From February 23 to May 28, 2007, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) will present the exhibition Picasso and American Art. The exhibition examines the fundamental role that Pablo Picasso’s artwork played in the development of American art during the 20th century.
Beginning with the artist Max Weber, who developed a friendship with Picasso in the early 1900s, many American artists came to both acknowledge Picasso as the central figure of the modern movements and define their own artistic achievements through the absorption, critique, or rejection of his example. While unmistakably pervasive during the first half of the last century, Picasso’s catalytic influence continued to be of great importance in the second half, sparking some of the most searching work from our most significant artists.
Picasso and American Art is organized by guest curator Michael FitzGerald, associate professor in the department of fine arts at Trinity College in Connecticut, for the Whitney Museum of American Art. The San Francisco presentation is organized by Madeleine Grynsztejn, SFMOMA’s Elise S. Haas Senior Curator of Painting and Sculpture.
The exhibition spotlights nine American artists who have been most deeply engaged with Picasso’s work and who, in turn, have made the most significant contributions to the art of their time: Stuart Davis, Willem de Kooning, Arshile Gorky, John Graham, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Jackson Pollock, David Smith, and Weber. The exhibition includes some 40 works by Picasso and more than 100 works by the artists he influenced, including Gorky’s Enigmatic Combat (1936–37) from the SFMOMA collection.
The exhibition also features works by other American artists inspired by Picasso, including Louise Bourgeois, Marsden Hartley, Lee Krasner, Man Ray, Claes Oldenburg, Andy Warhol, and Tom Wesselmann. The precise juxtapositions of these works—in many cases the first public pairings of significantly related objects—reveal Picasso’s far-reaching effect on American art.
“We are thrilled to host this important exhibition and to showcase some of SFMOMA’s own Picasso holdings, including the 1955 painting Les femmes d’Algers (Women of Algiers),” says Grynsztejn. “Picasso was pivotal in the transformation of American art in the 20th century; this exhibition not only documents his influence but also defines the extremely varied role his art and reputation served for the American artists who used his example to make innovative and challenging works. This exhibition will no doubt be a treat for all Bay Area audiences.”
Picasso and American Art features a number of pieces that have never before been exhibited publicly in the United States, including Picasso’s Still Life (1908); Untitled (1940) and Untitled (1941) by Louise Bourgeois; After Picasso (1998), Pyre (2003), and Pyre II (2003) by Jasper Johns; and several drawings from Johns’s personal collection. The exhibition also features important Picasso works from international collections, including Bar-Table with Musical Instruments and Fruit Bowl (ca. 1913), Still Life with Bunch of Grapes (1914), Landscape with Dead and Live Trees (1919), and Minotaur Moving (1936).
The exhibition is accompanied by a 368-page catalogue which includes a scholarly essay by FitzGerald, some 300 illustrations, and a comprehensive chronology that documents the accessibility of Picasso’s work in the United States through exhibitions, collections, and publications. The catalogue offers new insights on Picasso’s influence on American artists as well as the ways in which the United States helped shape Picasso’s reputation. The catalogue is copublished by the Whitney Museum of American Art and Yale University Press.
Picasso and American Art is organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art. Lead corporate support for this exhibition is provided by Bank of America. Major support is provided by the Koret Foundation Funds, the Evelyn D. Haas Exhibition Fund, Robert Mondavi Winery, and the Modern Art Council, an SFMOMA auxiliary.
A Hidden Picasso
In conjunction with Picasso and American Art, SFMOMA also will present the exhibition A Hidden Picasso in the Koret Visitor Education Center. On view from February 23 to May 28, 2007, this unusual exhibition examines Picasso’s Rue de Montmartre, a painting displayed on the second floor as part of the exhibition Matisse and Beyond: The Painting and Sculpture Collection. During conservation work on the piece, X-rays revealed another image beneath its surface: a sketch of a Parisian nightclub bearing a striking resemblance to another Picasso painting, Le Moulin de la Galette. The Koret Center exhibition details this fascinating discovery and the methods used by researchers to find it. An interactive feature accompanying the exhibition sheds more light on the use of X-rays and ultraviolet and infrared light in conservation and includes an extensive glossary.