//Ad libs: 'Picasso' at the Aicon Gallery

Friday, August 29, 2008

'Picasso' at the Aicon Gallery

I was just in one of my favorite plays, Steve Martin’s genius work “Picasso at the Lapin Agile.” I played a woman pining for Picasso, falling head over corset after the dashing artist follows her home and draws a dove on her hand. Dreamy girls have always been wooed by artists. They appeal to our desire to be the only one who can see the same colors they can.

Which is why my ears perked up last night at an opening at
Aicon Gallery in Palo Alto, when I heard an art collector talking about Picasso. But she was referring to M.F. Husain, who is often called the Picasso of India.

One could write quite a play about this artist. In his 90s, the prolific artist has had a lengthy career marked by achievement and
controversy. At Aicon, which has just opened an exhibit of modern South Asian masters, one image by Husain fairly gallops across one wall; the painted horse ripples with gold and copper, exhibiting all the energy of the young stallion Pablo. The collector regarded it wistfully.

Across the room was a bird series from 1980. These four drawings were in a medium I would not expect to find in such a glossy gallery: marker on board. I had to leave and walk back several times before the jagged, angular works started to make an impression on me.

Did the medium and the hand have an innocent feel? In a way. But there was something deeper about them, like discovering the world for the first time but already seeing the inevitability in it. “Bird Series 2-Colrain” also has the feeling of falling, a man tumbling into a bird, soaring toward Earth. Is that how Picasso felt when he painted
“Les Demoiselles d’Avignon,” tumbling full force into the new century and artistic immortality? Did he know how fully new his art was becoming?

There were many other works that I stood in front of for long moments. In “Man With Sitar,” a 2001 mixed media on paper work, Shyamal Dutta Ray gave watercolor a sharpness and strength I never imagined it could have. And Sadequain’s “Loves,” an oil on canvas, depicts such a gentle, purposeful embrace with all the peacefulness that the Demoiselles could never find.

The exhibit is also an enlightening introduction for anyone whose Western art classes never ventured into India and Pakistan. Check it out.

Pictured: "Bird Series 2-Colrain" by M.F. Husain.