"Picasso Cut Papers" at the Hammer

Pablo Picasso, Head, 1943. Musée national Picasso, Paris

The Hammer's "Picasso Cut Papers" finds a new twist on the perpetually exhibited Spaniard. It brings together about a hundred works in cut, torn, folded, or burnt paper, along with a few related sheet metal sculptures. Picasso rarely sold or exhibited the cut paper works, and many have remained in collections pressed flat. Where appropriate, they regain their 3D form here.
Installation view. A temporary room at center increases wall space in the Hammer's new gallery for works on paper. Photo by Jeff McLane 
Pablo Picasso, Dove and Dog, about 1890. Museu Picasso, Barcelona
Picasso created cut-paper works through his long career. That's demonstrated by a dove and a dog made at the age of 9.  Most of the works here represent a late style, however. A large group are dated 1961, the year the artist turned 80. That's 20 years after Matisse began making his better-known paper cut-outs (he was about 72).

Most of the show may be divided into three parts. One is drawings, or blank paper, cut to an outline. These are sometimes related to cubist collage and track most closely to the Picasso we know. 
Pablo Picasso, Student with a Pipe, 1913-1914. Museum of Modern Art, New York
Pablo Picasso, Head of a Woman, 1961. Musée national Picasso, Paris 
A second part is cut paper folded or bent and attached, to become a paper sculpture or a maquette for a more durable sculpture. Missing is the best-known example, the cardboard, paper, and string guitar made in the peak cubist year of 1912. Picasso was revisiting the same themes in a sheet metal Chair made nearly half a century later.
Pablo Picasso, Chair, 1961. Cut, folded, and painted sheet metal. Musée national Picasso, Paris
Installation view. Photo by Jeff McLane
Pablo Picasso and André Villers, Mask, 1959.  Photogram cut and pasted onto blue vellum paper. Private collection
Finally there are works not easily categorized as drawings, sculptures, or Picassos. This heterogenous group is the show's revelation. For instance, from 1954 to 1962 Picasso teamed with photographer André Villers to create photograms from his cut-papers, along with grapes, noodles, ravioli, parsley, salt, sugar, and grass (chosen by Villers). In some cases Picasso then cut the resulting photograms. 

My favorite object is the one shown at top of post. It's a tiny Head in torn and burnt paper, from 1943. It seems to reference the 20th-century engagement with the art of children and outsiders (Picasso, after all, helped "discover" Henri Rousseau). Or is Head a found object, and any resemblance is coincidental? Under 2 inches wide, and executed in the most unprecious of media, it almost dares you to call it art. Head brings to mind Matt Johnson's Breadface (2004), the modestly scaled star of the Hammer's 2005 "Thing" exhibition.

"Picasso Cut Papers" is organized by Cynthia Burlingham and Allegra Pesenti. It runs through Dec. 31, 2022.
Matt Johnson, Breadface, 2005. Cast plastic with oil paint