I recently attended the “Picasso Black and White” exhibit on view at the Guggenheim until January 23. I have long had a love/hate relationship with Picasso’s work. Anyone who has more than casually looked into his body of work knows he was by far one of the most prolific artists ever. I have seen probably somewhere around 4-5 large scale exhibitions of his work, all bringing something unique and completely different to the table. Not only was he a drawer, painter and print maker but he also did many sculpture and pottery works. Few artists have created so many works across so many mediums.
Taking into account the vastness of Picasso’s body of work it is hard not to like at least some of the work he did and if so, it is difficult not feel quite passionately and favorably about the works one does like. I would make a guess I probably only care for about 30% of his 2 dimensional works but those I do care for I feel very strongly about. This about sum’s up my feelings of the Black and White exhibit.
It is easy for those unacquainted with Picasso’s works to easily dismiss him as a abstract artist who made art for other artists. As is the case of many whom I meet that have only seen the occasional image of his in passing. Those who know his works a little better know he was an artists of extreme technical talent, as well as being quite expressive and was often a master at balancing the two. My favorite works of his were those of his younger years, often created between 1900-1930. ‘Woman Ironing’ and ‘Bust of a Woman, Arms Raised’ both included in the Black and White exhibit are perfect examples of the technical skill he possessed while still working quite expressively. In these works he demonstrates a knowledge of classical art all the while pushing the limits of contemporary art of the time.
Picasso was most certainly a master of line and one of shape as well. ‘Head of a Woman, Right Profile’, ‘Reclining Woman Reading’ and ‘Painting of Man and Woman Kissing’ are wonderful examples of his ability to interpret and reduce line and shape to essential forms that visually seduce viewers.
The exhibit had its share of Picasso works I am not fond of as well. I feel he appeared to get bored with art in his later works. Often displaying what was once simplicity and elegance for a lack of effort, passion or enthusiasm. Its no secret as he aged his views of women became increasingly misogynistic as is apparent in some later works, though I do have to say of all the exhibits of his works I have seen this probably had the fewest.
Overall it was a great exhibit and well worth seeing, even seeing twice. It was well organized, presented and displayed. Despite a pretty sizable crowd it wasn’t overwhelming. Some of the large exhibits can seem like a cattle call. The pieces were well spaced and crowds flowed well between them. Very well done Guggenheim.