After my breakfast at the Homemade Cafe, I found my way across Berkeley to the apartment of a man named Marshall. He is an 80 yr old retired uni professor and a friend of my very close friend Jesse who was visiting from Western Australia. Jesse was bunking there and we sat through a monthly Shakespeare gathering. Two years ago, Marshall was part of a university extension class on Shakespeare. At the end of the semester, the university cancelled the class. The members decided to continue on their own. They meet and read a play and discuss it. After two hours of Shakespeare, Jesse and I took our leave and caught the BART under the bay to San Francisco. Then a bus on the way to Golden Gate Park where the De Young Museum is located. We were on our way to the Picasso Exhibition.
“Masterpieces from the Musee National Picasso, Paris”. I have to say upfront that I knew Picasso more by reputation than by having viewed his work. Sure, I had seen photographs of some of his more famous pieces but that isn’t the same. A few years back, I went to an exhibition that included Renoir’s “Luncheon of the Boating Party”. I was familiar with the work through photographs. When I saw the original, I was stunned. It was so alive. After so many years, it still resonated. It was an eyeopener for me. So, I travelled to the Picasso exhibition with this in mind and the fact that as an artist his reputation was/is gigantic.
The exhibition is a selection of 150 works out of almost 3600 pieces in the museum’s collection. Imagine trying to curate that. (If you are a libran, it’s better that you don’t.) It covers the years 1901 – 1973. There are paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints. Sometime there are several drawings showing the evolution of a piece. The exhibition is displayed chronologically in nine interconnected galleries.
Jesse and I rocked up to the cashier, got our tickets and headed down the stairs. Of course, there was no photography allowed, so, this is a text only email. There were audio guides available but we passed. That was fortunate for two reasons. The first being that you have to follow a set path through the galleries. The second is that it would have been feeding in someone else’s observations before we could have our own experience. I might use the audio if I saw an exhibition more than once.
OK, so, Jesse and I are let loose from the line monitor and as we move to the first piece, to the right through the opening, there is a cluster of people looking. Jesse looks to the left and says, “Let’s start there.” I say, “OK”. When we get to the end of the wall, there is an opening into the next gallery. We decide to do the entire exhibition turning left. This resulted in our seeing between one and three walls of every gallery and then the remaining walls as we move through back to the entrance. Going was still in chronological order and easy to follow but returning it wasn’t a matter of just reversed order, we lost all sense of order. Having gone through many emotions and exclamations we then moved through the centre of the galleries pointing out the pieces that resonated with us the most. “That one and that one and that one…” Jesse’s favourite was The Women Running on the Beach (The Race). I had a big yes to that one as well. But, than, being a Libran…” I also really like The cubist paintings Winter in Paris, Man with Guitar and Man with a Mandolin …”.
What I discovered in experiencing this exhibition was a full recognition of Picasso’s greatness. His incredible skill was evident again and again but it was how he used that skill to stretch and stretch and, then, break the concept of what is possible to do in these mediums. As an example, take the Cubist painting “The Man with Guitar”. I looked and I thought, “Yeh, I can see the head of the man there and the neck of the guitar down there and the body of the guitar maybe there.” Then, I felt my labelling and searching with my intellect break down as I was overwhelmed by the power of the painting and was taken past my analytic mind to experiencing with all of my being.
I could say more but this is just an account of what went on for me. I don’t know how it would be for you. It would be best if you could go and experience this exhibition for yourself. All I can assure you of is that if you do you will be doing yourself a great favour. Jesse and I were over the moon as we walked back through the park to catch our bus.
At the De Young til 9 October.