Arguably, co-founding Cubist Pablo Picasso is renowned for doing more in two dimensions than many could do in three. MoMA’s exhibit showcases what happened when he moved into this third plane of expression with quite delightful results.
Untrained in sculpting, many of Picasso’s experimentations with the medium were playful as he tested different techniques and forms. They are explored in the opening rooms of the exhibition and lend a childlike quality of discovery as your eyes adapt to the way he toys with familiar objects, contorting them into interpretive shapes. Many of the busts are evocative of his ubiquitous Cubist portraits, inviting the eye into an entirely new visual experience and tactile contemplation.
As the exhibition deepens, more of Picasso’s private life is revealed. Sculptures of lovers, unavoidably phallic heads and a narrative through artistic obsession open a new door to his creative life. One of the most impactful of these revelations about the man is ‘Death’s Head’. Cast during 1941 in Paris, Picasso had already been marked as a degenerate artist by the occupying Germans — his work was forbidden from publication or display. The dark, uneven, sunken eyes resonate with condemnation of the barbaric war that was engulfing Europe while Picasso’s chosen material (bronze) was a very physical act of rebellion as all spare metal was requisitioned for weapons manufacture.
Walking around this exhibition, orbiting the strange and brilliant objects was almost like falling face first into Picasso’s painted work. A fabulous collection and a new insight to a radically orientated mind.