Apr 29, 2011

Picasso at the VMFA, notes, thoughts, etc part 2

So I tried to approach the Picasso show with fresh eyes. I ignored most of the biographical content in order to simply look and respond to the work. The first piece that I felt a deeper engagement with was a painting of 2 bubbly abstracted figures copulating on what appeared to be a desolate seashore. The copulation wasn't sensual it was more violent, like they were attacking each other. What was so striking to me was the transformation of the scene. The background is simplified but not abstracted in the same sense as the figures. To me, this created a dissonance that was both exciting and melancholy. That doesn't seem to translate at all in this little jpeg. That dissonance really traps the figures in time in a way that seemed eerily familiar and somewhat ugly.

Two other pieces affected me in a similar way: there was a painting of a light in a wine bottle juxtaposed with a goat skull figure. He painted the emanating light from the candle in the wine bottle. Next to the painting was a sculpture of the same scene but with the rays of light made into physical brutal spikes. This represented to me another brutal transformation of the known physical, experienced world into limbo. I distinctly got the impression with these pieces that I was seeing a wholly realized, if terrifying, alternative reality. Not just the idea of an alternative reality, the actual thing. Like I had a portal to it.

Picasso at the VMFA, notes, thoughts, etc

First of all, I'm not entirely sure Virginia is ready for 1910 based on the conversations I overheard. For example: "Well, TO ME, that just doesn't look like it should be in a museum". To me, that just shows that you're completely unaware of what it is an artist is trying to do. Drawing is thinking through the hand. Picasso's drawings are of interest because you can see that thought process in a stripped down form. Also, *BACKHAND*.

This is not to say I don't have questions, concerns, preoccupations with the show also. Unfortunately, I can't seem to separate my personal studio preoccupations with what I'm seeing at the museum. So let me get that out of the way and come back around to the show....

It's a problem of purity, a problem of everything's permitted so therefore nothing seems to matter in particular. This feeling is not limited to the studio. Within the studio, this is translating into a problem differentiating art from fashion. The general distinction is simple and well-understood: art carries meaning where fashion carries superficial contemporary aesthetics. But the specific is tricky, as always.

I'm craving a method, a recipe. I'm tired of what feels like random achievement. At the same time I am wary of abstraction with a system behind it. I'm also feeling very seduced by contemporary fashion. It just happens to reflect back my own sensibilities. In 5 years I'll be out of fashion, it's just coincidence, the wheel turning. Unfortunately, my own yearning for meaning manifests as an urge to mythologize. It's very hard for me not to jump straight from that urge into primitivism and symbolism. I keep hovering around the native american and Ife exhibits at the museum like some kind of nerdy ghost. Of course, this sort of thing happens to be in fashion right now. Are you feeling my frustration yet?? It does seem important not to be reactionary also.

Part 2 after work...where I will bring this all around to Picasso, I swear.