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Art: Pablo at the Mint
Pablo Picasso and Charlotte’s Romare Bearden shine at a revelatory exhibit that leaves Charlotte soon
It took years to coordinate and another to curate, but in a week a historic Pablo Picasso exhibit will leave the Mint Museum Uptown. The exhibition – upwards of seventy pieces, fifty of which are Picassos – includes works from fourteen different institutions and collectors all around the world.
The style upended the art world. Picasso was only in his 20s.
Cubism’s approach is both analytical and emotional. Its influence coursed through many of Picasso’s contemporaries, like Fernand Leger and Dadaist Marcel Duchamp. The visual language of this style continued to appear in the works of artists like Romare Bearden, Salvador Dali, and nearly every member of the Italian Futurist movement, before finding ubiquity in commercial culture.
Nevertheless, Picasso’s body of work spans eight decades and myriad styles. Those original Cubist works are still astonishing, but one of the joys of “Picasso Landscapes: Out Of Bounds” is how little time is spent in that era. The tour of landscapes spans from Picasso’s teens into his nineties, shortly before his death. The young Picasso’s neo-classical work in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries reveals changes in his style, both whimsical and brooding, as modern art drove forward.
This show is must-see not only for Picasso’s original works, but also because it is a unique curation by Lawrence Madeline, former curator of Musée Picasso. Like most working painters, Picasso used landscape painting as a tool to understand, explore, and refine his unique view of the world. From study to practice, these landscapes offer a view into how the artist enjoyed and reacted to his work throughout his career. These works are almost always contextual footnotes in exhibits with better-known pieces, so it’s unlikely we’ll see these paintings all together again.
The exhibit is a big step forward for the Mint as a regional museum. Mint Museum director of marketing Clayton Sealey told Y’all Weekly, “bringing this exhibition to Charlotte continues the momentum that we have experienced since the height of COVID-19. This will be the second year in a row that we have exceeded pre-pandemic attendance levels. We hope to use this momentum to reach new audiences throughout the region and to bring insightful, educational, and inspiring exhibitions to the region.”
Sealey indicated the amount of work done to properly contextualize the pieces on display. The process began before the lockdown, he said, “taking three years to come to fruition. Pieces were gathered from 14 different collectors and institutions from around the world. The design of the exhibition itself took well over a year.”
Large, plush banquettes occupy the central floorspace of the exhibit. The seats are outfitted with tablets, each open to a tour of the French and Spanish towns Picasso made his home in. Images of the exhibit’s pieces are included with the corresponding locations. I will not soon forget reading about Picasso’s life in Cannes, and looking up in front of me to see his own view of the city.
The cherry on top at Out Of Bounds is the final portion of the exhibit.
Romare Bearden – a Charlotte native whose influence on modern art cannot be understated – was directly influenced by Picasso and corresponded with him many times over the years. Aptly, the Mint Museum is home to the largest single collection of Bearden’s work, including paintings rarely on display. A Cubist application to collage seems obvious once mentioned, but Bearden was a consummate artist who painted and drew throughout his career as well. There, at the end of the exhibit, are some of the most exciting images you will see from Charlotte’s most celebrated artist.
A visit to the Mint to see this once-in-a-lifetime collection is a must, and before the show closes on May 21 there are other celebrations of Picasso across Charlotte’s cultural landscape. Theatre Charlotte complements the “Out Of Bounds” exhibit with performances of Steve Martin’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play" “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” May 18-21, staged in the Mint’s ground floor gallery.
Several local artists, including Dammit Wesley and CHD:WCK, also accepted commissions to create pieces in response to Picasso pieces, two of which are on display in the museum’s fifth floor event spaces.
It would also be worth planning to jog over to the Mint Uptown’s neighbor, the Bechtler Museum Of Modern Art. Its simultaneous exhibit, “Europe in the Age of Picasso, 1900-1973” is also on display, and museumgoers will find the Bechtler doing what it does best: providing a revelatory context for familiar art history.
Partnering with Charlotte artists and organizations for this exhibit is just a part of what the Mint does. “Pablo Picasso and Romare Bearden were two artists that stepped well outside of their chosen mediums,” Sealey said of the various collaborations. “To honor these artists without spreading the word through cultural activation would have fallen short of their legacy.”
The Mint Museum Uptown and the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art are free on Wednesday evenings from 5 PM to 9 PM, bringing the special event price of “Picasso Landscapes: Out Of Bounds” down to $10 per person. Otherwise, you should plan on paying $25 each for adults, $20 for students and seniors, and $10 for Mint Museum members. Children 17 and under are free.
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