Six black and white photography of Picasso's painting Guernica in process hang in a grid formation next to a black-and-white illustration breaking down the elements of Guernica.
Installation view, Guernica Remastered, Remai Modern, Saskatoon, 2021. Works by Dora Maar and Ad Reinhart. Photo: Carey Shaw.

Photographers and illustrator break down Guernica’s history, meaning and impact

Today’s meet the artist post is an introduction three more of the artists featured in Guernica Remastered in Remai Modern’s Picasso Gallery. 

Guernica Remastered positions Picasso’s art as an inspiration for contemporary artists. By taking Picasso’s 1937 work Guernica — a symbol of antiwar sentiment and political action — as their starting point, the artists in the exhibition produce works that emulate Picasso’s composition while speaking to present-day concerns. These recreations provide a powerful example of Picasso’s lingering impact on contemporary art, and exemplify how Guernica is called upon as a model for activist, political art. 

Dora Maar, Report of the Evolution of Guernica, 1937. Photographs reproduced with the permission of Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (MNCARS). © Picasso Estate/SODRAC 2021

Dora Maar, the surrealist photographer, gained access to Picasso’s studio during the 35 days in which he created Guernica. The photographs were extensively reproduced in art journals and newspapers, creating a narrative around the work that was attached to its process, Picasso’s artistic prowess, and the full articulation of the composition from Day One. Dora Maar was a French photographer, painter and poet active in French Surrealist circles of the 1920 and 30s. Because she was Picasso’s romantic partner from 1935 to 1943 — and the subject of numerous iconic works — Maar’s talent and importance to the history of art were often overshadowed. This began to change in the early 2000s, when scholars re-assessed Maar’s work as separate from Picasso’s myth.

Additional reading/viewing:

Jan Van Raay, Art Workers’ Coalition and the Guerilla Art Action Group protest in front of Picasso’s “Guernica” at the Museum of Modern Art, New York City with the AWC’s “And babies?” Poster, 1970. Photographs reproduced with permission from Jan Van Ray.

Jan Van Raay

Jan Van Raay has been an active participant of New York artistic and political circles since the 1970s. Closely affiliated with Art Workers’ Coalition, she has documented many of their interventions in New York’s leading museums and galleries, calling for greater accountability from the art world. Van Raay documented a demonstration of the Art Workers’ Coalition at the Museum of Modern Art, in front of Picasso’s Guernica, where members of the coalition took over the Picasso gallery and juxtaposed the iconic work against images depicting the horrors perpetrated by American soldiers in Vietnam.

Additional reading/viewing:

Ad Reinhardt, How to Look at the Picasso ‘Guernica’ Mural, PM, January 5, 1947. Reproduced with permission. © 2021 Estate of Ad Reinhardt / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Ad Reinhardt

Before embarking on a career as a successful Abstract Expressionist artist Ad Reinhart (1913-1967) worked from 1942 to 1947 as a full-time writer and illustrator for the leftist magazine PM. In his “How to Look” series, Reinhart explained the art of the time — Cubist, Surrealist and Modern art — to the magazine’s readers. Guernica, which at the time was on display at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), baffled New Yorkers. Reinhart broke down the piece into its components, explaining its motifs, composition and meaning.

Additional reading/viewing:

Guernica Remastered in on view at Remai Modern until February 27, 2022.