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Three for the Road: Trio of modern masters holds court at SDMA exhibit

Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro and Alexander Calder are far more than artists; they’re 20th century icons. Now through Dec. 6, visitors to the San Diego Museum of Art (SDMA) can enjoy the works of all three masters in “Picasso, Miro, Calder Exhibition.”

The works of these artists are showcased in three rooms. The collection is in a range of media that includes recent gifts, loans and pieces from the museum’s permanent collection.

“The show is just part of a yearlong celebration of modern art at the San Diego Museum of Art,” said John Marciari, curator of the exhibit.

According to Marciari, the planning and execution of the exhibit had a long evolution. He originally designed the show to feature the museum’s current “Calder Jewelry” exhibition, which features about 90 abstract pieces of the modernist’s work, including mobiles, sculptures, earrings, necklaces and bracelets.

“Initially, we had a room of only Calder’s work, and then we expanded it to include Miro after we received a gift of a late painting by Miro last fall,” Marciari said. “After receiving a gift of a late Picasso drawing and then Picasso’s ‘Seated Woman,’ we also added a Picasso room.”

According to Marciari, the exhibit will complement Calder’s work and put it in context with the other artists’ works while highlighting recent gifts and loans to the museum.

“The major highlighted piece of the exhibit is the promised anonymous gift of Picasso’s ‘Seated Woman,’ Marciari said. “But the exhibit will also include a self-portrait by Francoise Gilot, Picasso’s former mistress, who has La Jolla connections, and the recent gift of an untitled Picasso drawing of the head of a man from Helen and Sol Price.”

Over the last 11 years, George Kenney and Olga Kitsakos-Kenney have donated five Picasso prints, which will all be featured in the show. And Picasso’s 1965 work, “Man’s Head with Red Nose,” which he painted on ceramic tiles, is on loan from a private San Diego collection.

One major highlight of the Miro room is his painting “Woman, Bird, Constellations.” It was a recent gift from Helen and Sol Price.

Michael and Karen Stone loaned their large Miro print “Escalade vers la Lune,” and the Potiker Collection loaned Miro’s drawing “Personnages dans la Nuit.”

Calder, known for inventing the mobile, is amply represented in the show. Along with his many jewelry pieces, his room features his tabletop mobile “Beastly Beestinger”; his gouache “Seated Man and Bird,” which is on loan from the Potiker Collection; his 1945 “Armadillo” piece, on loan from a private San Diego collection; and his large “Spinal Column” sculpture.

As low-level lighting is essential for the preservation of vulnerable drawings and paintings, some of the exhibition pieces have been kept in the museum’s storage for their safety and are back on view for the first time in years.

Among those rarely-on-view works are Picasso’s “Painter and Model III”; and two works by Miro: his 1966 large bronze “Solar Bird” that had previously been on view in SDMA’s Sculpture Court Cafe (but has been off view for about a year) and an untitled 1934 drawing.

The San Diego Museum of Art is at 1450 El Prado in Balboa Park, San Diego. Call (619) 232-7931 or go to

www.sdmart.org.

Bonus feature: Lecture on Picasso

In another upcoming event, SDMA and the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego will jointly present the annual Axline Lecture at 7 p.m. Oct. 26 at the Old Globe. The evening features Picasso expert John Richardson and University of San Diego professor Sally Yard in conversation. Richardson will also discuss and sign copies of his latest book, “A Life of Picasso: The Triumphant Years, 1917-1932.” For additional information, call SDMA at (619) 696-1941.

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