They’re treasured pieces of a distinguished art collection, usually kept in protective wrapping and stored away in private. But through Sept. 3, the original proofs by Pablo Picasso will be on display at the Leslie Sacks Gallery in Santa Monica.
Visitors to the Bergamot Station gallery won’t find famous works like “Guernica,” “The Old Guitarist” or “The Blue Room.” Instead, they’ll get a fresh perspective on the Spanish artist through his many series of etchings.
“You mainly hear about Picasso paintings, but he did so many different types of work — drawings, prints, etchings, ceramics, sculptures — besides painting,” said Sang Lee, the gallery’s special projects coordinator. “Printmaking was a big passion of his. A lot of the prints that he did came at a time where there was a revival of printmaking.”
The works being shown at the local gallery are among the pieces that Sacks, who died three years ago, acquired from the Picasso estate. The gallery typically features contemporary works but occasionally spotlights the Modern art that Sacks obtained over the years.
The gallery is putting the Picasso pieces on exhibit because they’re “special proofs,” Lee said. They’re on sale for $6,500 and up.
“We don’t get to show them too much,” he said.
In a drawer for many decades, the etchings offer insight into Picasso’s expansive career as an artist. Lee noted that Picasso was impressively prolific, completing a series of 347 prints in just eight months — and he was already 80 years old. (Rembrandt van Rijn, on the other hand, widely considered to be a master etcher, turned out about 300 such pieces during his whole career.)
“The amount of creativity and energy he had was incredible,” Lee said of Picasso. “And he was still doing other work.”
The exhibit provides visitors with examples of proofs before steel facing, a technique that hardens the surface of the plate into which the image would be etched. The process maintains quality over the course of an edition of etchings but tends to soften original lines and dampen subtle contrasts.
“Although steel facing allows for consistent quality throughout an edition and is in this respect an improvement over a bare copper plate, the process necessarily reduces textural delicacy and tonal depth to some degree,” an exhibit description reads. “Therefore, proofs before steel facing are the ultimate vehicles for displaying the authentic origination of the full expressive capacity of the etching process.”
Whereas Picasso’s paintings are typically larger and can be examined from a distance, the 15 black-and-white works on display at the local gallery require a more intimate approach.
“These prints have a different feel than the paintings because they’re so much more delicate and they’re smaller pieces,” Lee said. “You have to go up close.”
The Leslie Sacks Gallery is located at 2525 Michigan Ave., Space B6, at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica. The gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday. Appointments are encouraged.
For more information, call 310-264-0640 or visit lesliesacks.com.