Picasso: Themes and Variations at the MoMA
It's hard to believe that anything involving Picasso that could actually be under-hyped in this town, but the current Picasso: Themes and Variations exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, which we thoroughly enjoyed for lots of different reasons, seems to have slipped under the radar a bit. Maybe it's just the distraction of Marina Abramovic's amazing The Artist Is Present piece going on right outside the gallery door… or the counter-publicity of the huge Picasso MoMA exhibit uptown at the Metropolitan… or the (sadly) deadly-sounding "etchings and lithographs" tag attached to the Musem of Modern Art show… but on the day we went, the galleries of Picasso: Theme and Variations were almost completely empty. There weren't even any guards to stop us from taking pictures!
The Picasso show at the MoMA is one of those great creative-process exhibitions that we always find appealing: not only do we get to see some excellent art, but we also get some insight into Picasso's evolution as an artist. Picasso: Themes and Variations features some 100 works, drawn from his printmaking experiments and creations–drawings, etchings, lithographs–that track his creative preoccupations from the Blue and Rose periods of the early 20th Century through to his embrasure of Cubism and onward all the way into the early 1960s.
One of the most striking examples of evolving perspective at the Picasso MoMA exhibition is the Bull series that galumphs along one of the gallery's walls, five depictions of the heavy animal that devolve, over the course of several decades, from a strikingly realistic representation to an almost completely abstract hashing of lines. Another particularly interesting recurring subject here is Picasso's vision of women, and we particularly liked seeing all of the Head of a Woman, Portrait of Dora Maar variations hung in a row.
We also loved the Picasso homage to Manet, in Luncheon on the Grass (top), and how he literally copied (adding his own aesthetic sensibility, of course) his Portrait of a Young Lady (below) from a mid-1500 work by Lucas Cranach the Younger, a reproduction of which Picasso apparently tacked his studio wall while he worked. This is a terrific, under-attended exhibition that's definitely worth a visit if you're heading to the Museum of Modern Art anytime this summer.
Picasso: Themes and Variations at the MoMA Details
Picasso: Themes and Variations will be at the Museum of Modern Art from now through August 30. The Museum of Modern Art is located on 53rd Street between Sixth and Fifth Avenues, and open Monday, Wednesday Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and on Friday until 8:00 p.m., when admission is free after 4:00 p.m. Closed Tuesdays. For lots more information, please visit the MoMA's website.
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