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Picasso And American Art Opens at Whitney Museum
Pablo Picasso, Bathers with Beach Ball, 1928, Oil on canvas , 6 1/4 x 8 1/4 in. (15.9 x 21 cm), Private collection. © 2006 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

NEW YORK.- A landmark exhibition, ten years in the planning, Picasso and American Art celebrates Picasso’s dramatic impact on the course of 20th-century American art. Although Picasso never set foot in America, many of this country’s most important artists saw him as the central figure of modern art and defined their own achievements through their absorption or critique of his example.

Picasso and American Art focuses on the nine American artists who have been most deeply engaged with Picasso’s work and who, in turn, have made the most significant contributions to the art of their time: Stuart Davis, Willem de Kooning, Arshile Gorky, John Graham, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Jackson Pollock, David Smith, and Max Weber. Picasso played a central role in the artistic development of each of these nine artists. In addition to these key figures, the exhibition includes works by other American artists inspired by Picasso, among them Louise Bourgeois, Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley, Lee Krasner, Claes Oldenburg, Man Ray, Andy Warhol, and Tom Wesselmann.

“Picasso and American Art investigates Picasso’s powerful pull on many of this country’s artists,” said Adam D. Weinberg, the Whitney’s Alice Pratt Brown Director. “Clearly, Picasso was seen as a force to be reckoned with. Our exhibition illuminates the extremely varied effect his art and reputation had on a range of American artists who created their own innovative, challenging, and enduring works.”

Picasso and American Art is organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art, where it runs through January 28, 2007. It then travels to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Walker Art Center. The exhibition is guest curated by Michael FitzGerald, Associate Professor in the Department of Fine Arts at Trinity College, Connecticut, in association with Dana Miller, Associate Curator at the Whitney. A 368-page catalog, co-published with Yale University Press, accompanies the exhibition. The lead sponsor of the exhibition is CIT.

“CIT is pleased to be the lead sponsor of Picasso and American Art, which will undoubtedly become one of the most notable exhibitions in the Whitney Museum’s 75-year history,” said Jeffrey M. Peek, Chairman and CEO of CIT. “CIT’s sponsorship of the Whitney Museum exemplifies our longstanding support of the arts and is reflective of our commitment to the communities in which our employees live and work. We wish the Whitney great success with Picasso and American Art and look forward to further collaborations.”

The exhibition gathers together specific Picasso works that were studied by the nine American artists whose works are featured alongside Picasso’s, illustrating how American artists used Picasso’s example to push the boundaries of their own work. It is the precise juxtapositions of these works—often the very first pairing of significantly related objects—that reveal Picasso’s farreaching effect on American art.

“The intense involvement of American artists with Picasso’s work was at the center of a fundamental transformation in American art during the 20th century,” said guest curator Michael FitzGerald. “Picasso, more than any other artist, became the chief figure against whom Americans measured their achievements.”

Picasso and American Art has historical links with the Whitney’s own past, going back to the years before the museum was established. In 1923, the Whitney Studio Club, a predecessor to the Whitney Museum and an important venue for the presentation of both European and American art, held one of the earliest Picasso exhibitions in the United States, Recent Paintings by Pablo Picasso and Negro Sculpture. Picasso and American Art reassembles many of the Picasso works from the 1923 show. The origins of Picasso and American Art lie in a 1995 Lobby Gallery exhibition at the Whitney. Entitled Picassoid, this drawing exhibition was co-organized by Michael FitzGerald and Adam D. Weinberg, then curator of the Whitney’s permanent collection, and now the Museum’s director.

The majority of the approximately 165 objects in the Whitney presentation of the exhibition will be paintings and drawings. A small number of sculptures, prints, and photographs will also be featured. The exhibition includes nearly 40 works by Picasso. The selection of American artists was determined in part by the decision to focus only on artists who took up Picasso’s art before his death in 1973.

Rarely Seen Works
Among the works in Picasso and American Art that have never before been exhibited publicly in this country are Picasso’s Still Life (1908); Louise Bourgeois’s Untitled (1940) and Untitled (1941); Jasper Johns’s painting After Picasso (1998), Pyre (2003), and Pyre II (2003), as well as several drawings that Johns is lending.

Many of the essential Picassos are coming from foreign collections and will give US audiences exposure to significant works that have not been seen in the US for decades. Among these are Picasso’s Bar-Table with Musical Instruments and Fruit Bowl (c. 1913), Still Life with Bunch of Grapes (1914), Landscape with Dead and Live Trees (1919), and Minotaur Moving (1936).

Following its showing at the Whitney, Picasso and American Art travels to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art from February 25 to May 28, 2007, and to the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis from June 17 to September 9, 2007.

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