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Find Pablo Picasso and friends at the Arkansas Arts Center.

click to enlarge IMAGINARY: Picasso portrait.
  • IMAGINARY: Picasso portrait.

Pablo Picasso’s groundbreaking work in Cubism and his late-in-life experimentation in ceramics and painting on cardboard will be the focus of three shows opening Friday, June 2, at the Arkansas Arts Center under the title “Pursuing Picasso.”

The Wolfe and Jeannette Rockefeller galleries will hold the three exhibits — “Picasso and Paris,” which will include work by contemporaries from the singularly productive era at the dawn of the 20th century; “Picasso Ceramics from the Bernie Bercuson Collection” from the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art, and “Imaginary Portraits,” portraiture on cardboard by the mature master — through Sept. 3.

The Picassos in the “Paris and Picasso” exhibit will be complemented by works by his contemporaries from the Arts Center’s own collection, including drawings by Georges Braque (“Still life with glasses”), Juan Gris (“Personnage assis”) and Henri Matisse (“Artist and model before a mirror”), as well as works by Paul Cezanne, Elie Nadelman, Diego Rivera, Max Beckmann and Carl Holty that will give context to the birth of Cubism. Of the more than 60 works of art in the exhibit, many will come from anonymous private collections.

Picasso paired pitchers and platters with expressionist brushwork on his familiar themes — bullfights, dancers, Don Quixote, the bright sun of the Mediterranean — during his collaborative work at the Madoura factory in southern France from 1947-71. The exhibit includes 66 ceramic pieces and photographs of Picasso at Madoura.

Picasso was 87 when he began work on his imaginary portraits done in gouache on corrugated cardboard from boxes of art supplies delivered to his studio on the French Riviera. The work was replicated in lithographs under Picasso’s direction by Marcel Salinas; the show will include all 29 portraits, thanks to an arrangement with the Jacksonville (Fla.) Museum of Modern Art.

The Picasso party will be accompanied by a number of special Picasso-centered special events.

Starting Friday, a Picasso Play Space will be set up in the galleries to provide children a place to draw and study the principles of cubism with puzzles and a Mr. Picasso-Head board. Classes in portraiture and printmaking for children ages 6 to 14 will be added to the regular summer Museum School courses.

Two films will be shown, “Surviving Picasso” at the Market Street Cinema on Thursday, June 15, and “The Mystery of Picasso” documentary at the Arts Center on Thursday, July 13. Dr. Floyd W. Martin of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock will give a lecture and slide presentation on Picasso’s life on Tuesday, June 20.

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