Sunday, April 26, 2009

"Mosqueteros": Picasso's late works

The human figure, his own and others', preoccupied Picasso to the end of his life. "Mosqueteros," an exhibition at Gagosian of his late paintings, curated by his biographer John Richardson, is violent and heroic. The painter, here in various guises, is a musketeer, a matador, and a clown. The women are giantesses. One of my favorites in this exhibition is "Femme" 1972, a mountain of a woman who dominates what looks like a park.

The sex in many paintings are explicit, the figures not so much coupling (with the connotation of freight cars) as grappling, the cubist angles further contorting bodies and movements. Often, the man in these scenes pushes his face into the woman's face, as if to seize her by his eyes alone. In "Etreinte" 1972, the penis may look unimpressive, but not the huge straining arms and legs, against a backdrop of cheerful blue waves.

He grapples not only with humans, but also with superhumans. The self-portraits strive to outdo masters of the genre, such as Rembrandt, by a process of radical simplification, energetic brushstrokes, and, most surprising to me, brilliant coloring. These late paintings are a riot of colors. In one painting, blocks of colors stabilize the composition of the work. In many others, the colors challenge the eye to absorb them all.

No comments: