Francis Bacon wasn’t known for holding anything back, so in that respect, this museum-quality presentation of paintings from the last 20 years of his life won’t disappoint fans of his art, even though they’re somewhat spare compared to the screaming popes that minted his reputation. The work is as self-dramatizing as ever, with its soup of abstraction and figuration kept on a high boil of emotional tumult.
Bacon’s themes of sex, death, decay and personal abasement remain evident, as do his signature motifs: the diagrammatic space frames; the abject, contorted figures molded from a composite clay of Hans Bellmer’s “Poupées," Eadweard Muybridge’s motion studies and disarticulated classical statuary. In terms of tone, the results are set to loud, but Bacon leaves plenty of compositional breathing room thanks to expanses of color that have the virtue of keeping his excesses in check, none of which represent a mellowing with age, exactly. It’s more like a decision to give viewers the space to shift their attention from the hysterics imbuing the work to the art history behind it.