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Say hello to Picasso and some of his friends

If you have a chance to see a work - any work - by Pablo Picasso, take it.

Right now, that means getting to the New Gallery of Modern Art on The Green, just across South Tryon Street from the Bechtler Museum, to see "Modern Masters: Paris & Beyond."

The show is unusual for Charlotte, in the medium (prints) and the quality of the artists, not just Picasso but Matisse, Joan Miro, Salvador Dali, Marc Chagall and others.

On one wall hang three Picassos, delights for anyone who appreciates a sure hand and line. The two outside prints concern a man with a bull's head. In one he pursues fleeing women. In another, he is prey, about to be speared by a nude wielding the bullfighter's banderillas.

In just two works we have a take on the battle of the sexes by an artist who liked to depict himself as a satyr.

In between these two is a representation of a family of saltimbanques - acrobats. Picasso, who saw himself as a performer as much as an artist, loved the subject. This piece has an air of mystery. A woman nurses a child as a clown, horse, child and naked woman look on.

Bracketing the tableau are an old woman with a tambourine and a man with a monkey.

Done in Picasso's neoclassical style, it is a killer work.

Dali likewise shows an energetic line in his "Three Graces," riffing on a classical theme.

Miro is all about rich color offset by forms in thick black lines.

Chagall's three pieces brim with his fanciful inventions - angels and a flying cow- and show a use of local color different from Miro's. Blues and reds seem to be breathed onto the paper.

Active in Paris, these early modernists helped set down the art vocabulary of the 20th century. At the Bechtler, you can see "Geometry and Experimentation," a later edition of Modernism. That work looks at abstraction. The artists at the New Gallery more or less kept a hold on the human figure.

The work is priced from $1,250 to $31,000 (for the "Saltimbanques"), much of it at the lower end, to be "accessible pricewise," says gallery director Irina Toshkova.

And so they are - but more than that, accessible to the eye and spirit.

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