Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Met Exhibit Demonstrates Picasso's Importance

It's funny how ever since reading that Duchamp had replaced Picasso as the most significant artist of the 20th century, I just haven't been able to put it down. The argument was persuasive and I wrote about it in a blog entry Post-Modern Art: The Sound of One Hand Clapping? My blog comments the following day ran under the headline "Why the Urinal Was #1."

No question about it, however, Picasso will not go quietly from the throne room. And recent exhibits abound to demonstrate why Picasso was undoubtedly the most influential artist of the century.

Two years ago we saw the travelling Picasso exhibit at the SF Museum of Modern Art in which room upon room showed how American painters had been influenced by the Spanish giant. This spring a Picasso retrospective in Philadelphia highlighted another collection of works by the master's hand. Now, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the Big Apple is pulling out the stops to unveil 300 of the 500 Picasso works which they own, a mind-blowing collection really.

The Washington Post* announced it this way.

"Picasso in The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met)," which opens on April 27, aims to reveal hidden details about his works.

The show will present 300 of the prolific Spanish artist's paintings, sculptures, drawings and ceramics. Organized chronologically, it is an overview of Picasso's entire career, from the harlequins of his Blue and Rose periods, to later Cubist paintings and colorful linoleum cuts.

There is a significant qualitative difference between the two artists, Duchamp and Picasso. Duchamp's ideas were corrosive, Picasso's work inspiring. Duchamp was certainly talented and influential. But as his life went on, he stopped taking an interest in painting. Picasso created for a lifetime.

It's true that Pablo Picasso took a six month interlude at one point during which he washed his brushes and put his art aside. Maybe even Picasso can be permitted to have a mid-life crisis. Afterwards, he returned to his life calling and stayed at it for the remainder of his days, dying at the ripe old age of 92, a painter till the end.

The volume of Picasso's works speaks volumes. As an art student seeing his paintings in person provided pure inspiration. I was awed when I first came into the presence of a room filled with Picasso's at the MOMA. But then, I was painting and understood what he was doing... or so I believed.

This weekend I received the mail a book I ordered from Amazon.com called 501 Great Artists. I liked my 501 Great Writers so much I just had to get the companion volume. Upon opening the envelope, I could see from the cover photo pretty who the editors of this work consider most significant. Though once more it could be argued that Picasso is only on the cover because he's more famous and he will sell more books than the influential but lesser known Duchamp.

Oh, well. If you get the chance, do make an effort to take it in. But don't be like the clumsy lady who earlier this year stumbled into a Picasso piece, and tore it! There are better ways to get your name in the paper.

"Meantime, life goes on all around you." ~Dylan


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