Studio Proof: The "Transfigurations" Experience

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

The Wexner Center for the Arts is currently showing an unparalleled collection of masterpieces from Pablo Picasso, Alberto Giacometti, Jean Dubuffet, Susan Rothenberg and Willem de Kooning in “Transfigurations.” The works are all from the Wexner Family Collection, and, simply put, it’s an exhibit everyone should see.

While I can’t state enough how tremendous it was to walk through this exhibition — make sure to spend some time with the supplemental components (touch screens, timeline, video installations) to get an in-depth look at these artists and their work — I was actually surprised by how I felt.

I assumed I would be most impressed by the Picasso paintings, specifically his “Nu au fauteuil noir (Nude in a black armchair).” It was almost surreal to be within feet of such renowned artwork, and it was actually an experience.

But I was shocked by the two works that most intrigued me. One was a Picasso; “Femme nue dans l’atelier (Nude woman in the studio)” (pictured). I found the model’s pose within the chaotic geometrics representing Picasso’s studio entrancing. Once I read a bit more about the piece, I was only more interested.

As I moved to the back of the exhibition to see Giacometti’s sculptures, I saw his only painting in the exhibition, “Diego dans l’atelier (Diego in the studio).” The frenetic, sketch-like line work and the obscured face of Diego (Giacometti’s brother) are captivating. There’s a haunting quality to the portrait, yet it’s barely present, making the piece that much more effective.

I wondered why I was drawn to two portraits in the artist’s studios. Was it the setting? No, I realized it was the faces and their emptiness. You can’t see any emotion or even distinguishable features in either.

I embraced these paintings because there was a human quality conveyed, despite each obscuring or ignoring the most human element of portrait — the face. The humanity came from the artists.

Image courtesy Wexner Family Collection © 2014 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York