Picasso’s genius as an artist hovers over the cultural landscape like a giant zeppelin. Not just in the 20th century but into our 21st century as well, as the exhibit Channeling Picasso at Caza Sikes Gallery reveals. Any quick search of the top artists in the world for all times has Picasso as one of the top five to ten artists. Naturally, Leonardo Da Vinci is almost always in the Number One position. Da Vinci (1452–1519) was the Renaissance painter, scientist, inventor, military strategist, anatomist and tireless investigator in the arts and science. Da Vinci is one of most famous painters in the world for his iconic Mona Lisa and Last Supper. Vincent Van Gogh (1853–1890) is often the second most important. He is the Dutch post-impressionist painter and his famous paintings include Sunflowers, The Starry night, and Cafe Terrace at Night. And Pablo Picasso (1881–1973) is always on the list, sometimes in the top five. The Spanish, modern ‘cubist’ painter spread his searing, visionary wings wide and long over the artistic landscape. Among his numerous famous works include Guernica and Bird of Peace. So it was a fabulous move to inaugurate the second year of the Caza Sikes Gallery on Madison Road in Cincinnati with their invitational exhibit called Channeling Picasso.
The exhibition opened Friday, October 19, 2018 and ends November 5, 2018. The exhibition celebrates Picasso with over thirty professional artists who take on various works by the Master, creating works in their style, medium and unique interpretation. Featuring well-known contemporary living artists from across the United States, we see sculptural objects, painting, ceramics, stained glass and woodworking among the mediums represented during the show. Creative and diverse art works fabricated by the gallery artists were made to honor Pablo Picasso.
Here is the backstory: the artists were asked specifically by the gallery to participate in the show. With an emphasis and focus on a selection of national artists combined with local and regional artists who work in different mediums, Caza Sikes Gallery wanted to present an eclectic group show. Their grand opening last year was a similar type exhibition called “Riffing Van Gogh,” and was very successful, so they wanted to create a similar type theme for this year’s exhibition. According to gallerist Evan Sikes: “One of the most enjoyable aspects of curating this type of show is the fact that we give the artists complete freedom to create their piece. There are no restrictions or limitations. Watching the work come in is always a stunning experience. A group show like this always allows for a wider audience as well.”
There is not a weak work in the show. Some of the art works are small and others are more ambitious. Some are blatantly humorous and others deeply reverential. For example, Jacob Hinnenkamp made a reverential stained glass interpretation of Picasso’s Seated Woman in Front of a Window (1907). Hinnenkamp looked over a large sampling of Picasso’s art works to select ones that could best be interpreted in stained glass. Since Picasso was a natural draughtsman, and line was central to Picasso’s art making, Jacob selected a painting that used bold lines to delineate the components of the painting, referencing the lead that is used to separate pieces of colored glass. It all looked so natural, Jacob translating a major theme of Picasso into the medium of stained glass.
Two local artists, Jan and Mark Wiesner, both contributed handsome interpretations of Picasso’s artwork. Jan sculpted a relief wall sculpture based on Picasso’s Woman with Crow (1904) calling it They Thought It Had Something to Do with Natural Selection and Yet They Still Had to Ask, ‘How Did You Get That Gig’? So there is real humor in the title yet a sober modeling of the slender, slumped-over woman caressing a crow. A black crow has such portentous symbolism: think Edgar Allen Poe or Shakespeare. Imaginatively, Wiesner amplifies the theme of loneliness and wanting with two additional crows on either side of the woman. Mark Wiesner uses a philosophical bent to his interpretation of Picasso’s Girl before a Mirror with his title Oh What a Gift It Would Be To See Ourselves as Others See Us. His material is unique, a painting interpreted by corrugated cardboard into a monochrome wall relief. Wiesner also used cast-off mesh and other recycled materials to make a richly textured artwork. We marvel at the care in fitting corrugated cardboard arabesques into the framework he invented around the painting and all the subtle textural differences that are a stand-in for the colored differences in Picasso’s original.
Other artists who make noteworthy pieces include Cole Carothers’s parody using an invented newspaper report of Gertrude Stein’s Paris salon with a Carothers’ cubist still life near a Picasso and a Matisse. The small actual still life next to the old newspaper clipping ‘proves’ that it was in the Stein collection. Ah fake news lives in galleries too! Sheryl Zacharia’s ceramic The Dream is a delightful rendition of Picasso’s of the same title. Local Suzanne Fisher made a rich mosaic also using Picasso’s Girl before a Mirror. Phillipe Guillerm made a wonderful wood sculpture on L Homme a la Guitar, using wood’s natural ability to be scored and engraved to capture Picasso’s love of line. Joelle Angelchumbley makes found object assemblages and riffed on lesser-known Picasso totem-like found object abstract figures. Her sculptural grouping is called Ancestors. Another sculpture group riffs on a photo of Picasso smoking a cigar and features found-object relief smoking heads by Brad Devlin. It’s quite a funny grouping.
Local artists include: Joelle Angelchumbly, Jo Ann Berger, Cole Carothers, Cedric Michael Cox, Jacob Hinnenkamp, Susan Mahan, Ursula Roma, Paige Wideman, Jan Wiesner and Mark Wiesner, The artists from out of state include: Suzanne Bonser – New York, Brad Devlin – Louisville, Larry Fox – Michigan, David Goldhagen – North Carolina, Philippe Guillerm – Maine, Rodney Hatfield – Louisville, Josh Jenkins – Louisville, Sally Mae Kinsey – Indianapolis, Joan Painter Jones – Michigan, Laura Petrovic Cheney – Massachussetts, , Kathryn Siegel – Pennsylvania, Stephen Palmer – Michigan, Sheryl Zacharia – New Mexico. Enjoy this show; it is full of imaginative interpretations honoring the master.