Thursday, April 21, 2011

Closing out my Crawl with Picasso on Paper

Since I've already seen the Picasso show at the VMFA twice, it was like shooting fish in a barrel to get me to check out the Reynolds Gallery show of "Pablo Picasso: Works on Paper."

Today's opening featured nineteen works on paper, two vases and one plate and spanned the years from 1905-1972. I arrived in the last hour of a five-hour opening and was quickly followed by a half dozen other art lovers, some of whom may have come for the bubbles and sweets, but several of whom were clearly just art geeks like me.

The works on paper ranged in size and medium while spanning 67 years. The artist was nothing if not prolific.

The first etching in the show "Tete de Femme, Madeline" from 1905 was of a classic Gibson Girl; there was nothing strikingly Picasso about it. And 1905 was when Picasso first began printmaking.

"Femme Couchee," a lithograph from 1924 showed a delicacy of line that later gave way to his thick black outlining.

Being Picasso, his humor and intent are made clear on "Sculpteurs, Modeles et Sculpture," an etching from 1923 that shows classical figures posing but the piece of sculpture next to them is  a multi-breasted and buttocked Cubist figure. Statement?

The etching "En la Taberna, Pecheurs Catalans en Bordee" was a study in body hair. One particularly hirsute man is covered in curlicues and loops. Crosshatching is used throughout the engraving to show clothing, skin and sculpture. Active lines are everywhere.

Anyone looking at "Tete de Femme" with its multiple viewpoints of the face (profile and straight-on)  would know that Picasso had journeyed through surrealism, although this was done with purely lines, not color or paint. If I were going to take one piece home, it likely would have been this one.

The show at Reynolds is a great companion piece to the VMFA show; its overview of the artist's long career on paper is a glimpse into a master's evolving talent, much the way the other show's painting and sculpture are.

Unfortunately, now that the opening is over you can't expect bubbles or sweets, so you'll have to go for art's sake.

Then I decided to pick up where I left off last night, with the Riesling Crawl. I'd been told that it was fortunate that I'd not stopped at Can Can because apparently their staff had dropped the ball and knew nothing of the event and had nada prepared.

Confident that that would not the the case at Secco, I dropped in to see if they could finish off my evening in RieslingLand. They could; there was one glass left in the last bottle of 2008 Von Beulwitz Kaseler Nies’chen Riesling Spatlese Alte Reben. One glass of its nice acidity and long finish was all I was after anyway.

I could have left then, having officially finished my Riesling crawl , but of course I didn't. I was introduced to an effusively in-love couple who raved about each other and made me long for the same. They gushed, they touched, they were adorable, everyone agreed.

I had an enthusiastic discussion of etiquette and manners with Miss Julia, a subject on which I harbor strong opinions, as did she. Don't mothers teach civilized behavior anymore? As Sunday's New York Times asked, when did it become socially acceptable to not make eye contact in social situations (A: when hand-held devices became more important)?

The fuel for such conversation and others came in the form of Domaine Rouge Bleu Mistral and Chef Tim's highly unique farro salad (smoked farro with shaved carrot, raisins and almonds, garam masala and orange blossom honey creme fraiche). If there's a salad with more complementary flavors and textures, I haven't had it.

More pink followed as did more conversation with assorted people about the glory of Crossroads (two blocks from my house and supposedly the best open mic night in the entire city), the necessity of containing curly hair in humidity and how rva's strength being that it continues to get better, no matter how slowly.

Let's just say that Bird in Hand came up. And what a big deal it was to expect nice people to go to the Bottom back then. And how diverse Jackson Ward is compared to back then. It's true, the whole city has improved step by step.

Back in those days, you couldn't expect to see a blockbuster show like Picasso at the VMFA. And you certainly couldn't expect to walk into Reynolds Gallery and buy a Picasso work on paper.

I can't buy, so I gawk. And I love a city that gives me the gawk-able.

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