Looking Back In Order to Move Forward

Looking Back In Order to Move Forward

Arts May 01, 2013 / By Jessica L. Porter
Looking Back In Order to Move Forward

How looking back 40 years on one artist's life inspired the creator, other artists and countless visitors to the exhibition Drink to Me.

After spending most of my education looking back (art history, foreign language and literature and law), I’ve spent most of my professional career looking forward. Being a small business owner, entrepreneur, art dealer, gallery owner, art consultant (and the countless other hats I wear everyday) I find that I spend almost all of my time looking forward. From the small things like ordering office supplies we will need next week to the bigger things like planning exhibitions to open next year, I have little time to reflect on what has been done. Even in the media we are constantly told to look ahead but how often are we truly encouraged to look back.

I recently launched an exhibition that not only allowed me to look back professionally and personally but also gave contemporary artists and visitors a chance to do so as well. Forty years ago on April 8, 1973 Pablo Picasso died and on the same day, I was born. My “personal” connection to Picasso has always been in the back of my mind as I grew up and studied art history, became a curator at a museum and eventually became a gallery owner. I decided to celebrate this connection, my birthday and an opportunity to inspire artists to tell the world what they think of Picasso through an exhibition entitled Drink to Me that opened on April 4. From the early planning stages I knew the show was going to be interesting from the reactions of artists as I invited them to participate---from “does it have to be nice because I don’t like him” to “I know exactly what I’m going to paint”. Each artist took an aspect of either Picasso’s life or his work and created something that speaks to it now, 40 years later. Like the title of the exhibition, some artists took inspiration from quotes from Picasso himself, some from images of him and some from his work. There are even a few interpretations on the same theme where artists created something radically different. Some of the works are quite obvious reflections of Picasso and others require you to dig deeper. The exercise gave artists an opportunity to look back at someone who was one (if not the one) of the first art stars of our time.

The inspiration has continued to the visitors to Drink to Me bringing in all ages from parents who wish to educate and inspire to art historians interested in the contemporary views of someone they have spent so much time studying and interpreting themselves. The exhibition has inspired teachers to bring their school classes (even creating assignments built around the show) and has inspired some media outlets to capture the importance of 40 years without Picasso.

Through reflecting and interpreting the past, the artists used the exhibition to unearth rarely shared stories, images and thoughts on Picasso not revealed anywhere else to not only continue Picasso’s influence on the future of art but to give an opportunity to say what it all means to a generation of artists now.

For your own reflection and inspiration, visit the gallery at 548 W. 28th Street, 3rd Floor, NYC through May 18 or visit Porter Contemporary's website for more information and a slideshow of the 22 artist views of Picasso.

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