To even begin a journey through modern art’s twists and turns from 1909 to 1985 is mind boggling. So the High Museum of Art whittled it down to the best of the best with some big-time help for its sweeping new exhibition.
From the moment you step into the exhibit’s opening gallery and are confronted with the enormity and texture of Picasso’s “Girl Before Mirror” (top photo), you know that “Picasso to Warhol: Fourteen Modern Masters” indeed includes some iconic works.
“It’s the motherload of modern art,” says Michael Shapiro, the High’s director. “This treasury of more than 100 works stands on its own as one of our proudest moments.”
But the High couldn’t have done it alone. In partnership with New York’s seminal Museum of Modern Art on a project over a year in the making, “Picasso to Warhol: Fourteen Modern Masters” comes to life with paintings and sculptures by some of the greatest names in the 20th Century art world.
When the exhibit opens on Saturday, Oct. 15, expect some of the greatest works by, not just the bookending masters of the exhibit title, but also the likes of Piet Mondrian, Henri Matisse, Georgia’s own Jasper Johns, Marcel Duchamp, Jackson Pollock, Constantine Brancusi, Fernand Leger, Alexander Calder and Joan Miro, to name just some that blew us away on a recent preview.
The Picasso gallery also includes examples of his early sketches, his infamous “Blue Period,” still lifes, and transitional works that led to his career-defining cubist visions. An attempt to provide tidbits and context of entire careers runs throughout the exhibit. How did Picasso get to Cubism? What did Mondrian do before his primary color grids? What led to Matisse’s focus purely on shape and color? Find out through this exhibit.
Even before you leave the Picasso gallery, you spy Matisse’s “The Dance (I)” around the corner and see its relation to Picasso’s “Night Fishing at Antibes.” That visual synchronicity is the idea behind the collection, says curator Jodi Haupin.
Miro’s floating shapes give way to Calder’s kinetic sculptures like “Spider” (third photo), and Pollock’s defining drip painting in “Number 1A” seems to flow naturally into the graphics of Johns’ “Map,” which in turn nod to Warhol’s use of bold color in his Brillo boxes, entire set of Campbell’s Soup cans and “Self Portrait” (bottom photo). Even when the visual results diverge, the compiled artists have innovation in common, Haupin says.
“What ties them together in some ways is the diverse ways they broke with tradition to create a new art for a new world,” she says. “They experimented. They took on new subjects, new mediums or tried traditional mediums in new ways. Their experiments led to cubism, surrealism, pop and abstraction as a sort of universal language.”
If we must find fault in the vast span that the exhibit covers, our only disappointment comes in wanting more. Choosing relatively few of the very best examples offers only a taste of the prolific works by each artist.
Even so, we could go on all day, and modern art lovers should. Get to the High to see art you’ve only viewed in magazines come to life as they were meant to be seen.
Still tethered to the security blanket of technology in your hand, even while standing before originals of some of the 20th century’s most iconic work? What’s extra cool at the High as of this exhibition is the ArtClix app. Just like it sounds, download ArtClix and point your iPhone or Android at any work in “Picasso to Warhol.” Up pops info on the artist and work, as well as ways to share your thoughts and start a discussion on your favorite social media.
“Picasso to Warhol” displays at the High through April 29.