Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Works on Paper by Picasso at the Art Institute

This new show has opened at the Art Institute exploring the links between Chicago and Picasso. Actually, the starting point are the large holdings of works by Picasso both in the museum and by Chicago collectors. The actual exploration that emerges from putting more than 400 of those works together is mostly about Picasso's creative process. The great things that reflects on the lenders is that a) they made the works visible to the public, many for the first time, and b) they allowed all sorts of interesting reflections and contrasts to emerge.

I just filed a piece for Hyperallergic that goes into those connections in more detail. For now, what I'm left with is still the strong impression of how dominated the exhibition is by works on paper. There are paintings and sculptures, of course, but each of those pieces is informed by the smaller, more intimate works in the drawings, sketches, etchings, books, and so on. I was particularly thrilled to see the complete Vollard Suite, together with some proofs of the seminal prints. Look at the detail from the Tauromachia print:



So much intaglio work is contained in just that small section: hard ground line work, much scraping back, heavy engraving, some drypoint, all drawn loosely, but forcefully and with a series of corrections that always arrives at a strong decision.

I liked seeing these stage proofs of a small etching, too. They offer a glimpse into the 'mistakes' that are common in the printmaking studio, but which are rarely included in a Picasso show:




And there were images familiar from full size paintings, but clearly tried out either before or after in etching form too:




Two more works on paper caught my attention: this nice doodle-style drawing from the 1960s:


... and this page from a book of his own poetry that he published during the war together with some drawings (the text and images are lithographs):


It's a great show, as good as any Picasso show I've ever seen. It gives me another reason to feel lucky to be living in Chicago.

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