Monday, November 30, 2009

"There’s a desperate falseness to the figuration in most of his work, the progression is towards a failure as mimesis and a focus on manifestation alone. The works embody and articulate a complex reaction to the world but the world exists more and more in the experience of methods and material. He’s “competing with the world.” [Anne Baldessari, Matisse Picasso, exhibition catalogue, MoMA/Tate, 2002. Page 126] But that’s not what he wants. And at his best with the conflicts at their peak there’s no pretense at resolution. Les Demoiselles d’Avignon is so important to our understanding of the period because it is one of the few great moments of depiction in 20th century painting, and the last great act of depiction in Picasso’s career. His terrifying whores of Calle Avignon are not complex characters by the standards of art history as a whole but they’re more autonomous than we’re used to with Picasso, especially in his images of women. They look back at us as Manet’s barmaids and prostitutes do and Picasso tries to destroy them for that and fails, the proof, lying between the artist and his models his severed member on a plate. The greatness of the painting has everything to do with Picasso’s admission of defeat in the world beyond it. " [pdf-updated]

I'm catching some flack for this and I don't understand it at this point. Did Picasso ever paint another painting with subjects so dangerously alive? Alive is a relative term in art and especially in Picasso, but can there even be an argument? As with the preference for materiality over mimesis: what does it imply?

In other news: Switzerland bans Yarmulkes.
Johnson sends more troops to Southeast Asia

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