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Staring Back:
The Creation and Legacy of Picasso’s Demoiselles d’Avignon
February 3 – June 22, 2015
Fleming Museum of Art, University of Vermont

Picasso’s 1907 painting, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, created an uproar in the Paris art world and laid the foundation for the development of Cubism. In the Spring of 2015, the University of Vermont’s Fleming Museum of Art will present an exhibition that explores Picasso’s extraordinary process in creating the painting, and the initial reaction to it, through innovative installations and advanced technologies that transform the museum experience. Informed by 50 years of scholarship, the exhibition will present new research by the Fleming’s director and Picasso scholar Janie Cohen, scheduled for publication in 2015. The exhibition will also address the painting’s ongoing legacy through the work of a diverse group of American, African, and European contemporary artists. While the painting does not travel from its home in the Museum of Modern Art, it will be represented here in an unprecedented manner.

Visitors will be introduced to the painting in an environment that evokes Picasso’s studio at the “Bateau Lavoir,” where he first showed Les Demoiselles to his close friends and colleagues in 1907; their outraged reactions may be heard against a background of ambient sounds that would have echoed through the streets of Montmartre at the time. Augmented reality will enable visitors to view images of Picasso’s studies for the individual figures and the full composition in the context of the painting, and to understand its evolution.

Picasso used creative appropriation long before it became a common artistic strategy. He found inspiration in art history and contemporary visual culture in the creation of Demoiselles, as he did in his other major paintings throughout his career. Through projected images, augmented reality, motion graphics, and other visual technologies, visitors will understand how he synthesized and transformed these vastly diverse sources – from Iberian, African, Oceanic, and Egyptian art to Baroque painting, Gauguin’s work in Tahiti, and the images of European photographers in Africa – to launch a radically new artistic vocabulary.

The largest section of the exhibition highlights the continuing power of the painting – over 100 years after its creation – as evidenced in the work of international artists, including Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou, Gerri Davis, Damian Elwes, Julian Friedler, Kathleen Gilje, Carlo Maria Mariani, Sophie Matisse, Stas Orlovski, and Jackson Tupper.

Staring Back was conceived and curated by Janie Cohen, Director of the Fleming Museum of Art, who has published on Picasso for over thirty years. The exhibition is informed by the work of numerous Picasso scholars, including Leo Steinberg, Patricia Leighten, William Rubin, Anne Baldassari, and Elizabeth Cowling, as well as Cohen, whose new research on anthropometric-style colonial African photography and Demoiselles will be published in the journal Photography and Culture in 2015. A catalogue will document all aspects of the exhibition and will be available in late March. Cohen’s project collaborators are Jenn Karson, principal, Sesamedia New Media Design, Strategy + Art; Adjunct Lecturer, University of Vermont College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences, and Founder, Vermont Makers, Burlington, Vermont; and Coberlin Brownell, Asst. Professor in the Emergent Media Program at Champlain College, Burlington, Vermont.

Generous support for this exhibition has been provided by the Kalkin Family Exhibitions Endowment Fund; the Walter Cerf Exhibitions Fund; Rolf Kielman and Stephanie Spencer;
TruexCullins Architecture and Interior Design; Kimberley Adams, M.D. and Mark Depman, M.D.; the Offices of the President and the Provost at the University of Vermont; and the Fleming Contemporary Art Fund.


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