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Posts Tagged ‘Pablo Picasso’

pavement1

At a distance you see an engrossing painting in muted complimentary colors, blues and orange-browns.  If you move pavement1numbersclose to this canvas you’ll see that things are glued onto it.  At (2) there’s a distressed black rectangle with a yellow band at the bottom that has a zig-zag line on it.  At (3) the artist painted a continuation of (2).  At (1) we find a rich brown patch that is actually a piece of sand paper. At (4), some pieces of cloth and frayed canvas.

The realization that these banal objects on the canvas [(2) is some rubber that was found on the street] are used so harmoniously in the painting is thrilling to any modernist.  This juxtaposition of aesthetics and the mundane marks modernism.

Before 1912 painters did not glue anything onto their drawings or paintings. That summer in 1912, however, Georges Braque saw some fake wood grain wall paper in a store window, bought a roll and pasted strips of it into his charcoal drawings. The audacity!  You call that art!? Art was expected to emanate from some higher power and remind us of lofty ideals to live up to.  Now this!  Even Picasso was shocked.  But he immediately understood that collage was another way to subvert the ideals of the Renaissance and so, of course, he was all for it.  Thus we have the beginning of Synthetic Cubism, which gave us a new way of staying alert when looking at art and life.  Thank you, Braque!

Georges Braque (French, Argenteuil 1882–1963 Paris) Fruit Dish and Glass, Sorgues, autumn 1912 Charcoal and cut-and-pasted printed wallpaper with gouache on white laid paper; subsequently mounted on paperboard; 24 3/4 × 18 in. (62.9 × 45.7 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Promised Gift from the Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection (SL.17.2014.1.8) http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/490612

Painting with mixed media by Terry Fohrman, oil on canvas on board, ~20” x 16”

Georges Braque 1881-1963

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PicassoHead
It’s not really a triptych, it’s one painting. But there are prominent vertical lines that suggest a division into three parts.
Altar pieces in the Middle Ages often took the form of a triptych, where the center panel was larger and depicted the main theological message. In this painting, however, the center “panel” is rather vacant. It has the least detail. It leaves you peaceful and open to possibilities. Your eye is drawn to the edges, where the action is and this keeps you jumpin’, as they say in jazz.
picassoShadowAt the top left there’s a circular form, a sort of blue balloon atop a narrow black “stem.” Of course, we associate this to a human head. The artist’s intention was to balance the  disk in the lower right corner. But in the upper part of a painting such a round shape (especially on a “stem”) will trigger the human association. Once we have that, we can even find legs in the painting.
This reminded me of the games Picasso plays.
Painting by Michael Quoss, oil on canvas, 30”x40”.
Pablo Picasso, “The Shadow,” 1953.
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PicassoSabineWomen

A friend sent me this postcard from Boston this summer:  Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), “Rape of the Sabine Women,”   1963.

It’s as unmistakably Picasso as “Guernica,” 1937.  Both paintings are from an artist who was a life-long renouncer of the insanities created by politics, war being pre-eminent among them.  He was an anarchist.

He had mastered the techniques of the Renaissance by the time he was fourteen and then set out to produce work that was distinctly anti-Renaissance.  As if to say, “sorry, folks, we took a wrong turn there; this stuff from the 15-16-17 hundreds is really enticing, but it’s all based on enslavement and torture of one group or another.”  He loved African art because, as he said, “it’s against everything.”  By “everything,” I think, he meant western civilization.

PicassoGuernicaHe painted “Guernica” as an outrage against the bombing of a Basque town during the Spanish Civil War in 1937.  He used his skill at distortion to get at the ineffable suffering and horror of that day.  The viewer stands before this work, mute, despairing.

While living in Paris as a young man, Picasso frequently visited the Louvre, where he certainly saw “The Rape of the Sabine Women” by Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665).  At age 82 and living in his villa in the south of France, Picasso takes up this theme. As in “Guernica” we see the assault and butchery of innocents. There are four figures: a woman crushed on the ground, a child screaming for help, a soldier on horseback wielding a spear and a soldier on foot with a sword. 

Again, the distortion of the figures is extreme.  This time, it seems, Picasso isn’t asking us to feel empathy and outrage.  Instead, it seems to me, this image is comical.  The comical effect comes from the facile lines.  Compare, for example, the slashed, broken hands in “Guernica” to the hands in “Sabine Women,” where we get loopy-doopy toes and gooey-oozy fingers. Here the lines are fast, facile and glib.  “Guernica” takes a long time to look at, even in reproduction.  Here, in his “Sabine Women,” the eye loops through the composition very quickly. These easy, fast lines do not convey suffering and do not evoke empathy.  Maybe Picasso at 82 is beyond outrage.  This painting seems to be a satire.  He has given up on us and can only show us how comical and testosterone-driven our world is.

PoussinRapeSabineLouvreAnd is the Poussin painting not comical?  In its day, war was glorious. Really?  Who thought war was glorious?  Must have been the kings.  They started those wars and thought they themselves were radiating glory.  But what about the artists, what did they think?  Oh, well, the artists worked for the kings and that whole crowd that benefited from wars.  Is this not a comical situation?  Well, we only broke the spell of the “glorious” in the 20th century.  One way, probably the best way, to break a spell is to make fun of it.  Draw some loopy-doopy lines to make the point that what used to be “glorious”  is really  hopelessly, pathetically laughable. 

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121108LinesBad1Looking at art you don’t like is a valuable exercise.  It sounds counter-intuitive, but I recommend that you get yourself a library book that contains your most loathed paintings, pour yourself a favorite drink and ensconce yourself with this picture book in a soft pile of cushions in the corner of your couch. You’re scrutinizing the image of this loathsome work of art and at the same time you’re introspecting, observing what happens in your imagination.  What chain reaction of associations does this image unleash?  Do it one evening, just set aside an hour for this weird exercise.  Then rest a few days and repeat.

Here are the seven line drawings that do not feel right. (See previous post for the five good ones).  Btw, the ratio of 5 good to 7 bad is about right.  I expected a higher number to turn out bad.  Remember, these drawings took only a few seconds, were done without revisions or corrections, one after the other.

You can start your meditation on bad art right here with these line drawings. (Click for enlargements.)

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In the next post,perhaps I should reproduce some of my favorite loathsome works by such luminaries as Max Beckmann,  Richard Diebenkorn, Pablo Picasso and August Renoir.  Would I dare?

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