Pablo Picasso did not speak often about abstraction, but when he did, it was either to dismiss it as complacent decoration or to declare its very notion an oxymoron. The root of this hostility is to be found in the impasse that the artist reached in the summer 1910, when abstraction suddenly appeared as the logical development of his previous work, a possibility at which he recoiled in horror. But though he swore to never go again near abstraction, he could not prevent himself from testing his resolve from time to time. The paper will examine several encounters, or rather false encounters, of Picasso with abstraction. The talk will also discuss the way in which pioneers of abstract art (Mondrian in particular) thought of their own art as the continuation of Picasso’s.
Yve-Alain Bois is Professor in the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He has written extensively on 20th century art, from Matisse and Picasso, Mondrian and Lissitzky to postwar American art, particularly Minimal art. He coorganized the 19945 retrospective of Piet Mondrian in The Hague, Washington and New York. In 1996, he curated the exhibition “L’informe, mode d’emploi” with Rosalind Krauss at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. Other exhibitions that he curated include "Matisse and Picasso: A Gentle Rivalry" at the Kimbell Museum of Art (1999); “Ellsworth Kelly: Early Drawings” at the Fogg Art Museum; “Picasso Harlequin” at the Vittoriano in Rome (2008-2009). Among other projects, he is currently working on the catalogue raisonné of Ellsworth Kelly’s paintings and sculpture, the first volume of which was just published.