Review: “States of Mind” at the Norton Simon
October 14, 2016- February 13, 2017
By Leticia Marie Sanchez
The act of artistic creation is often a mystifying process, in which a mysterious alchemy of genius, inspiration, and hours of labor combine to form the masterpieces that we see hanging on museum walls today.
Although we may be connoisseurs and consumers of output, it is rare to have an opportunity to view the artistic process firsthand. Strolling through a sea of Picassos at the Norton Simon one is struck by the ability to have a window into an artist’s thoughts and vision. Unlike oil paint, which covers the artist’s work, the flexible medium of lithography allows one, as explained by Picasso himself, to “show the picture underneath the picture.” The insightfully curated exhibit of 86 prints juxtaposes various states of a composition so that we can view nuanced adjustments as well as significant changes. For instance, the iconic bull becomes more abstract and geometric with each iteration, with the final image evoking a cave drawing.
Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973) The Bull, 1945. (Lithograph, various states, including 11th and final state). Norton Simon Art Foundation
The exhibit transports us through visions of Picasso’s loves, mistresses, friendly rival (Matisse), and even his own childlike self-conception. At more than 60 years old, Picasso’s self-portrait was that of a young boy. It is only fitting that he saw himself through a youthful lens, as the exhibit vividly illustrates the artist’s technique of deskilling, moving from the professional to the whimsically childlike in his style. Picasso once remarked of his children, “When I was their age I could draw like Raphael, but it has taken a lifetime to learn to draw like them.”
Finally, in addition to getting a window into the mind of Picasso, the exhibit also affords a glance into the intense collecting style of maverick industrialist Norton Simon. In contrast with many of his tycoon peers, Simon lived well below his means, allowing him to invest his fortune in a formidable art collection. The fervent and often obsessive collector acquired more than 880 works by Picasso, one of the deepest collections of its kind. Simon’s foresight and passion resulted in the sea of Picassos through which we can now immerse ourselves, delving into the mind of a revolutionary artist.
First Image. Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973) Head of a Young Girl, November 5, 1945. Lithograph. 1st State; 1 of 18 artist reserved proofs. The Norton Simon Foundation, F. 1983.20.05.G