Monday, April 25, 2011

Picasso and Marie-Thérèse, L’amour fou: Gagosian Gallery : New York, NY & David Altmejd : Andrea Rosen Gallery : New York, NY

Picasso. There has always been something about him that rubbed me wrong. Something about his god-like worshiped status that I just refuse to condone. That refusal still hasn’t changed but I have to say, confess perhaps, that the show at Gagosian on 21st Street, Picasso and Marie-Thérèse, L’amour fou, curated by Picasso biographer, John Richardson and Picasso’s granddaughter/art historian Diana Widmaier Picasso is really something to see.

The show revolves around a sun that is and was Marie-Thérèse Walker. She was a French girl Picasso met when she was, ah-hem, 17 years old and he was, uh-hum, 45 years old. Icky I know but I guess those things have and always will happen. When you enter (after you have been relieved of your personal belongings from an attendant) you see reproduced photographs of Marie-Thérèse. I was startled to see a sort-of plain looking girl. I mean she is pretty but she was not this ravishing perfection that I was anticipating. She was actually quite masculine looking and I thought ah, Pablo must have liked a more brusque type of girl. Her age, yes, is relevant but she possessed an incredible presence, she seems unmovable, fully realized in her confidant gaze. This introductory glimpse of this significance of existence was further revealed and confirmed by the proceeding rooms of paintings, sculptures and other works made in ode to her.

Marie-Thérèse seems to have illuminated and perplexed, each work Picasso made of her reflects this. Picasso’s various virtuosic styles, they are as distinct as costume hats, appear to be mere tools in trying to act as conduit to the idea that was Marie-Thérèse. Even the works that employ the most Picasso-y of Picasso’s style (the ones with the ovid faces, two eyes like a flounder and colors bright and bold) are less annoying in their over confidence because the more works done in the name of Marie-Thérèse the more you, yourself, see her and get why Picasso is the man to immortalize her. There were also fascinatingly curious works, usually smaller in scale, paintings that were just a few lines, a few circles, making expressive cannibalizing faces. The texture and the strokes throughout feel as present and heavy as if Picasso swiped his index finger along your thigh.

Quickly now to the idea of being a muse: I think to be a muse and to be one for such a grand cut as Picasso must have been utterly divine. Marie-Thérèse - poor girl her nothing. She spent about ten years, 1927-1936 with Picasso, and had a child by him, whom they called Maya. She was the sunbeam but also the lightening rod that ended Pablo’s marriage to Russian ballerina Olga Koklova, whom he had a son named Paulo with. She was also the dead weight when it came to Picasso’s next amour, Dora Maar. In any case, yes these were real people, there were real tears, real children, real bedrooms and walks in gardens but these things have now become bigger, not better, but more tantalizing. In this way Marie-Thérèse is immortalized, well in our narrow beetle-brained sense of time at least, she has become myth and Picasso’s love for her transfers mightily onto any who sees this show.

Picasso haters, as I can be called at times, stop the charade of anti-populism. Go see this show. It is curated and presented well and it is very good. Leave the know-it-all airs at the coat check with your bag.


I can never pronounce David Altmejd’s name, but who cares, as soon as you say something like, “that guy who does those sculptures of those crystal animals heads,” people know who you are talking about. He’s Canadian, I’m not sure why this is always mentioned but I’ve noted it to be consistent. He has a new show up (will be closed by the time this is posted) at Andrea Rosen Gallery. (Just as an aside, what is up with Andrea Rosen’s hair? Can an insider please let me know?!)

The main gallery has two clear plastic boxes. They are large, fit a car large, and house intricate scenes. The one closest to the entry resembles a swan. Well, a weird, fucked up, DNA type of swan. The intricacy of the internal construction is like looming, blood vessels, timeline drawings, static electricity. All of it illusions to an uncanny suspension. The delicacy of the threads in their accumulation is impressive. The other box is less referenced, but it is definitely doing something. There is a strange sense that it is showing you how something works or some sort of evolutionary codex. In both there are also weirdly stop motion animated elements. Hands that are carved out of the walls move down into the boxes then move inside, turning into a head, then into an ear or into noses. They are creepy. It all has a creepy vibe.

In a separated room there is a more massive display of the illusion that some angle-demon was hatched from the Andre Rosen gallery and mauled the walls in its birthing. At the center of this room there is a smaller squarer box with stone, minerals, pretty rocks on an ascending ramp. Black at the bottom, white at the top, colors in the middle. This is the point when it’s like okay-okay we get that this is supposed to be some sort of key! It’s all very Goth but what can I say, I’m a sucker for some fake hair and agate.