Header image credit: 2015 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, Philip Greenberg for The New York Times
Pablo Picasso is the most widely celebrated visual artist of the twentieth century. That he worked so successfully in so many different styles is perhaps taken for granted by now, and one might be forgiven for assuming that, after years of seeing his work in museum collections, gallery exhibitions, and art history classes, we have already seen all there is to see from the man. Picasso Sculpture, the austerely named but richly executed blockbuster exhibition currently running at the Museum of Modern Art, is a compelling argument against that idea. There is always more to see — and it is worth seeing.
Picasso’s materials ranged from the traditional (plaster and bronze) to the primitive (painted ceramics and wood) to the modernist (found objects, including a memorably Duchamp-esque appropriation of bicycle parts). He was never formally trained as a sculptor, and a kind of non-traditional, outsider spirit pulses through the forms of many of the show’s most striking pieces. The “Guitar,” rightly one of the most celebrated artworks of Picasso’s entire career, expands upon the genre-bending collage experiments of his and Braque’s cubist revolution. Two versions are on view here — a paper-and-cardboard rough draft and the 1914 sheet metal masterpiece — and are presented along with a telling quote from one of Picasso’s friends, the poet André Salmon: “What is that? Does that rest on a pedestal? Does it hang on a wall? Is it a painting or a sculpture?”
Image credit: Gothamist
This spirit — of invention, of exploration, of sheer joy — pervades the entire exhibition, no matter what Picasso chose as his materials and subjects. At every turn there is something unexpected. A bronze figure of a female baboon holding her young looks like it has been cast from an assemblage of toy cars and other found objects, borrowed from Picasso’s young son. The mostly-plywood “Bull” turns out to have, for a head, a canvas-stretcher that frames its abstracted face. The primitive-looking “Head of Warrior,” which at first glance would not be far out of place at an ancient archaeological site, has eyes made from tennis balls and a leans on a standard piece of household plumbing.
Image Credit: WNYC
There are so many wonderful pieces here, so much energy, so much inescapable charisma, that it’s almost impossible not to have fun — even on a crowded Friday afternoon. There are close to a hundred and fifty pieces in the exhibition, but I have no doubt that you’ll leave the galleries wanting more Picasso, not less. And lucky for you, the stairs to the fifth floor are just steps away, and the Demoiselles d’Avignon are waiting.
Image Credit: 2015 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, Philip Greenberg for The New York Times
WHAT TO DO AFTER //
It’s no secret that the Michelin-starred Modern is one of New York’s finest fine-dining spots. But it’s easy to forget that the restaurant also offers a more casual (and affordable) experience at its Bar Room, where an à la carte menu offers some spectacular French-influenced cuisine and walk-ins are welcome. After an hour or so of living in Picasso’s world, take it easy with some modern cocktails or explore the award-winning wine list.
This week's #YourArtWeekend written by Bowen Dunnan.