Originally published in the Marina Times San Francisco in December 2016
As part of an ongoing series dedicated to the artist’s work, SFMOMA presents Paul Klee’s paintings, drawings, and prints alongside the handmade puppets he created for his son, Felix. While looking for frames at the Munich flea market, Klee dropped off his son at the local puppet show, creating a mutual fascination between father and son. Crafted from fabric scraps, found objects, paint, and papier-mâché, the puppets combine the central theme of Klee’s work — the idea of play, with his love of theater. (The puppets’ stylized, angular forms appear influenced by Bauhaus theater.)
In his home, Klee invented stories, stage sets, and backdrops to bring his puppet theater to life purely to entertain his child, and although the puppets contain the same dreamlike whimsy of Klee’s paintings, they have only recently been considered as art objects. The viewer’s imagination finishes the story: clowns, ghosts, poets, and specters — it’s easy to imagine the puppets, now still and silent, animated by the hand of the artist who created them so many years ago, and the joy they brought to life in the private world of Paul and Felix Klee.
Paul Klee at Play: Fri.–Tue. 10 a.m.–5 p.m. & Thursday 10 a.m.–9 p.m. through May 14, 2017; $25; SFMOMA, 151 Third Street, 415-357-4000, sfmoma.org