Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Don't You Dare Like Picasso

Yes, I will be the last from the group that visited “Picasso et les Maîtres” to comment...

It has come to my attention recently that amongst many Parisians, Picasso is very unpopular. Though the line-up Sunday (and the crowd inside) was very impressive, I have been a bit turned-off by the attitude that some of the Parisians that I interact with regularly display towards this grand artiste. Before I went to the exhibit, my host father made a point of asking me if I liked Picasso. Since I never know what the “right thing to do” is in parisian culture, I remained pretty neutral. “Yes,” I said, “but I don’t know very much about him and I haven’t seen much of his work.” Lies. I have seen several Picasso exhibits and I do like his work. “Il fait n’importe-quoi un peu, n’est-ce pas?” my host dad replied. I was a little shocked by this response. Given that Picasso is so highly regarded and is such a presence in many “high” art galleries, I couldn’t believe that my very cultured (though traditionalist) host father, who worked as an appraiser for a bank most of his life, couldn’t at least admit that there was a good deal of thought in his artistry. In his opinion, Picasso was just doing “n’importe-quoi”, which is an expression that implies not only “doing whatever”, but also a sense that there is a randomness, a carelessness to it.

I really like Picasso’s work. There it is, a banal statement, but his early work in the Blue Period, all the way to cubism, is pretty stunning. Though it wasn’t at the museum this time around, my favourite is this one: http://www.roberthouse.com/other/france/images/london/picasso.jpg. I love the shades he uses, and in my experience in the painting class I’m taking this quarter, it must be very difficult to mix paints so close in hue, but that stand out from each other all the same. Concerning his cubist representations, I really enjoyed his take on the narrative of the Sabines, and his collection of matadors. I enjoyed this one in particular: http://www.artchive.com/artchive/p/picasso/sabine.jpg, because I think the phallic suggestiveness and spin on David’s classical nudism is “amusant”. I also think the child in the painting adds a lot of movement, and for me, this is an example of cubism working it’s best to give the impression of many different perspectives, in a way that really catches the attention and the eye. It was very interesting to see Picasso’s work next to some that inspired it. The mix of classic, neo-classic, cubism, etc. was very interesting, because it actually highlighted the similarities between the styles, versus the (perhaps) expected opposite. For me, this particularly showcased the fact that Picasso was a forward thinker, and really stepped away from his peers in a new direction. Maybe that’s why he’s so prevalent in art galeries. Maybe it’s just that people like “that guy in the red coat that always stands directly in front of me”, or “that goth wearing a corset and a skirt even though he’s a guy with a hairy chest” relate to the rebel in his art.

Once again, you can imagine my dismay yesterday in interacting with two people who had utter disrespect for Picasso’s art. The first one was actually one of two painting teachers that teach my class at l’Ecole des Arts Plastiques. Though I know absolutely nothing about painting, I’m taking this class with the hopes of enriching my art history studies. Well, you would think that this teacher would appreciate my Picasso-inspired self-portrait, right? Wrong. When I tried to explain that I was using greens and blues for my skin instead of more traditional “chair” (or skin colour, with the classic light she wanted) because I had been inspired by Picasso’s blue period, my teacher was absolutely disdainful. When I told her it was because I had been to see his exhibit the night before, she asked me outright which specific painting I was alluding to. Next, she suggested that I remove all of the harsh edges and lines I had given to my face, to reduce the impact they were having on my facial structure. Her final comment was that I had aged myself considerably, that overall it was dark, and made some kind of huffy comment in French that I didn’t completely comprehend but understood to mean that Picasso was off in another world doing unimportant things. (!) I couldn’t figure out how to properly rebel against her, so I set to putting more light on my cheeks. The end result was awful.

At this point, since my post is getting long, I am going to have to take a stand against these Parisians: Picasso is a grand maître, too! When his painting is sitting beside a Velázquez or a Degas, don’t say, “Il fait n’importe-quoi”! I think he is a genius of mixing colour, and perspective. I think he had mastered the classic in the Blue Period and said, “Quoi d’autre?” Maybe next week, I’ll take on cubism for my art teacher...

No comments:

Post a Comment