic opportunity, especially in collaboration: with light and wind; with musician-artist John Cage, musician David Tudor, choreographer Merce Cunningham and artists Jean Tinguely and Niki de Saint Phalle; and with technology. His work in 2002-2005 with Virginia Tech and the University of Illinois produced the most ambitious virtual reality work the art world had ever seen, driven by a distributed network of supercomputers, that is, collaborative. Broadband Internet. Criticisms were taken of how Jackie easily entrusted the process to various technologists to scan, encode, and manipulate the digital models of his work and display them by projecting images on the inner surfaces of a cube or “Cave,” built with 3 squares. m high. . The viewer, who wore special glasses, was an interactive collaborator capable of manipulating a virtual star using a wand. The VR star program was mounted at technology events in Europe and the United States, with a simplified, flat-screen version made for your gallery, such as Flying art in Zone, New York, in 2005.

Jackie had a bilingual feeling for the power of chance. For the English meaning — occasion — in a way that Duchamp and Cage would have approved: the sight of the Harlem star in 1962; the star was lost at sea in 1979. And it recognized the French meaning of “opportunity”—His good luck— of having had Henri Matisse as his grandfather and Marcel Duchamp as his stepfather. “I’ve been very lucky in my life,” he said in 2013, “perhaps especially to have the opportunity to spend time with Henri Matisse and see him work until the end of his long life; and then meet and work for to Marcel Duchamp, of a younger generation than Matisse, but just as attractive. ”(My translation.) Duchamp, he said, gave him“ permission ”to find his own path.

I have been very lucky in my life, perhaps especially to have the opportunity to spend time with Henri Matisse and see him work during the end of his long life; and then meet and work for Marcel Duchamp
Jackie Matisse

Jacqueline (Jackie) Matisse was born in Neuilly, on the outskirts of Paris, in 1931. Her father was Pierre Matisse, a leading contemporary art dealer of her generation who opened her space in the Fuller building in Paris. ‘East 57th Street, New York, in the year of Jackie’s birth. Her mother, Alexina “Teeny” Sattler, daughter of a distinguished eye surgeon in Cincinnati, Ohio, had moved to Paris in the early 1920s, where she was briefly a student of Constantin Brancusi. Pierre and Teeny divided family life between Paris and New York, with the addition of a farm in New Jersey in 1941. Pierre represented his father, Henri, in New York, as well as the burning of European artists from the younger generation, including Balthus, Marc Chagall, André Derain, Jean Dubuffet, Alberto Giacometti, Joan Miró (Jackie’s godfather) and Yves Tanguy. The shows he performed for Miró (37 in total) and Giacometti were of special importance.

Jackie was the eldest of three children, with two brothers, Peter and Paul. When he was seven years old, a frieze arrived in New York that his parents had commissioned from Miró for the nursery bedroom. Woman bewitched by the passage of the bird-dragonfly omen of the bad news (now at the Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio) is over 3 m long and depicts monstrous figures in a claustrophobic space.

Peter, Jackie’s brother, was kept awake by the paint and thoughts of the monstrous teeth. But Jackie, who remembered the painting with the title invented by the family – “The Battle of the Sea Monsters,” told John Russell, author of Matisse: father and son (1999), who remembered it as dramatic and energizing. Years later, when he had created stars that “flew” underwater, intertwining colorful tails and vivid patterns, he found himself thinking of “The Battle of the Sea Monsters.”

At Brearley School in New York, Jackie befriended Niki de Saint Phalle, who became, in the 1960s, her second husband, Tinguely, Jackie’s neighbor in France. (Jackie later created glass containers for sacred waters at the great Saint Phalle Tarot Garden, 1979-2002, at Garavicchio, on the north coast of Rome.) In 1939, Pierre Matisse was in France when World War II broke out and was mobilized by the military. The reducible Teeny took care of both the family and the gallery in New York until Pierre returned in the winter of 1939-40.

Decades of experimentation: Jackie Matisse dressed in her pattern of “moon pieces”, with matching sets, in her studio near Paris
Serge Bailhache

As a young woman, Jackie was portrayed by artists from her family and her circle. In 1947 it was drawn by Balthus and, in multiple drawings, by his grandfather. (It was the year Henri published Jazz, a collection of works on cut-out paper on circus themes; the clean lines and improvisational character of Henry’s carved paper work are echoed in the shapes of the “moon,” inspired by fragments of broken plates, which appear in Jackie’s art.) One of the portraits of Henri, the most monumental of the set, foreshadows the tomb and a reflective beauty revealed in Man Ray’s photographs of Jackie around 1960, a solo portrait and group portraits with two of his children.

In 1949, Jackie began studying literature at the Sorbonne in Paris. That same year, her parents divorced. Teeny renewed an old acquaintance of Marcel Duchamp and married him in 1954. The same year, Jackie married Bernard Monnier, the descendant of many generations of bankers and art collectors. They had three sons and a daughter.

From 1959 to 1968, Jackie worked on the construction of Duchamp’s new series Box in the suitcase—Miniature portable monographs with reproductions of the artist’s own work, a concept he first developed in the late 1930s. There were 150. “They were very complicated,” he recalled in a memoir by Duchamp written for the Tate Gallery, “because you had to put frames on the mini-reproductions of his work. I had to adjust it exactly to “The way he had planned. He didn’t give a lot of instructions on how to do it, so I had to use my common sense to put them together.”

Largely thanks to his support, the Duchamp Fellowship expanded and prospered in recent decades.
Ann Temkin, chief curator of painting and sculpture, Museum of Modern Art, New York

This “common sense” helped turn Jackie into an eloquent advocate of her own work, a welcoming hostess for meetings at her home south of Paris, and a clear custodian of the memories of Duchamp and her grandfather. In 1987, he accompanied his father, Pierre (who died in 1989), on a trip to see the great works of Henri Matisse, including Dance (1910) —in the collection of the Hermitage in St. Petersburg. After Duchamp’s death in 1968, Teeny had moved to Villiers-sous-Grez, near Fontainebleau, where he made an archive of Marcel’s work. Jackie joined this work in the mid-1980s (Teeny died in 1995), translating texts and recording memories of Duchamp for the Philadelphia Museum of Art. “It’s not largely thanks to her support,” says Ann Temkin, chief curator of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, “that the Duchamp Scholarship has expanded and prospered in recent decades.” This work is now being developed under the auspices of the Marcel Duchamp Association.

As her work progressed, Jackie Matisse added hanging sets — with moon shapes — to her repertoire and found pieces — some small and hung in strands of hair; and miniature stars bottled in water or air. Filmed flying kites on a beach for his 2000 show in San Diego, he shows total concentration while deftly handling the line. “Come on! Come on! She cried. “Please go up.” After decades of experimentation as a star artist, his work was still in motion, a collaboration with nature, a game of chance.

Jacqueline Matisse; Neuilly-sur-Seine, France, July 12, 1931; married in 1954 to Bernard Monnier (three sons, one daughter; the marriage was dissolved in 1982); died near Paris on May 17, 2021

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