“Over the last two years, we discovered a lot of weird, unexpected resonances between both the two of us and our grandfathers’ practices,” Rower explained, glancing towards the pairing of artworks to his left. They are Picasso’s Portrait of a Bearded Man (1964), a pared-down self-portrait assembled from colorful lines, and Calder’s Untitled (c. 1942), a small kinetic sculpture serendipitously coated in the same palette as Picasso’s painting. They’re also the seeds from which the rest of the exhibition grew. As the story goes, Ruiz-Picasso sent an image of the painting to Rower, who replied with a shot of the sculpture. And so, a two-year collaboration commenced.
These two works make up one of several striking pairings across the show, where resemblances between Picasso’s and Calder’s use of color, line, and form are made abundantly clear. But for Rower and Ruiz-Picasso, these aesthetic parallels were but a jumping-off point for a deep dive into the conceptual underpinnings of their grandfathers’ practices. “Of course, there’s an obvious resonance here between the yellow and the green and this zigzag line,” Rower explained, gesturing towards the pieces. “But more importantly, it served as an opener to a much deeper dialogue about these artists.” Ruiz-Picasso finished the thought: “We didn’t want it to be easy, like choosing a jacket and shirt that go together when you wake up in the morning. That’s why this show took two years to organize. We went through a very slow process of studying and discovering; trying to pay attention to every aspect of our grandfathers’ creations.”
Rower and Ruiz-Picasso are uniquely positioned to study their grandfathers’ work with intensity and intimacy. Both now in their fifties, they’ve lived surrounded by Calders and Picassos—masterpieces and little-known experiments alike—since they were born. All of the pieces positioned across Rech’s New York gallery are owned by the artists’ families or their foundations; some have even sat in their foyers or hung on the walls of their bedrooms. It’s an overlap that’s made for fruitful conversation. “We grew up with these works, we live everyday with them, and we’re sharing that experience with each other,” explained Rower, glancing over at Ruiz-Picasso. In step, Ruiz-Picasso chimed in: “And through the comparison, we’re learning more about their respective practices—both the similarities and the differences.”