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View of “Picasso Black and White,” 2012–13. Left: Le Baiser (The Kiss), 1969. Right: Le Baiser (The Kiss), 1969. Photo: David Heald.

“Picasso Black and White”

View of “Picasso Black and White,” 2012–13. Left: Le Baiser (The Kiss), 1969. Right: Le Baiser (The Kiss), 1969. Photo: David Heald.

“PICASSO BLACK AND WHITE” is formalist with a vengeance. Curated by Carmen Giménez, the show is not thesis-driven; rather, it distills Picasso’s art to its essentials, skillfully enlisting the museum’s architecture to aid in this process. Indeed, few curators have matched Giménez’s ability to tailor exhibitions to Frank Lloyd Wright’s rotunda. As she did twenty years ago with “Picasso and the Age of Iron”—also at the Guggenheim and similarly premised on a single formal idea from start to finish—the curator uses the idiosyncratic spaces between the ramps and along the spiral as blank canvas, acting with Picasso and like Picasso.

Breezing through the artist’s Cubist works, which tended toward the monochrome rather than the truly black-and-white, the exhibition lingers on his production from the 1920s to the early ’70s, retracing, with unexpected freshness, the paintings he

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