Magazine article Artforum International

"Picasso and Francoise Gilot: Paris-Vallauris 1943-1953"

Magazine article Artforum International

"Picasso and Francoise Gilot: Paris-Vallauris 1943-1953"

Article excerpt

GAGOSIAN GALLERY

The details of Pablo Picasso's public and private life are by now well known. No artist of parallel celebrity (is there one?) has been so written about--often enough in records as delightful to read as they are fundamental to art history. This is especially true of the memoirs written by the women in his life. Fernande Olivier, Picasso's earliest companion of fame, spilled the beans in Picasso et ses amis (Picasso and Friends, 1930), recounting his Bateau-Lavoir high jinks--prize fights, recreational drugs--during the first decades of the twentieth century, when he and Braque were inventing Cubism. In 1964, Francoise Gilot, mother of two of Picasso's children, wrote (with Carlton Lake) the stunning Life with Picasso, which concerns the gray years of World War II and its sunny aftermath in France. Now in her nineties, Gilot remains a rigorous artist and the costar of this nonpareil event curated by John Richardson, the giant of Picasso historians.

The exhibition was jaw-dropping and, disputatiously, eye-opening. It included not only masses of paintings by Picasso and Gilot (made between 1943 and 1953) but also the grand sprawl of Picasso's period graphics and a broad selection of his inspired ceramic renovations of the folkloric pottery traditions of the Cote d'Azur. (The photographic reconstruction of the Le Fournas studio in Vallauris allowed for a matchless installation of the clay works.)

But this occasion was particularly engrossing owing to its inclusion of the redoubtable Gilot, whose memoir first began to dismantle the glorious Picasso legend--more than hinting at his stupefying misogyny and obsessive envy of Matisse's unflagging invention. The exhibition can also be credited with helping to resurrect a period of postwar. French painting long under a cloud, the result of the miraculous transfer of the house of modernism from Paris to New York. Much of the work from this period hardly needs rehabilitation. The minimalization of the later Ecole de Paris--for example, the work of once-toured painters and writers such as Edouard Pignon and Helene Parmelin, sycophantic Picasso acolytes and propagandists, not to speak of acres of the master's own painting, genius though he may have been--was justified even if predicated on American chauvinism. …

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