This weekend we're checking out two shows at the Gagosian outposts in Chelsea, Picasso & the Camera on 21st Street and Takashi Murakami: In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow on 24th Street. And while we're over on the west side, we'll stop by Trestle on Tenth for a snack on the way. Update: The two exhibitions we discussed in this post closed in early January 2015. To stay updated on what's going on right now, sign up for our #YourArtWeekend newsletter here.
Pablo Picasso is the most famous visual artist of the twentieth century, and it's a safe bet that his work will continue to be featured in huge new gallery and museum exhibitions every few months as long as galleries and museums still exist. It is a tribute to Picasso's talent and vision that almost every new exhibition offers something unique and engaging, and this exciting new show at Gagosian's 21st Street gallery is no different. The show uses the camera as a connecting theme for a large, diverse collection of sixty years' worth of photographs, drawings, paintings and films.
Alongside studies and completed works by the artist, the show features photographs both of and by Picasso to highlight the role of photography in his work and life. Some are careful, consciously artistic images, while others (like a photo of the artist in the crowd at a bullfight) capture much more casual, personal moments. The presentation often illustrates how Picasso used photography as a tool for composing his paintings. For example, the side-by-side photograph and painting pair of "Le réservoir (Horta de Ebro)," from 1909, reveals a real-life landscape that's almost as cubist as the painting it inspired. And you'll no doubt be absorbed by the films playing continuously in the center of the gallery space, especially the ones featuring the artist live painting on glass facing the camera.
A few blocks to the north, Gagosian has an excellent show of new paintings and sculpture by the celebrated Japanese artist Takashi Murakami. As fans of Murakami have come to expect, these new works display the artist's remarkable ability to produce exciting, vibrant work that seems to inhabit many worlds at once. Partly inspired by his country's traumatic experience during the 2011 earthquake, Murakami's pieces invoke extreme chaos, but also contain aspects of traditional, religious narratives that people turn to for comfort and enlightenment amid tragedy.
With these paintings and sculptures, Murakami continually mixes ancient and modern symbols and techniques to create a show that seems to channel tragedy and transcendence at the same time. The centerpiece of the largest gallery space is a 56-ton sanmon, a replica of a sacred gate at a Buddhist temple, which is about as old-school as you can get. Massive totemic sculptures of folkish demons stand guard before gorgeously colorful paintings that combine traditional Japanese styles and 21st century (or even 31st century) psychedelia. Again and again, you'll find comforting symbols and stories -- delicate flowers or a traditional Buddhist pose, maybe -- right in the middle of all the chaos.
Just down the block, on the corner of 24th Street and 10th Avenue, you'll find Trestle on Tenth, a small restaurant specializing in Swiss food. It's supposed to be cold and rainy this weekend, so settle into the charming brick-walled cafe for some fondue after your gallery visits.
Photo Credits (Picasso Exhibit): Estate of Pablo Picasso/Rob McKeever.