* Pablo Picasso’s “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon,” 1906-07,...

* Pablo Picasso’s “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon,” 1906-07, a painting at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. “It was always my favorite Picasso. It’s such a landmark in the shift of perception in the West. I’d love to live with it.

"(When I was 11), Picasso was my role model. He was known through the American press as . . . the creative genius that was picking up and changing the way we saw. ‘Demoiselles’ was always a touchstone for me, with its (source in) African sculpture and (beginnings of) Cubism and radicalization of how we visualize our world, moving into geometry and emotion simultaneously.”

* Marcel Duchamp’s “Boite en Valise,” 1941, a mixed-media, multipart work contained in a box; made in a multiple edition. “When you open it up there is a series of lift-out pages with reproductions of all of his Cubist paintings, and little objects (miniatures of some of Duchamp’s famous ‘ready-mades,’ including the urinal he turned upside down and titled ‘Fountain’) . . . . He denies the existence of the original object (in his use of pre-existing objects freshly seen as art), and he makes all these reproductions of things that were already ‘ready-mades.’ In true Duchampian fashion, he folds (the piece) back on itself.

“I’ve worked at two museums that have had them in their collections (the Seattle Art Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles; the Los Angeles County Museum also has one). They set you thinking about things--the way you move from painting to object, the recontextualization of objects and art and life. It was an attempt to create his own memorial retrospective. It sums up his entire aesthetic, all of his ideas.”

* Willem de Kooning’s “Woman and Bicycle,” 1952-53, a painting at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. “It’s a classic breakthrough: woman (as) icon, Marilyn (Monroe), the intersection between figuration and abstraction. It’s horrific and celebratory all at once. . . . You’re not conscious of the quality of paint in Picasso’s ‘Demoiselles,’ but with de Kooning, it’s the physicality of gesture and painting itself.”


* Robert Rauschenberg’s “Rodeo,” a “combine” (mixed-media work) now in a private collection. “It’s one of those classic objects. It includes everything: a screen door, bandannas, images of astronauts, a beautiful paint surface, different collaged fabrics. Its combination of structure and freedom opens the door to how we understand how a painting is made or how a world is constructed. He touches his Southern Louisiana-Texas roots in the title, but (the work is) pure artifice, pure abstract construction, with references in the world that lead your mind back and forth.”

* Joseph Beuys’ “The Pack,” 1969, a sculpture at the Museum Fridericainum, Kassel, Germany. “It’s an old VW microbus, out of which spill maybe 25 children’s sleds with rolled-up (lengths of) felt and a cane and a chunk of fat and a flashlight. It was about a performance. Beuys drove a van across a platz (town square) and sleds came tumbling out and spread out like a river.

“It helped to change the face of European art in ‘60s. It changed my consciousness about the intersection of performance and object. The microbus was a proletariat car of the ‘60s and early ‘70s and yet it becomes a vehicle for Beuys’ imaginings on personality and identity. (When his German air force plane crashed in the frozen Crimea in 1943, rescuers wrapped Beuys in fat and an insulating layer of felt, life-saving materials which became deeply meaningful symbols in his work.)

"('The Pack’) is a personal metaphor of transportation: the downward hurdle of the sled, dependent on gravity. (The piece recalls) both the specifics of (Beuys’ life), from Luftwaffe pilot to Free University guru, and the broad cultural transition, personal and societal, from Right to Left, conservative to liberal.”