Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Picasso: Minotaurs and Matadors

If all the ways I have been along were marked on a map and joined up with a line, it might represent a Minotaur.  - Pablo Picasso

This is a particularly good exhibition at Gagosian Mayfair. It is all the stronger for focusing on a particular aspect of Picasso's oeuvre - the bull/Minotaur - the mythic creature Picasso readily identified with - at turns aggressive and lusty, at others tender, and all too vulnerable. Every medium that the artist ever worked in is represented here - paint, print, sculpture, ceramics, and even tapestry, displaying just how endlessly creative and inventive he was. And although not everything he touched turned to gold, he truly was nonetheless a/the giant of 20th century art.


The painting above, Minotaur in a Boat Saving A Woman, (1937) was my favourite of the paintings featured in the show. I loved the cool, chalky, restricted colour palette, and the loose, inventive mark-making of the drawing. The portraits of matadors below, were I felt, quite weak and restrained in comparison.

The selection of prints (mainly etchings), are perhaps the strongest display of Picasso's artistic skills in the exhibition. We are able to observe examples of the lusty, priapic Mintouar indulging in Bacchic excesses from the Vollard Suite, as well as the darker, more troubling prints from his La Minotauromachie series, when the artists personal life was in turmoil. His drawing, and compositional skills are second to none and really displayed to their best in these series of etchings featured in this show.

This - Blind Minotaur Led By A Little Girl In The Night, (1934) - is my favourite of all of Picasso's prints. It prominently features his young mistress and muse - Marie-Thérèse Walter - playing a central part in the mise en scène. There is so much going on its narrative - the tragedy of the once mighty Minotaur, powers now diminished by blindness, and at once very vulnerable, reduced to a figure of pathos, a mere shadow of his once virile self. The girl Marie-Thérèse, though little in stature, representing love, peace and enlightenment very firmly, but tenderly in control of the situation, taming/guiding the bestial Minotaur into the light and deliverance. The night-time setting on a beach, with fishermen looking on, probably references Picasso's childhood past in Málaga. It's such a wonderful print, very much like a mini drama being played out on a Shakespearean stage.

This tapestry design above, was the first I had seen by Picasso. The reduction of the Minotaur to a head, and a pair of powerful legs really works, along with the simplified graphic shapes in the background. Is the dynamic phallic shape extending to the leading left leg a blessed, or sly, happy accident?

This statue (above), is so brilliant in its simplicity and appropriation of found materials. The bicycle saddle and handlebars juxtaposed, perfectly represents a bull, and it took Picasso's unique artistic eye to realise this, possibly perchance, through the influence of Surrealism. I view it as yet more evidence of Picasso's genius in this show. This is definately in my opinion one of the best exhibitions in London this summer, beautifully presented salon-style against a backdrop of green curtains in the Gagosian space, and curated by no less than Sir John Richardson - Picasso's official biographer.

Picasso: Minotaurs and Matadors
until 25th August
20 Grosvenor Hill