Thursday, October 18, 2012

Picasso at the Guggenheim Museum

As someone with a bachelor's degree in architecture you'd think I would have explored the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Guggenheim Museum long ago, but nope! The $22 entrance fee had always kept me from going farther than the lobby, but since A.'s mom was interested in checking it out and none of us had ever visited the art museum we went for an after-brunch cultural dip.

The current exhibition on display is Picasso Black and White which showcases the artist's work with black, white, and grey media. We started at the top of the circular ramp and slowly worked our way down, standing in front of each work and pretending to understand the point behind the misshapen faces and nudes staring back at us. By the time we were halfway through, A., the Bantu Girl, and I were forming rap songs based on the various titles we came upon. (Watch out world, we'll be dropping "Two Nudes in a Studio" and "The Farmer's Wife" on iTunes soon.)

While I was happy to mull over the finer details in Picasso's work like the brush strokes and paint texture rather than figure out what he was trying to convey through all these lopsided boobs and crazy eyes, I was more interested in experiencing the museum space itself. I'd already learned about Wright's design in school long ago, but wanted to see firsthand how the museum managed around the curvature in the walls. How did they hang the paintings and how would one exhibition flow into the next when it's all one continuous spiral? The answers: the paintings tilt away from the curved walls (and lie flat against the straight partitions in between niches) and Picasso's exhibition extended from the rotunda floor all the way to the top. Ongoing exhibitions of artist Wassily Kandinsky and the Thannhauser Collection are tucked away in smaller galleries in the adjacent annex building.
I really like the lines the ramp created as we looked across the rotunda and the soft lighting cast in from the skylight. It's a beautifully designed space that looks out of context when juxtaposed to the adjacent angular buildings outside, but the curving interiors of Wright's last major project soften the space and glows with its own pulse. In his cockiness to design a building that would present difficulties to actually perform its function, Wright managed to create his own piece of sculpture that would compete against whatever the museum manages to hang upon its walls. As someone who relishes creative use of space and structure much more than abstract colors on a canvas, I can appreciate that.


  1. Speak for yourself... I know a thing or two about art especially Picasso. LOL

    1. Well then you'll have to teach me. I was there going like yes, yes I can totally see where he was going with this. Not. I just think the man wanted an excuse to get women in the nude.

  2. Ah my gavorite painting in MOMA is titled "Composition in Black, Number 5"



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