(1) "Nu au Bord de la Mer", pencil on paper, 20.5 x 26.5
(2) "Femme Accoudee", etching, 45 x 34 cm, 1933.
(3) "Peintre sur la Plage", aquatint on Arches paper, 47 x 83.5 cm, numbered 21/50, 1955.
(4) "Buste au Corsage a Carreaux", lithograph on Arches paper, 56 x 44 cm, artist proof, 1957.
(Leslie Sacks Fine Arts, West Los Angeles)
Look up the term "protean" in a dictionary and you will not see
"Pablo Picasso" included in the definition, but Websters could
do worse. Given the necessarily limited reach of a private gallery and the
awesome breadth of the man's oeuvre, this assembly of perhaps two dozen
works on paper, graphics, and ceramics smartly only hints at the scale of
his achievement by focusing on his use of line as the unifying element.
While most works date from the late 1950-70 decades, the inclusion of earlier works such as L'Abreuvior (1905), Nu au Bord de la Mer (1919), and Le Repos du Sculpteur (1933) serve to establish an air of continuity. Subjects such as reclining figures, horses, and classical mythology here lead in direct and linear fashion to much later images such as Le Départ (1951), Le Peintre sur la Plage (1955), Le Divertissement (1966), and Célestine, Fille et Vieux Client (1968).
Rather than attempting to include disjunctive examples that represent Picasso's many innovations, the pleasures in this show lie in the varied approaches the master took to interwoven subjects that he would return to again and again over the course of a lengthy career.
The brushy strokes by which Le Peintre sur la Plage is contructed wedge a trio of figures and a sailboat in the middle of a composition framed by a horse and kneeling painter who face one another while remaining serenely self-absorbed. On a ceramic plate, Flute Player and Goat, similar brush-like strokes make up highly abstracted but immediately recognizable figures. Using perhaps fifty or sixty marks the artist conveys his figures, their actions, and the landscape setting with wonderful clarity.
The Nu au Bord de la Mer, whose date helps mark Picasso's move from late Cubism into the Neo-Classical phase, exploits a flowing and elegant line to deal with the tension between mind and body. The figure's head in profile provides the center of visual interest, her head resting introspectively on a curved hand. The lower body stretches and turns to fill the left side of the image with legs splayed suggestively. In the much later Schehrazade (1968) the male gaze is personnified in the resting figure of the King of Persia. The story-telling Schahrazade gesticulates amidst linework that plays her dramatic and suggestive movement off into the background in a frenzy of expression.
This selection of work presents a Picasso in evening slippers, although the sexual energy and power of formal decisionmaking retain the kind of potent and unsettling energy that may be inevitable whenever the satyr is allowed back into our lives.