By Colin Smith Staff Writer
Few Kalamazoo College students realize that President Eileen Wilson-Oyeleran has a Picasso engraving on display in her house. Though not all students can walk inside to view it, they can go to the Kalamazoo Institute of Art to see other etchings by Picasso.
As a part of a monthly series called “Up Close,” the art institute examines an artist in depth, offering sessions on Thursday evenings. Picasso is the artist this month. For those who don’t want to go to a Thursday evening session, the KIA displays five of Picasso’s etchings on the first floor of their building for the public’s viewing pleasure.
Picasso started 100 etchings in 1933 as part of project he christened “Suite Vollard,” named after his art dealer at the time, according to KIA Associate Curator of Collections Greg Waskowsky. The KIA program asserts it is one of the great graphic works of the 20th century. Waskowsky described the works as one of Picasso’s greatest achievements.
Kalamazoo College Librarian Lisa Murphy said another artist, Georges Aubert, actually crafted the wooden engraving on display in the President’s house after a drawing of Picasso. Though the work is different from the etchings of Suite Vollard, visual themes and Picasso’s use of lines, shade and space can be found in the work.
The KIA’s Thursday night discussions cover the etching process and autobiographical information about Picasso. According to Waskowsky, he created his etchings through dry point and aquatinting techniques. He lived in France during this time, and he reused the figures of a sculptor, a model and a minotaur in these works. Although the etchings featured in the KIA were completed between 1933–34, the pieces published during the onset of the Spanish Civil War reflected darker themes.
Indeed, Picasso’s etchings reflected the political tensions from the rise of fascism in Europe. However, he also examined the relationship between art and life through the public life figures while borrowing the aesthetics of classical Greek art. Suite Vollard blends autobiographical elements with mythology.
The KIA searches through their collection of roughly 4,000 works in order to establish their next artist as part of their Up Close series. There’s a new artist being studied every month and art featured in the galleries that is put on rotation.