20th Century Best, Courtesy Albright-Knox Art Gallery

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I wonder how many of you have ever been to Buffalo, New York. Yes, Buffalo, New York. Last Sunday, I discovered not one, but 70+ reasons to go there. In celebration of its 150th anniversary, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo organized a travelling exhibition, Gauguin to Warhol, which is currently on display at the San Diego Museum of Art.

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(L) Joan Miró, "Carnival of Harlequin," 1924-25
(R) Amedeo Modigliani, "The Servant Girl," ca. 1918

Guilty as charged, I went to see this blockbuster exhibition just a week before it closes this coming Sunday. And let me tell you my friends, if you don’t drop whatever you’re doing and rush to see this exhibition, you are depriving yourself of the rare pleasure of seeing a treasure trove of great artworks.

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(L) Roy Lichtenstein, "Head –Red and Yellow," 1962
(R) Henry Matisse, "La Musique," 1939

The museum press release states, “The works featured in this exhibition are so iconic, that they could each be the star of their own show.” And, indeed, many artists in the exhibition are represented by not just very good, but simply the best examples of their works.

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(L) Vincent van Gogh, "The Old Mill," 1888
(R) Pablo Picasso. La Toilette, 1906

Van Gogh’s countryside landscape, "The Old Mill" (1888), vibrates with his trademark bravura brushstrokes and, miraculously, retains the freshness of each color as if the paint was squeezed out of the tube just yesterday.

Picasso’s 1906 "La Toilette," with its two female figures –– one naked and the other dressed –– is his homage to classical art, and what is mind-boggling, is that it was painted just a year before his revolutionary cubist masterpiece, "Les Demoiselles d’Avignon" (1907). In just one year, Picasso makes an artistic leap that would have taken others a lifetime to achieve.

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(Top) Paul Gauguin, "Spirit of the Dead Watching, " 1892
(Bottom) Clyfford Still, "1957-D No. 1, " 1957

Gauguin’s "Spirit of the Dead Watching" (1892), with its naked teenage girl lying face down on a bed makes one wonder… Is she afraid of dead spirits, or of the looming sexual encounter? Or maybe she is anticipating the visual earthquake that Clyfford Still captures a half-century later in his majestic 1957 abstract expressionist painting.

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(L) Frida Kahlo, "Self-Portrait with Monkey," 1938
(R) Arshile Gorky, "The Liver Is the Cock’s Comb," 1944

Frida Kahlo’s "Self Portrait with Monkey" (1938), will make you long for a trip to her museum in Mexico City. One wonders what Frida would say looking at the over-the-top drama of nearby "The Liver Is the Cock’s Comb" (1944), Arshile Gorky’s abstract composition. Would she hear the echo of her own tragic experiences?

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(L) Jacques Lipchitz, "Sailor with Guitar," 1914
Photo Edward Goldman
(R) Marc Chagall, "Peasant Life," 1925

But enough with the drama, let’s have some fun. Here’s a happy, smiling peasant painted by Chagall in a nostalgic scene ("Peasant Life," 1925) evoking a pre-revolutionary Russian village. Jacques Lipchitz, another Russian expatriate, is represented by his early, and rather playful, bronze figurative sculpture, "Sailor with Guitar" (1914), with its references to Cubism. It’s difficult not to feel sad about the decline of his art as we see it in his large, bulbous, bronze sculpture, created a half-century later and, for some strange reason, has been “gracing” the Music Center plaza in downtown LA for the last few decades…

All photos courtesy of the San Diego Museum of Art, unless otherwise noted.