Pablo Picasso and Diego Rivera are, no doubt, artists about whom you have strong feelings. As two of the most prolific, iconic masters of the 20th Century, they need little introduction – adults will likely flock to LACMA’s blockbuster show because it features famous but difficult-to-see canvases, and revealing surprising parallels in the two men’s career trajectories. Picasso and Rivera: Conversations Across Time is an experience we recommend highly. The show is on view until May 7, 2017.
But… how do you get kids to want to see this show? Parental bribery usually works — as in, if you come to LACMA with me, we can stop for a treat on the way home. The other is to tell a story.
The tale to weave in this case is that two of the world’s most beloved modern artists started off as art students, learning to paint and draw exactly like kids today learn their reading, writing, arithmetic, (and perhaps coding!). In the first few rooms of the exhibit, you can see pretty clearly that both men were very, very good at their classical assignments.
But the point of modern art has been to master traditional forms and then attempt to break through classical methods and create something new. In the case of both men, a mutual excitement for Cubism was sparked when both were in Paris – they knew each other there — and you’d be hard pressed to distinguish their Cubist paintings from each other.
Tell the kids that this birth of “modern art” took place about 100 years ago – how is that modern, they might ask!?
But Picasso and Rivera kept pushing. What the show does well is explore how both men, after experimenting with Cubism, returned for inspiration to their classical roots to create what the world now knows as their potent and highly stylized oeuvres. Picasso prioritized Antiquities of the Greco Roman tradition – some tremendous pieces are on loan from other famous museums around the world. And, appropriately, Rivera returned to his Pre-Columbian roots and the show has exquisite pieces – many from his own collections – on display.
The power of these classical pieces is made clear by the way they have been paired with paintings in the galleries — their influence is indisputable and exciting. The folds of the dress on the Landsdowne Artemis will astound a third grader, and when you explain that this painting rarely leaves NY’s MOMA, and that it is beloved around the world, they’ll take a second and third look. And, hopefully start asking some questions about why.
Good luck, and enjoy. After, you should definitely stop at Joan’s on Third or Magnolia Bakery on nearby 3rd Street for a well-earned reward!
NOTE: There is limited photography allowed in the gallery, because of the value of items on loan from the Mexican government, in particular the Pre-Columbian items that belonged to Rivera himself. It’s an excellent chance to unplug from the urge to take a lot of photos and just look. Audio guides also help make the experience more insightful and relaxing.
Picasso and Rivera: Conversations Across Time through May 7, 2017
LACMA // 5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036