In New York City on November 16, 2015

It’s almost too much for human eyes, not to mention feet.  We’re at the Museum of Modern Art’s Picasso Sculpture exhibition, a massive, mind-altering collection that probably never will be shown again.  Many of these works were never exhibited by Pablo Picasso when he was alive.  But he comes alive again in this exhibit, which is extraordinarily well arranged.  It's in 11 chronologically-sequenced galleries on the revamped fourth floor, where many of the approximately 140 pieces are positioned to allow a 360-degree view. 

  Little Girl Jumping Rop e (Center) and  She-Goat

Little Girl Jumping Rope (Center) and She-Goat

This body of work not only spans more than six decades (1902 through 1964), it consists of art made from an incredible array of materials and found objects:  Bronze, plaster, wood, iron, sheet metal, clay, ceramics, pebbles, bicycle seats and handlebars, gas stove parts, sprinkler cans, children’s toys, forks and spoons, hardware, and more.  These often are ingeniously applied to create beauty, grotesqueness, humor, lasciviousness, and just plain clever zaniness.

The exhibition begins with Picasso’s early works and first cubist sculptures done in Barcelona and Paris during the period 1902-1909.  Among the pieces of this time is his 1909 Head of a Woman that presaged his cubist period.

After putting aside sculpting for several years, Picasso experimented with cubist sculpting during the period 1912-1915.  At this time, he explored developing hybrid sculpted art that puzzled people – “Do you hang it on the wall or place it on a pedestal?”  One of these was his sheet metal Guitar, done in 1914. 

  Woman in the Garden

Woman in the Garden

There was another sculpting hiatus after that until Picasso was requested to submit a monument for the tomb of the poet Guillaume Apollinaire.  He worked on several potential monuments from 1927 into1931, experimenting with salvaged metal.  These are some of his most abstract pieces and all were rejected as being too radical for the tomb.  One of these was his 1930 Woman in the Garden.

In 1930, Picasso purchased the Chateau de Boisgeloup, which had enough room for his first sculpture studio.  During the years 1930-1932, he produced there a number of surrealistic white plaster pieces, many of them overtly erotic with noses, eyes, and mouths in the shape of male and female sexual organs.  His 1931 Bust of a Woman exemplified the period.

Picasso began experimenting with imprinting plaster sculptures with everyday objects in his Boisgeloup sculpture studio during the years 1933-1937.  One was his 1933 Head of a Warrior whose eyes began as tennis balls.

  Bull's Head

Bull's Head

During the war years, 1939-1945, Picasso was adjudged by the Nazis to be a “degenerate” and condemned to stay in Paris, where his art was prohibited.  He secretly produced a number of pieces and his sense of humor never left him.  His 1942 Bull’s Head, for example, consisted of a head fashioned from a bronzed leather bicycle seat with handlebar horns.

  Bottle: Kneeling Woman

Bottle: Kneeling Woman

Paris and Picasso were liberated in 1944 and the artist set up a residence and studio in Vallauris on the French Riviera.  There, during the period 1945-1953, he tested the limits of ceramic vessels and assemblages.  One of the pieces of the time was his 1950 bottle titled Kneeling Woman.

During the years 1952-1958, Picasso was a parent of two children, Claude and Paloma, who influenced his work at Vallauris and later at a new residence outside Cannes. Incredibly, one of Claude’s toy cars can be seen as a plausible face in his 1951-52 Baboon and Young bronze.  The ingenious use of found objects also is shown by his playful 1958 Bird, which is painted scrap wood, with screw eyes and fork feet.

  Head of a Woman

Head of a Woman

The exhibit ends with the decade 1954-1964, Picasso’s final sculpturally-productive period.  It’s in MOMA’s light-filled Gallery 11, where his sheet metal sculptures (some large) seem to be made of paper and floating on air.  His 1962 Head of a Woman is one of these.

For those few who are intrepid enough to take a virtual tour via our more than 100 images from the Picasso Sculpture exhibit, here’s a link to start touring:

 

https://leightons.smugmug.com/NewYork/Picasso-at-Play/

 

 

Cheers,

Barbara and Dick

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