The black lines are boldly defined but also strangely elastic, tightly wound but wiry enough that you can almost reach into the blobs and pluck them like strings on a harp. The sharp colors contained inside these forms — suggestions of a tablecloth, flowers, the slant of a country house — are designed to blast the eye, threatening to burst as if they were balloons pregnant with oil paint. Has there ever been a more sensuous water pitcher? Was a piece of fruit ever this dynamic? Crowded inside of a 76 A¬-inch by 51 A«-inch canvas, all of these playful shapes suggest movement and transition; this is a still life that breathes, sighs, laughs and — yes — makes love. In short, it lives.
Place it in another time and context and this picture could be something else entirely — a '40s comic-book panel blown up, framed and exhibited in a hall of mirrors, perhaps. Or is it a seminal piece of pop art from the 1960s — a collaboration between Peter Max and Roy Lichtenstein? With some of these shapes, we may be viewing fleeting premonitions of Keith Haring's work in the 1980s. There's a chance that this painting doesn't depict objects at all, but is instead a commissioned portrait of a famous person (See the eyes? The moustache?), a piece skewed and distorted to throw off hints of the Great Man's temperament, his longing, his place in the world.
The year is 1931 and the painting is Pablo Picasso's “Large Still Life with a Pedestal Table,” a work of imagination so rich that a viewer could live inside it for months, perhaps years, constantly engaged in the act of discovery and rediscovery. It is but one of dozens of the Spanish master's paintings to be shown at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts starting this month during a pivotal time in the history of the commonwealth's greatest museum.
But while we acknowledge VMFA's genuine curatorial triumph, and mark the moment for posterity, let's also take time to chart the progress of many of Richmond's other arts organizations, some of them starting off with high hopes, others flourishing with renewed purpose or floundering in scandal or uncertainty.
Style Weekly's 2011 Midseason Arts issue serves as a snapshot of a very special time in Richmond's artistic history — a period boldly defined by our distinguished arts institutions and co-ops, but elastic enough to accommodate bold and bursting colors dreamed up by inspired individuals and genre-breaking iconoclasts. The sexy tableware is extra. — Don Harrison
Visit from a Genius
What do we really know about Picasso anyway?
by Edwin Slipek Jr.[image-3]
Panic at the Opera
Now that Virginia Opera founder Peter Mark has made his exit, what's next?
by Rich Griset[image-4]
The new president of the Visual Arts Center has an eye on results, accountability and expansion.
by Richard Foster[image-5]
Love Her Madly
Intense romance highlights Richmond Ballet's “Giselle.”
by Lea Marshall[image-6]
New Kid in Town
CenterStage's new executive director, Richard Parison, lays out his vision for the performing arts center.
by Don Harrison[image-7]
From the Attic to the Moon
With Spacebomb, Matt White searches for that elusive Southern groove.
by Peter McElhinney[image-8]
A Short Trip Home
Joe Seipel returns to Richmond to become VCU's arts dean.
by Malcolm Venable[image-9]
Love and Other Crimes
Richmond Shakespeare explores the forbidden with “Romeo and Juliet.”
by Mary Burruss[image-10]
Petersburg's Sycamore Rouge joins the burgeoning wave of stage co-productions.
by David Timberline[image-11]
Film pours gas on the fiery Richmond moped scene.
by Wayne Melton