Picasso – the undisputed protagonist of the twentieth century – is once again the subject of study, yet not with the impossible goal of giving the definitive word on the Master, but rather with the desire to identify traits that might be new, opening up new perspectives on his work.
The exhibition, in collaboration with the Musée National Picasso in Paris, will be held at the MASIL in Lugano and consists of 120 works, mainly drawings, but also some sculptures, covering a rather vast period of time ranging from his beginnings in 1905 up to 1967. The selection was carried out with a two-sided look at Picasso’s body of work. On the one hand, we find exemplary works of the different artistic stages of the Spanish artist, while on the other hand the visitor also enjoys the rarity of other works. As a matter of fact, there are numerous pieces that are little known by the general public, including unpublished works found among the artist’s assets at his death and forfeited to the State as payment of inheritance taxes. This is an opportunity that cannot me missed – offering a “glance” at Picasso that up until now had only specialists had seen.
“Woman with outstretched arms”
The exhibit’s organization is certainly a brave endeavour, also due to the long chronological period under examination. An unequivocal definition of Picasso is however impossible – it is an obstacle to the artist’s genius and his versatility that manifested itself in a multifaceted artistic production ranging from paintings to sculptures, from collage to ceramics.
His artistic activity was frenetic. He went through life with arrogance and “rapacious” spirit, his omnivorous voracity often led him to “cannibalize” the works of others in order to turn them into something similar and at the same time very different. He did this with artists of the past such as Manet and Velázquez, but also with his contemporaries. It is said that other artists hid their works from him, for fear of being copied and then transforming them into something brilliant that would have made their work pale in comparison. After all, he himself said: “The many ways I used in my art should not be considered an evolution … When I found something to express, I did it …”
Picasso founded the notion of a work of art in a new way, in this way reacting to the identity crisis that art had seen as a result of industrial production and the introduction of new techniques like photography. With Cubism, he brought to the canvas not what is seen of the object but rather what is known. He decomposed the object according to his different views in space and put them back together on a single plane, abandoning centuries of representation of the eye in order to explore the representation of the mind. In the exhibition, you can admire several studies of the famous Les Demoiselles d’Avignon of 1907, the painting that began his period of Cubism.
However, his entire career dominates this century. Picasso is a classic, and he is because he conceived art as universal, including barbarism and decadence in his work, as well as primitive and neoclassical style, and realism and extreme simplification. However, his classicism is not clear and harmonious – the brutality of the modern world does not allow it. The image is shattered and reality is grasped only through the summary of the artistic scheme. Furthermore, the reality on a whole cannot be presented, and we difficulty comprehend only the partiality of the artistic approach that can allow us to glimpse this.
At this point, we are moved by the studies of Guernica, the poster-painting that shows the bombing of an unarmed village in the fury of the civil war. Picasso managed to show all the unspeakable horror in the explosion of the image. Reason left the 20th century and made the world opaque to decipher, and Picasso shows us these shreds that we can see and understand. Truth in its entirety is now lost.
Picasso is certainly one of the most studied artists of the 20th century and yet another exhibition would make no sense unless we give it a new sort of interpretation. This is a goal that this exhibition offers, not surprisingly held at the new Art Museum of Italian-speaking Switzerland, a relatively young place that aims to establish itself internationally through cultural work and exhibits that have a strong media impact.
Whether or not the glance that the exhibit offers is truly new, or if it has never seen before, is up to the visitors.
Anna Maria Calabretta