DRAWING LIFE by fred hatt


Raw Urgency: Picasso at Gagosian

Filed under: Reviews: Art Exhibitions — Tags: , , , — fred @ 23:38
PABLO PICASSO Portait de l'homme à l'épée et à la fleur, 1969, Oil on canvas, 146 x 115 cm)

PABLO PICASSO, Portait de l'homme à l'épée et à la fleur, 1969, Oil on canvas, 146 x 115 cm

On Friday (my birthday) I went to see Mosqueteros, the exhibit of paintings and prints from Picasso’s last decade, at Gagosian’s spacious Chelsea gallery on West 21st Street in New York, curated by Picasso’s biographer, John Richardson.  When he was in his eighties, Picasso accelerated his already prodigious productiveness, creating hundreds of large oils, as well as drawings, etchings and aquatints.  The subject matter engages the traditions of 17th century masters like Velazquez and Rembrandt and Rubens (as in the above canvas, reminiscent of a famous Velazquez), but the energy with which Picasso attacks the work is quite modern.  The paintings are physically raw and unpolished, and the emotional content is equally raw, often expressing the painful conjunction of sexual frenzy with the anguish of the aging body.

The exhibit has about fifty large-scale paintings and about fifty prints.  The etchings and aquatints, many on a theme of female exhibitionism and male voyeurism, clarify the energy and restless experimentation of Picasso’s gestural mark-making, revealing a similar aspect in the oils.  The paintings hold to a fairly narrow range of figurative elements, mostly portraits and nudes, but the formal apsects of color combinations, composition and expressive brushstrokes are bold and dazzling.  There are images of faces and bodies squeezed together in contortions of lust, aching to merge two into one, and haunted faces already shadowed by the mark of death, dreading another kind of merging.

Picasso is considered a painter first and foremost, but his approach to painting, especially in these later works (1962-72), avoids the illusionism and polished sheen many painters strive for, instead giving us gestural directness and sheer energy.

My last post was about light painting, so I’ll close with a link to images of Picasso painting with light.  These images show clearly the special quality of Picasso’s movement.

Mosqueteros is on view through June 6 at the Gagosian Gallery at 522 West 21st Street in New York.

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