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November 30, 2015

Picasso: The Great War, Experimentation and Change @ The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia & Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio

Picasso: The Great War, Experimentation and Change
The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia
February 21 - May 9, 2016
Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio
June - ..., 2016

The Barnes Foundation, in partnership with the Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio, premieres Picasso: The Great War, Experimentation and Change. On view February 21 through May 9, 2016 at the Barnes, the exhibition will then travel to the Columbus Museum of Art in June. Curated by Simonetta Fraquelli, an independent curator and specialist in early twentieth-century European art, the exhibition explores Pablo Picasso’s work between 1912 and 1924, highlighting the tumultuous years of the First World War, when the artist began to alternate between cubist and classical modes in his art.

Inspired by the Columbus Museum of Art’s Picasso Still Life with Compote and Glass, 1914-15 and the Barnes’s extensive Picasso holdings, Picasso: The Great War, Experimentation and Change features some 50 works by Picasso drawn from major American and European museums and private collections. The show includes oil paintings, watercolors, drawings, and four costumes the artist designed for the avant-garde ballet, Parade, in 1917. Some 15 other important canvases by Picasso’s contemporaries—including Henri Matisse, Fernand Léger, and Diego Rivera—will also be presented.

“A radical shift occurred in Picasso’s work in 1914,” notes curator Simonetta Fraquelli. “Following seven years of refining the visual language of cubism, he began to introduce elements of naturalism to his work.” This change in his production can be viewed against the backdrop of an unsteady cultural climate in Paris during the First World War. Many people identified the fragmented forms of cubism with the German enemy and therefore perceived it as unpatriotic. This negative impression reverberated throughout Paris during the First World War and may have been a factor in Picasso’s shift in styles. However, Fraquelli states, “What becomes evident when looking at Picasso’s work between 1914 and 1924, is that his two artistic styles—Cubism and Neoclassicism—are not antithetical; on the contrary, each informs the other, to the degree that the metamorphosis from one style to the other is so natural for the artist that occasionally they occur in the same works of art.”

Included in the exhibition will be major works from the Picasso museums in Barcelona, Málaga, and Paris, including, respectively: Woman with a Mantilla (Fatma), oil and charcoal on canvas, 1917; Olga Kholklova with a Mantilla, oil on canvas, 1917; and Femme Assise, oil on canvas, 1920. 

The exhibition also features four costumes that Picasso designed for the avant-garde ballet, Parade, which premiered in Paris in 1917. These are: Costume for Chinese Conjurer (original), and reproductions of The American Manager, The French Manager, and The Horse. Performed by Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, with music by Erik Satie, story by Jean Cocteau and the choreography of Léonide Massine, Parade was the first cross-disciplinary collaboration of its kind. The ballet, which tells the story of an itinerant theater group performing a sideshow, or a parade, was viewed as a revolutionary approach to theater. Picasso was the first avant-garde artist involved in such a production – not only designing the costumes, but also the theater curtain and set. Included in the exhibition will be a watercolor and graphite sketch of the curtain design, and a pencil sketch of the Costume for Chinese Conjurer. Picasso drew inspiration for his designs from the modern world – everything from circuses and carousels, to music halls and the cinema. With Picasso’s inventive, geometric costumes and naturalistic curtain design, Parade can be seen as the ultimate fusion of cubist and classical forms.

Picasso’s juxtaposition of figurative and cubist techniques can be seen as an expression of artistic freedom during a time of great conflict, and his shifts in style became a means of not repeating, in his words, “the same vision, the same technique, the same formula.” The works by Picasso’s contemporaries, such as Diego Rivera’s Still Life with Bread Knife from 1915 and Henri Matisse’s Lorette in a Red Jacket from 1917, offer further insight into the shifting cultural climate in France during this transformative period.

Managing Curator for Picasso: The Great War, Experimentation and Change at the Barnes Foundation is Martha Lucy. Managing Curator at the Columbus Museum of Art is Chief Curator, David Stark.

THE BARNES FOUNDATION
www.barnesfoundation.org

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