I had been anticipating my visit to the AGO to see the Picasso exhibit (150 +paintings and sculptures from his private collection) ever since I saw its adverts all over the city. Throughout middle school and high school, I basically thought his art was weird and incomprehensible. Now, I don’t think this is a controversial statement to make – most people consider non-realistic art “modern”, which translates into odd in casual speech (IMO). I had studied him in an art history course and still, he remains an enigmatic, almost larger than life character. Picasso himself loved the mysterious nature of his work. He encouraged the notion that his pieces did not obviously express or imply a particular message.
Suffice to say, I was a little apprehensive – but more importantly, I was excited. I’d seen a few of his originals in various museums in Boston and NYC (the MET) – but never had the chance to actually study the paintings (the downside of being in a tour). This could be the day I gain a firmer grasp of his art, his style, his culture.
I had secured a pair of tickets for Wednesday night (half price) and happily synced the audio commentary freely available on the museum’s site. SO after an eight hour day at work, I wolfed down half a cheeseburger leftover from lunch and got myself downtown to join a chum who also hadn’t experienced much live Picasso and was equally interested in the initiation. We met on the steps and skipped the giant queue (having paid before hand) of people who were there for the same show.
I was giddy, practically bouncing on the balls on my feet. After declining a pair of headphones (for the low low charge of $6), we entered the exhibit through a red corridor lined with photos of Picasso and his family. And then we were there:
Beginning with Exhibit Room 1 – it contained some of his early works. Celestina (trans: The Woman With One Eye) caught my eye (pun intended) from the get-go. It’s evidently from his blue period and is a somber, if not slightly terrifying portrait of a lady Picasso knew.
Scholars in the audio accompaniment quote Picasso as being unconcerned with how his art was interpreted. For instance:
Many scholars thought this sculpture was one of Picasso’s happier pieces because they believe the sheep is representative of the harvest season (and thus, good times). BUT Picasso apparently retorted (paraphrased) “it could’ve been any animal, there was no statement at all!”
Personally, I’m a little baffled at Picasso’s reaction. While I appreciate his desire to leave things “free to interpretation” – to devoid this piece of any meaning seems a little… thoughtless? Why did he chose to render a sheep? What was it about the sheep that made it more attractive as a subject? I suppose I like to base my readings on evidence, not on whim.
Anyway – Portrait of Dora Marr must be one of my favorite paintings by Picasso. It’s painted in that curious in-between state. The chair and the body have mostly been broken down into 2-D shapes – but the picture is positively alive. Dora is luminous and her glaze – spell-binding. The way her face is presented seems to suggest that this picture is both candid and posed. Dora’s got one eye trained on the viewer, and the other, seems utterly non-nonchalant.
More to come later this week~