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The Student News Site of California State University, Stanislaus

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The Student News Site of California State University, Stanislaus

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Picasso’s pottery an enlightening lesson in simplicity

 

 

Often times, we find beauty in the simple things in life: a bird perched on a branch outside our window, the silhouette of a loved one seated across the room or the shy smile of a stranger in a crowd. It is these simplicities that Pablo Picasso so beautifully captured in his cubist paintings; but it is also these simplicities that he captured over the course of 20 years through his work in ceramics.
“Picasso: 25 Years of Edition Ceramics from the Rosenbaum Collection,” on show at the Carnegie Arts Center from Sept. 15, 2013 to Jan. 15, 2014, includes a variety of these ceramic works as well as plaques. I’ll be honest. I’m an art nerd. And Picasso’s works being on display in downtown Turlock made my heart race.
Art History Lesson 
Entering the gallery there are large introductions about the legacy of Picasso and his unusual venture into ceramics.
Picasso, unlike many artists, received great acclaim during his lifetime for his famous cubist paintings, and his choice to create ceramics was considered laughable by his contemporaries. After years of work though, learning from experts George and Suzanne Ramie at their Madoura pottery workshop in Vallauris, Southern France, Picasso brought to light the medium of ceramics as a fine art.
The Rosenbaum Collection
Turning the corner, the overwhelming warmth of terracotta brown draped the smooth walls in front of me. Still, I was drawn to the cream wall beside me with its 11 unique, “Vallauris Posters.” In crude, heavy stroke manuscript, the prints all yell “Exposition” in colors of gold, bronze, burgundy, black and cream. Each poster features one focal point among the heavy letters: a face, a bird, a goat or a man. The posters, like the pottery they represent, range from tribal to sketchy all with the feel of wet paint.
The first ceramic piece I met was the “Small Owl Jug,” an edition of 500 made in 1955. A blue and black turned pitcher, the owl jug’s insides are coated in a white, ceramic dust I wanted to wipe off.
Picasso heavily favored owls and birds as models in his pottery. Some of the pieces give a lighter, more coastal feel, like the round plate entitled “Bird No. 86” – a smooth, white bird on a rough, salmon background. Others use a variety of deeper, darker hues.
The next pitcher, “Little Wood Owl” sits as a kind of chunky, stout baby for viewers to fawn over, yearning for them to coddle it. The little owl’s wings, bent up like arms, clutch her chest as if receiving a treasure. “For me?” she asks with a surprised smile.
Across the way, a more colorful piece reached out to me. Entitled “Hands with Fish,” the round plate, an edition of 250, grasps a fish by its wet, slimy middle, anticipating its escape. The fish, still very much alive, looks deep into the viewer’s eye with a sly smile, knowing that in the unseen second frame, it is back in the ocean swimming freely.
Large black and white stills of Picasso are also carefully placed throughout the exhibit to give the feeling of being in the Madoura workshop looking over the artist’s shoulder.
I felt comforted by Picasso’s presence, like he’s happy to be sharing his lesser known works with me.
My two favorite pieces of the exhibit are the ones least like all the others; both are night scenes.
The first, a rare nighttime landscape, shows the lines of a whitewashed village familiar to natives of Vallauris. The second, “Goat’s Head in Profile” illuminates the head of a goat against the deep grey of a starry night in the background. The goat head, a sultry combination of dark blue and black, greets the viewer with its large lashes in the middle of a low, nocturnal bleat.
Although “Goat’s Head in Profile” is one of the more detailed pieces, it holds no more emotion than the rest. Despite the few strokes many of the pieces took to make, they still capture the raw emotion of the subject. Picasso was not cocky in his approach to creating art, just dedicated to simplicity.
Devil in the details
After visiting a children’s art exhibition, Picasso wrote to a friend of what he saw.
“When I was the age of these children I could draw like Raphael: it took me many years to learn how to draw like these children.”
Perhaps what is so great about Pablo Picasso is that no one can accuse him of his simplicity when he is the first to claim it.
For those interested, tickets can be purchased upon arrival at the Carnegie Arts Center, located at 250 North Broadway in downtown Turlock.
The center is open Wednesdays through Sundays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., excepting holidays.
For more information, visit carnegieartsturlock.org or call 209-632-5761.

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Picasso’s pottery an enlightening lesson in simplicity