Classical Themes Reworked

Picasso, Al Taylor both explore the ancients on the Upper East Side

The classical world is continually being addressed anew in art and literature. In her new translation of Sappho’s verse “If Not, Winter,” Anne Carson combines the verbal and visual by utilizing the whiteness of the page, magnifying the absence surrounding Sappho’s work. The poems, extant as scraps of text, appear on the page as bare fragments, surrounded by blankness. This is how this ancient world appears to us, in bleached, isolated shards that seem to hold traces of an ideal world of beauty and wisdom that we somehow hope can inform the present.

C&M Arts has assembled examples of Picasso’s work which address this world of long ago, realized by the artist after a sojourn in Rome and Pompeii. Here on display are some of his most serene works. “Baigneuse a la Serviette de Bain,” for example, depicts a standing female nude; her waving hair and towel picking up a wind as she walks away from the sea. The entire image, assembled with delicate flutters of gray brushstrokes, seems to float on the large sheet of handmade paper. There are also a number of Greek and Roman sculptures borrowed from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, complementing Picasso’s paintings and drawings of classical heads, drapery, and bodies rendered to express a sculptural solidity.

A few streets away at Lawrence Markey Gallery is an exhibition of sculpture and drawings by the late Al Taylor, his “Wire Instruments” as he called them, which also seem to address the classical age. Here we are dealing with works that are quite literally lyrical; they resemble partially abstracted lyres that the ancient poets used accompany them as they sung their verses. Taylor’s sculptures are made from wood found on the street and are delicately assembled with wire. They resemble Picasso’s sculpture “Cubist Guitar,” but in their elongation and the whitewashed atmosphere of the painted wood, they are also reminiscent of Greek or Roman temple architecture. One can imagine a few lines from Sappho accompanied by plucks from one of Taylor’s shakily heroic instruments

Pictured:

GRAND ILLUSIONS

Al Taylor’s “Wire Instrument: (Danbury),” 1989, plywood, paint, wire; 49 1/4 x 6 x 3 1/4

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