Think of Picasso, and you’re sure to picture an image. Now picture it in three dimensions. Now picture 11 galleries filled with such wonders.
Picasso Sculpture, presented by curators Ann Temkin and Anne Umland at the Museum of Modern Art through February 7th, offers a chance to see some 150 examples of Picasso’s other side.
The son of a painter and a painting teacher, Picasso was well trained in the art of the brush, but he was self-taught as a sculptor. He dabbled. He experimented. He often, one feels in looking at these works, tinkered and played around. Through that freedom, he broke rules and influenced generations of artists. Much of the transition from gallery walls to immersive installations we experience now could not have happened without Picasso’s first steps.
In his famous “Guitar” sculptures, he broke through the surface of the picture plane, creating, basically, pictures that occupied more space than they were previously permitted. These aren’t bas-relief sculptures. They’re three-dimensional pictures. They are experiments, more than works. Picasso was more interested in figuring out ideas than in creating masterpieces. The glue shows through in certain parts. The materials are rough and improvisatory. That’s part of why they feel fresh and new, even decades after they were made.
Another reason they feel new is that we haven’t seen them before. Because they weren’t meant for exhibition or sale, Picasso kept them to himself and with him all his life. They became almost, the curators said, like pets. Many of them were inherited by family members; others were bequeathed to the Picasso museums in France and Spain. Most have never been seen before in the U.S. Temkin said, looking wistfully of one of the highlights of the show, “Bathers,” on loan from the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, “That will never travel again.”
Temkin and Umland have made the brave move to step out of the way, rather than inserting themselves into the story, and let the work speak directly to the viewer. There aren’t a lot of labels, and the exhibition is organized chronologically. Their decision imparts an intimacy to experiencing these creations.
They cover everything from Picasso’s student days to breakthrough cubist works, to assemblages, monumental plasters, innovative wire constructions, to his somewhat better known ceramics, to MoMA’s own beloved “She Goat.”
Exhibitions like this don’t come around often. Picasso Sculpture gives a chance to see a whole new aspect of an iconic artist’s work. It’s gorgeous. It’s elucidating. It’s thrilling. It’s bound to be the most talked about show of the season, and it’s all right here, in New York, through February 7th.
Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd Street
All photos by Adel Gorgy
Photo Captions (in order shown)
Opening photo: Pablo Picasso, Bull, 1958, Blockboard (wood base panel), palm frond, and various other tree branches, eyebolt, nails, and screws, with drips of alkyd and pencil markings, 56 3/4 x 46 1/8 x 4 1/8″
Pablo Picasso, Bust of a Woman, 1931, Plaster, 29 15/16 x 18 1/8 x 18 7/8″
Pablo Picasso, Violin, 1915, Painted Sheet Metal and Iron Wire, 39 3/8 x 25 1/16 x 7 1/16″
Pablo Picasso, Still Life with Guitar, 1912, Paperboard, paper, thread, twine and coated wire, 25 3/4 x 13 x 7 1/2″
Pablo Picasso, Guitar, 1924, Painted Sheet Metal, painted tin box, and Iron Wire, 43 11/16 x 25 x 10 1/2″
Pablo Picasso, Bull’s Head, 1942, Bronze, 16 9/16 x 16 1/8 x 5 7/8″
Pablo Picasso, Figure, 1938, Painted wood, nails and screws with string, wire, paintbrush fragments and push-bell hardware on an unfired clay and wood base, 22 13/16 x 7 7/8 x 4 5/16″
Pablo Picasso, She Goat, 1950, Bronze, 46 3/8 x 56 3/8 x 28 1/8″