This afternoon, I went to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (MOMA). Their current exhibit is “Picasso and American Art.” The whole thing is VERY well done: the selections, the layout, the audio tour.
The goal of the exhibit is to showcase how Picasso influenced modern art in America. Sometimes the “influence” was very direct. For instance, the below Arshile Gorky‘s Blue Figure in Chair is based directly on Picasso‘s Femme Asise (Seated Woman).
In general, though, the American artists first tried to imitate Picasso’s style, and then extend and go beyond it. It’s interesting to see the early attempts – Picasso’s work has such cohesion, beauty, and balance. On the other hand, many of the American artists’ early cubist or abstract studies were obviously forced and come off clunky. Of course, they (e.g. Gorky, Weber, Pollock), eventually mastered their own style that drew from Picasso but firmly stood on their own.
My favorite quote on the audio tour, however, came from Jackson Pollock. In 1939, the New York MOMA gave a comprehensive exhibit of Picasso’s work. Before then, many American artists had only seen Picasso’s cubism… Pollock was floored by the exhibit. Later…
A loud bang was heard from Pollock’s study. His wife, fellow abstractinist Lee Krasner, went to go investigate… Pollock had been looking at a catalogue of Picasso’s work, but then threw it across the room in frustration.
As explanation, he said: “God damnit. That guy thought of everything.”
If you find yourself in San Francisco between now until May 28th, I highly recommend you take the time to visit this exhibit.
Femme Assise (Seated Woman), 1927
Blue Figure in Chair, c. 1934-35