Picasso: Minotaurs and Matadors
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It’s hard to come away from a Picasso exhibition without thinking that he was a total bastard: a selfish, arrogant, mercurial, lascivious, lecherous, horny, misogynistic bastard.
But there’s a brutish and near overwhelming animal magnetism to him and his work that draws you in and makes you fall madly in love, even though you know you shouldn’t. He makes foolish jilted lovers of all of us.
That primal animality is front and centre in this beautifully put together and lovingly researched show focussing on his lifelong obsession with bulls, matadors and minotaurs. The half-man/half-beast creature is a symbol of Pablo himself. It represents raw, physical violence and sexuality, it’s a cypher for the artist as demi-god.
The walls in the first gallery are draped with green curtains, the lights are low, it’s half way between a funeral home and your granny’s house. There are artworks everywhere. The drawings and prints are a treat. There are minotaurs with perfectly sculpted muscles, their genitals flapping in the wind as they save women from perilous situations. One series finds hairy beasts groping at sleeping women, or passionately humping away at them. There are simple, stark line drawings and complex crosshatched sketches. In all of these, Pablo is a powerful sexual animal, a saviour of women, a god amongst men. It’s brilliant, but absolutely and totally gross at the same time.
There are gorgeous paintings here too – many of them great. There’s a stunning image of a sleeping blond woman on a bed of purple and green, and a seafoam green torero from 1970 that you’ll want to rip off the wall and take home. There are sculptures of bulls with enormous protruding protrusions, minotaur masks, painted plates. It’s every facet of Picasso’s oeuvre, no bullshit.
The bull stamps its vicious sexual presence on everything. It’s a complex metaphor for the artist’s life and desires, his lost past, his potential future. There’s a whole world to read into. And it’s a hard show to leave: that animal magnetism pulls so hard, it makes you want to stay and stare in astonishment. Primal, brutish and disgusting, but somehow totally perfect and alluring. Picasso is the boyfriend you shouldn’t date, but he’s just so bullish that it’s the only thing you want.