Guest writer Sharon Lorenzo invites readers to experience Picasso in this unusual, fresh, monochromatic show.

This Show is Over but but we love hearing what Sharon has to say about its contents

Pablo Ruiz y Picasso (1881-1973) was a complex personality.  His life and works have been examined during his career and since his death. What this exhibition at the Guggenheim provides to both the scholarly public and the uninitiated viewer is a fresh unencumbered look at his works in tonal ranges of black, white and the many shades of gray in between. Relieved of the complex use of color, this grouping of monochromatic works at the Guggenheim offers a lovely, restful experience. Visitors will view one of the world’s great masters in a quiet survey of his early realist works as well as his passage through cubism. Also included are his occasional dabblings in political commentary and a few visual references to the paintings of his mentors and peers.

The show is ably assembled by the curator Carmen Giménez. Visitors can witness the impact of her personal relationship with members of the Picasso family since her appointment in 1983 by then President of Spain, Felipe Gonzalez, for a number of major missions.  One was to build a collection of Picasso’s work for a new museum in the town of his birth, Malaga, Spain. Thanks to her long years of work with his heirs and collectors, there are 38 of 118 pieces in this show that have never been seen in the United States, and one that has never been seen in public, Bust of a Woman with a Hat of 1939.  These loans from the family are no small feat considering that Picasso had 4 children, one with his first wife and three more out of wedlock with mistresses he never married.

Carmen’s remarks for the catalog are accompanied by three additional essays from Picasso scholars. They all concur that his formal training with his father in art schools in Malaga, Coruna and Barcelona preceded his adult development with a more sophisticated peer group in Paris. After 1900, through the Stein family, he met Henri Matisse, André Derain, Fernand Léger and Juan Gris.   The New York Times art critic Karen Rosenberg, postulates that some of this work in black and white might have been influenced by Picasso’s visits to the Paleolithic caves in Northern Spain and Southern France. There our earliest human painters outlined shadows projected on their walls with black tar pitch by firelight.[1]

Paul Cezanne once said that, “Until you have painted a grey, you are not a painter.”[2] In this survey we see Picasso as early as age 23 rendering a work, Woman Ironing, from 1904 in an elongated mannerist style with a posture that seems to echo the sadness of the figure depicted in muted shades of a blue gray. Throughout the decades of the 30’s and 40’s his renderings of women in both surreal and cubist dimensions evolve into a more abstract trajectory which you can see as you climb the rounded ramp  of the Guggenheim pavilion which lends itself so wonderfully to contemplation of each work. In a number of studies for his masterwork, Guernica, which condemned the bombings during the Spanish Civil War, the vivid contrast of black on white highlight the terrible losses of women, children, soldiers, and horses alike.

In the twilight of his career, Picasso revisited some of his favorite paintings from the Prado collection of the Spanish kings. In this show there is a delightful homage to Las Meninas by Diego Velazquez, entitled,  The Maids of Honor, 1957. In scrambled cubist renderings of the artist himself and the Infanta Maria and her attendants, we see Picasso at his best, weaving a parody in style and reference to the work of his 17th century mentor. These works in the grisaille technique of tones of black, gray and white allow the contemporary viewer to see the genius of this artist’s hand, not hidden in the details of color but in his minimalized use of line, shape, form and surface. Amidst the dazzling lights and colors of the holidays in New York, a visit to the Guggenheim is a restful repose during this busy season.

Picasso Black and White at the Guggenheim

Picasso Black and White at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Sharon Lorenzo  2012

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Woman Ironing, 1904,
Solomon R. Guggenheim Collection, New York.


The Maids of Honor, 1957,
Museu Picasso, Barcelona, Spain.

[1] Karen Rosenberg, Colorless Panorama Widens Vistas of Picasso, The New York Times, Oct. 4. 2012.            .

[2] Carmen Giménez, Picasso Black and White. The Guggenheim Museum, 2012, p. 29.