Q & A with Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, on the new exhibit Picasso and Chicago

February 15, 2013 | By Laurence Geannopulos

Q & A with Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, on the new exhibit Picasso and Chicago opening on February 20, 2013 in Chicago. He will offer his insights on the work of Pablo Picasso in a lecture entitled Picasso Not in America on February 21.

Q1: What will be the topic of your lecture?

The topic of my lecture… is the way that Picasso's imagination of America met and matched… and in some ways mis-matched America's imagination of Picasso. The "polysemic" Picasso -- the Picasso's whose experiments with multiple meanings in a single image gave him his greatest originality -- was appreciated in America from the first Cubist shows. The paradox is that many of the detractors of the great Picasso public sculpture in Chicago intuitively grasped the "instability" of Picasso's meanings better than his defenders did.

Q2: Picasso did have a love affair with Chicago. Which artist could have the same experience today?

Picasso's love affair with Chicago, like Simone de Beauvoir's with Nelson Algren, was in many ways a romance of the mind:  she had a notion of "Chicago man" in her mind before she met him, as Picasso had a notion of "Chicago space" in his head without ever actually seeing it.  I don't know if any one artist still participates in this comedy of misunderstanding, but of course it goes on -- what Americans see in Paris is very different from what Parisians see there; what the French see in Chicago is very different from what Illinois' see -- to this day.

Adam Gopnik is a writer for The New Yorker—to which he has contributed non-fiction, fiction, memoir and criticism—and is the author of the New York Times bestseller essay collection Paris to the Moon, an account of five years that he spent in the French capitalHe wrote an insightful essay in the exhibit catalogue Picasso and Chicago: 100 Years, 100 Works written by Stephanie D'Alessandro, the Gary C. and Frances Comer Curator of Modern Art and published by the Art Institute.

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