On The Power of Black and White

Marie-ThereseThere is a portrait of Marie-Therese Walter; done entirely in black and white paint and charcoal Picasso conveys the blondeness for which she was noted. In Lee Friedlander’s Nude Series, the women’s vitality shows powerfully in the stark contrast between the light of their skins and the shadows of their apartments. Many of Jay DeFeo’s monumental canvases, done in black and white and shades of grey, makes her work feel very fresh and contemporary.

This winter I had the pleasure of viewing three terrific art shows: Picasso Black and White, Lee Friedlander Nudes and Jay DeFeo A: Retrospective. From the Guggenheim program notes: “Picasso Black and White is the first exhibition to explore the remarkable use of black and white throughout the Spanish artist’s prolific career. Claiming that color weakens, Pablo Picasso purged it from his work in order to highlight the formal structure and autonomy of form inherent in his art.” I couldn’t agree more. Whether in painting, photography, or film, a dramatic black-and-white palette captures the imagination. You can convey subtlety, transition, irony, and ambiguity, and, especially in Picasso’s case, still render color and feeling. Further, and simply, it is classic.

Picasso Black and White runs at the Guggenheim Museum through 23rd January.
Lee Friedlander Nudes was at the Pace Gallery New York.
Jay de Feo: A Retrospective runs at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art through 3rd February.