As I stated before, The Picasso Sculpture exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (through February 7th) is like a huge (159 works!) group exhibition of a dozen great sculptors. The guy was a monster – some kind of freak.
On a recent return visit, I was struck by the various ways Picasso used the base for his sculptures. (I am deliberately using the term base, because pedestal and stand imply more of a separation between the sculpture and its support than is usually the case with Picasso.) His bases, when he uses them at all, set off the work, but they also become a part of it. I'm not making a claim that Picasso was the first to do this – it was probably Brancusi, or maybe Giacometti – but I'd like to point out some brilliant examples.
In his Reclining Bather, 1931 (below), the base of the sculpture is whatever it is the bather is reclining on (grass? sand? dirt?).
|Reclining Bather, 1931, bronze, 9 1/16 x 28 3/8 x 12 3/16 inches (Musèe national Picasso).|
|Woman Reading, 1951-53, painted bronze, 6 1/8 x 14 x 5 1/8 inches (Centre national d'art et culture Georges Pompidou).|
|Cock, 1932, bronze, 25 13/16 x 22 15/16 x 15 9/16 inches (Tate).|
|Bather, 1931, bronze, 27 9/16 x 15 13/16 x 12 3/8 inches (Musèe national Picasso).|
The smooth, round disc of the base in Head of a Woman, 1931, and many similar sculptures of this period, sets itself off from the rougher treatment above it. And this rough area seems to extend into the smooth, rounded (and quite phallic) neck and head.
|Head of a Woman, 1931, plaster, 37 13/16 x 12 5/8 x 19 1/8 inches (Musèe national Picasso).|
|The Orator, 1933-34, plaster, stone, and metal dowel, 72 x 26 x 10 5/8 inches (Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco).|
|The Bathers, 1956, wood (Staatgalerie Stuttgart).|
|Detail closeups of the stands for The Bathers, 1956 (above).|
|Fountain Man, The Bathers, 1956, wood (Staatgalerie Stuttgart).|
By the way, the figure in the middle background, Fountain Man, is a man urinating. Once The Bathers were cast in bronze, Picasso intended a water pipe to be installed in it to provide a stream of water. It's unclear from the exhibition catalog if this was ever carried out.