Monday, 24 May 2010

Picasso: Peace and Freedom @ Tate Liverpool

Pablo Picasso, Lobster and Cat, 1965

Ah! Picasso, a deeply flawed man and an exceptionally talented artist. The Titan of 20th Century art is receiving an indubitably deserved solo exhibition at Tate Liverpool. Picasso: Peace and Freedom explores Picasso as a political artist... e.g. a dirty commie.

One of the joys of Picasso’s prolific output and the Tate’s ability to draw art works from the finest collections across the world is that in every room is an unfamiliar work. However different they may be, such as the Lobster & Cat, the use of line, form, colour and painterly texture always manifest the power of Picasso. A whole room is devoted to Picasso’s serene doves and a large space filled with posters and lithographs, the abundant variations on themes feel both delightful and generous.

The framing of Picasso as a history painter is rather awkward, but there is absolutely no denying the pathos and power of his depiction of war. His doves are just gorgeous, his sleep eyed ladies sensuous and the plentiful snatch singularly un-erotic. Peace and Freedom, at it's heart, is simply Picasso on blockbusting form.

So while some wonderful choices are made about how the works are displayed, the counterpoints and repetitions of themes, devices and images are delicious, I feel there are some small but intrinsic flaws in the argument that the exhibition attempts to make. Great artists do not necessarily make great political figures, and this exhibition seems to shy away from this important distinction.

Pure artistic magic... if you insulate yourself from a slightly over zealous attempt to form a new hagiography.

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