I never thought that we could get into the PICASSO AND THE CAMERA exhibition organized by John Richardson at Gagosian Gallery (522 W. 21st Street) without having to wait on a long line and snake through a packed room of people, heads locked together preventing us from examining the work. We were WRONG. It was spacious - not that many people in a dimly lit room with guards stationed every 10 feet making sure you do not cross a tastefully placed barely perceptible gray strip on a gray floor - giving them something to do since nobody noticed the line. I told them that they either have to paint it a neon color or electrify the barrier because there ain’t no way you can even see it. Then we engaged in a "serious" discussion as to what constituted a violation of the space ie: if an individual's feet were behind the line, but the stomach protruded into the space? Strangely enough this repartee seemed fitting in this environment and underscored the “lightness of being” of Picasso’s work.
Mixing photos (225 of them) that were taken as early as1909, continuing up to the later years, with paintings, sculptures and drawings was revelatory. I should have known that Picasso’s curiosity would embrace new technology and that he would make use of it in his work. AND he did - for documentation, source material for art, and capturing the psychological and personal relationships in his life - my favorite shots. I ran around looking for images of his wives and lovers and compared them to the inventions that he created.
Picasso was a man built like a brick shit house not pear shaped but rather like a cube which makes sense. His physique was multi-faceted; solid but also fleshy, prancing around in home movies that were projected on 4 walls in an enclosed space; the films all running at once, forcing me to spin around to see fragments of each one giving me glimpses of a life well-lived. One particular grainy movie by Man Ray in colors which reeked of memory and redolent of time, gave me the opportunity to see why Picasso loved this atmosphere and the beautiful woman that he cavorted with. I could sense the sexual intensity of this large dark-eyed man, his delight in the childlike, and the deep concentration and focus that is necessary when an artist is constructing a work- be it a painting or a sculpture, stepping back every few minutes to assess one’s choices. I was flooded with recollections of process - the intimate familiarity with the distinctions and decisions that artists constantly make on the road to discovery. This exhibition brought Picasso back to earth for me.