Watercolor and Pastel Artists at CHAW
Joining the already-numerous morning visitors coming to see the exhibit Picasso Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art, I was prepared to be surprised and amazed. And the exhibit did not disappoint. While familiar with Picasso’s work as a painter, I had seen little of his work in three dimensions, so the 140+ sculptures opened my eyes to a whole new view of Picasso as an artist.
Each of 11 rooms represented a different period of his life as a sculptor. Notes on individual works were on wall plaques at the entrance to each room, not next to each sculpture. This approach was pleasing, giving the sculptures a clean look, with nothing to distract the eye from the art.
Picasso began sculpting in 1902, at age 21, with the unassuming Seated Woman, shaped by hand out of clay and left unfired. The female figure or head became recurring motifs throughout his work.
Having no training in sculpture allowed freer rein to his creative genius, as he had not been imbued with rules and traditions of what sculpture “should” be. He thought nothing of using everyday materials such as cardboard, nails, buttons, absinthe glasses and spoons, scraps of wood, and even stove parts; but always adding paint, a finish, or some other touch that reveals the creative hand of the artist. Similarly, his wall-mounted pieces, which struck me as three-dimensional drawings—“drawings in space” as an earlier observer aptly put it— were a departure from the usual use of a pedestal. Not bound by the “rules” of traditional sculpture, Picasso was free to choose the materials and presentation that worked best to express his vision, and his choices work beautifully.
What I found most appealing about these sculptures was the glimpse they gave me of the artist as a real person: they were created for his own pleasure rather than for sale, and he regarded them as companions that he kept around him at his home and studio. Remarkably, they remained with him always, never even put on public view until a few years before he died. Knowing the feeling he had for these artworks made the exhibit a special experience—one that I was fortunate to have, as the coming together of these marvelous pieces for public display is a rare event indeed.
The photos (below) from the exhibit convey at least some of the delightful range and variety of ways Picasso expressed his creative vision in three dimensions.