Thursday, June 4, 2009


When I heard that Picasso’s late work was to be shown at a gallery in the Meat Packing district rather than a prestigious museum in New York City, I thought, this should be an interesting and unusual approach to showcase the last phase of the maestro’s work. Arriving at the Gagosian Gallery, we were greeted with a line occupying half the block. Not having expected a roadblock, and having only about an hour and half to see the show, I began to feel anxious and doubtful as to whether or not we’d have a chance to fully absorb Picasso’s much controversial exhibition of the Mosqueteros (The Musketeers). I hadn’t met the likes of a long line for a museum let alone a gallery, since the last time I was in Florence. But of course it’s much more fun to wait on line in Italy than in New York. (If cleverly planned, you can have a picnic with a nice bottle of wine when waiting to see some of the masterpieces of our time while surrounded by the grandeur of some Renaissance architecture). But thankfully the line moved along rapidly, there was no need for Plan B, and we still had at least an hour or so to inject some cubism genius into our systems.

In 1973, when Picasso originally unveiled his last bouquet of illustrations stemming from the final decade of his life, the critics were extremely disenchanted. Robert Hughes from Time magazine pronounced the series as,

“Unlike Titian or Michelangelo, Picasso failed in old age. Picasso’s last show is a depressing commentary on the idea that it is better to paint anything than nothing. Two years of silence would have rounded off that singular life better than these calamitous daubs.”

As a long standing Picasso aficionada, I was nearly insulted when I heard this review, and dismissed it as a cruel and sad ploy from a critic simply attempting to get some publicity for himself. However, having seen the show for myself, I am inclined to agree with Hughes somewhat, although perhaps in a much less disdainful tone. The Mosqueteros collection is significantly different from the rest of Picasso’s body of compositions. Picasso produced a prolific series to honor the last few years of his life. And although there’s nothing but admiration for the man’s relentless fervor to extract as much as he can from his aging shell and artistically brilliant mind, there was undeniably something lacking in the execution of the last pieces that escaped his brushes.

The core concept behind the painter’s final works was unquestionably present. However, his cubist methods were no longer pronounced, as if he couldn’t fully realize or hold onto his hypothesis any longer. There was a strong sense of impatience in each painting, and it was illuminated through the brush strokes, which carried somewhat of a childlike quality—something that we’re certainly not use to seeing or associating when we think of the mastermind of Picasso. It reminded me of reading one of my first drafts, which I wouldn’t dream of showing to anyone. They are not for the public to see, but for me to craft and develop into its pointed conclusion.

Critics also dismissed the Musketeer Collection as non-retrospective, deeming the anthology as non-reflective of his works and mostly reflective of the artist's disappearing sanity. Here’s where I highly disagree. Perhaps this might be the case in an artistic point of view, but rather the man was showing us his psychological retrospection, which in fact might have been more relevant in the years leading to his death. From my observation the numerous versions of the artist’s rendition of self portraits depicted the Musketeers as ranging from a young Spanish Matador Pablo to represent his bullfighting livelihood, back in his youthful days when he created Guernica, one of the most politically charged works in all of art history, to a more mature Mosquetero version, displaying a less aggressive Picasso—one that reveals a more vulnerable side perhaps for fear that the looming disfiguration of his still active and passionate mind was nearing its finale.

All and all the experience as a whole was if nothing else unmistakably intriguing. It almost felt like a fast forward version of experiencing the painter's existential crisis along with the old master battling his wit's end to the finish line. The only disturbing factor for me was how most of Picasso’s female figures appear in naked compromised positions, while his men are most of the time fully clothed and have a more obvious dignified posture of course. This doesn’t come surprising however. Picasso is certainly no feminist; in fact he’s often labeled as a misogynist. Notwithstanding, as previously mentioned, I am still a self proclaimed Picassian. One must be able to separate the person from the work, in other words I’m a fan of his genius not his weakness.

So if you have the chance to visit the this weekend or prior to, I vastly recommend it. It is your last opportunity to see the exposition ending on June 6th, which is this Saturday.

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