As writer of this little art blog (I assume), I was invited to the Press Preview for the Picasso show at SAM this morning. I don’t know who added me and the other blogging artists in town to the Press list at SAM, but whoever you are: thank you. The gesture (a repeated one; SAM invites us every time) adds class and relevance to the art scene here, and reminds us that artists and writers and arts organizers are making this community together. (As I’m writing this, I’m thinking of other ways SAM has included newer artists in its programming, like Ryan Molenkamp‘s wonderful project The Portrait Challenge in the “Think Tank” space, on the second floor mezzanine of the museum.)
I looked at the show and the work within it differently than I would have if I hadn’t been invited to this special preview tour. I was there with a sense of purpose, rather than with the presumption that Picasso and I have little to do with each other. While I’ve respected his sturdy spot in Art History, I’ve never been particularly moved by his work. (I realized today that it’s probably because he wasn’t that great with color, and color is usually what gets me with paintings.) But today, seeing this much of his work in person, and with the feeling that it was somehow appropriate for me to be there, I was moved.
Picasso was a genius with line and form; you can see the genius when you see the work in person. A single line somehow contains the complications of a personal history. A goat with milk bottle udders is a broken beast marching towards its own abstraction. A boundless freedom spins through all of these genius moments; Picasso was utterly free to do whatever he wanted. He just got to make stuff. As I walked around the show, I wondered a lot about if contemporary artists are anywhere near as free.
The show is fairly modest, with no dramatically persuasive wall text shepherding you along. The work does the talking, and mostly it’s sex everywhere. The show is basically organized by lover-as-subject-matter, with each of Picasso’s lovers having her own room. Lover as subject matter; lover dissected into subject matter. I’d always taken it for granted that Picasso painted his lovers with all of their parts multiplied and stretched and exposed; but to think of this as something relevant to me, as a freedom I myself might have as an artist: this is interesting.