Picasso and Ceramics at the University of Toronto Art Centre (15 King's College Circle), to January 23, 2005. $16, stu/srs $12, free November 21. 416-978-1838. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
It's almost a relief to see evidence of a milder artisan's temperament in the current exhibit of Picasso's clay works (sponsored by the Gardiner Museum at the U of T Art Centre ). Sculpting shapes with his hands or glazing pieces produced by potters (Picasso never threw a pot himself), the Promethean genius let himself relax and play. Ceramics, halfway between sculpture and painting, allowed him to experiment in three dimensions.
There's a lot to see here, from sculptures to amphorae and platters, each treated with different glazing, moulding and printing techniques.
He built flowers directly into vases, decorated platters with impish clown faces and bullfighting scenes and experimented with a wide variety of human and animal forms.
A ceramic head of a woman echoes his portraits of Dora Maar, and white ceramic plaques show his attempt to map out his painterly ideas in raised lines of clay.
It's all tirelessly innovative, colourful and bold, bold, bold.
In some pieces, however, the goat-footed Mediterranean virility gives way to something else. Two large-scale vases featuring dancing nymphs and satyrs demonstrate a lightness of touch that borders on magical.
They show us a Picasso who, when he wasn't busy being bold, could be lyrical and still let his natural gifts shine through.