Dirk Luckow (Hrsg.)
Picasso in Contemporary Art
Exh. cat. Deichtorhallen, Hamburg (Cologne: Snoeck, 2015).

Picasso embodies the art of the 20th century like no other artist. He has been admired, but also hated; he has been celebrated, studied, and copied. Even today, the substance of his painting and his artistic individualism is yet to be exhausted. In the words of Dirk Luckow, the curator of the exhibition: »Picasso’s art is so influential today because his work and his person cannot be divided from one another and this makes his work seem exemplary. It has remained fascinating and relevant in terms of its political and formal aspects. The once-in-a-century genius’s impact on contemporary art still continues to be underestimated.«

Today’s artists attitude towards Picasso’s creations resembles Picasso’s own playing with prototypes. To the very end, the artist was driven to grapple with his own predecessors. The exhibition »Picasso in Contemporary Art« sets forth this form of painterly dialogue: what applies to Picasso also applies to today’s artists. These artists’ works are often anything but pious in dealing with their brilliant predecessor. At the same time, all of the artists selected for the exhibition share one thing in common, namely, their desire to measure themselves against Picasso and his work. Picasso’s biography − situated between formal experiment, the battle of the sexes, and international politics, between an intoxicating feast for the senses and tragedy – offers almost collective memories of those facets of his work that artists still continue to associate with Picasso today and that play a role in the creation of their works. The quality of the artists’ reflective depth and their methodological approach to dealing with Picasso thus became the key factors in selecting works for the exhibition. mehr

All of the major subjects and periods in Picasso’s oeuvre reappear in the exhibition in the from of artist’s reception of them: the Blue Period and the associated themes of loneliness, despair, and poverty, but also more lively motifs from the Rose Period, such as the world of the circus, Harlequin, or tightrope walkers. Beyond this, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon – as the first Cubist painting – and Picasso’s works of the 1920s and 1930s – in which he combines harsh Cubist elements with wide, gentle, and rounded curves – have been stimulating responses among artists for generations. Picasso’s aggressive deformations, which culminated in the reproachful anti-war painting Guernica, have led to a spectacular series of political pictorial compositions stretching from the second half of the 20th century to today. In the exhibition, this aspect alone is represented by six monumental Guernica interpretations, including Robert Longo’s 1:1 homage to Guernica.

Perceptions of Picasso among leading international female artists, such as Cindy Sherman, Maria Lassnig, Marlen Dumas, and Hanne Darboven, form another focal point of the exhibition. At the same time, themes like »Picasso and German art« or American appropriation art’s handling of Picasso’s oeuvre are dealt with as well. The exhibition »Picasso in Contemporary Art« thus sheds light on shifts in the reception of Picasso’s work among artists. The exhibition begins chronologically with works from the 1930s by Paul Klee, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, and Erwin Blumenfeld; however, its focus is on the last 50 years of art, beginning with works by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, Asger Jorn, and Jasper Johns.

The great sensuality and utterly inexhaustible power of imagination as well as the broad range of Picasso’s work between abstraction and figuration, artistic creativity and political reproach have challenged all of these artists − down to the present day – to engage in particularly captivating dialogues with the phenomenon of Picasso.

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