Thursday, 12 August 2010

Picasso at the Gagosian

This is an absolute joy, but first a brief observation.

It's the Mediterranean, post war Picasso, the family's own collection on show in London, and it confirms an earlier, slightly dormant feeling of mine that the formal set-pieces of the period - in other words the paintings - tend to be an assembly of what, by then, were mannerisms; the compositions still bursting with energy, but in much the same way each time and therefore a little dull, a little dutiful (one must make Art!) a little easy, sitting too contentedly in a visual language he could master without effort.

Maybe he was feeling a little trapped by his own language.

It would be easy to be trapped in his colour. His colours and his paint texture have never been anything to write home about. He isn't nor ever has been a colourist: frankly I don't think he cares about colour. He keeps slapping on the same reds, blues greens and yellows, with a patch of grey here and there, just to push his patterns forward or back. Colour is, of course, secondary to drawing. He is one of the greatest masters of drawing that has ever lived. He can't draw bad lines. Things look clumsy but balance perfectly. His abbreviation-language for limbs and torsos has nothing to do with actual proportion, but the bodies have grace and weight and completeness beyond academic precision.

As for texture, he slaps paint on flat, probably straight from the tube, and stirs it around a without great enthusiasm. Texture, in Picasso, is secondary to pattern, of which he is also one of the great masters. He loves stripes and dots and splodges and cross-hatching, and little frilly edges. They mix languages through spikiness or curviness or frantic activity or silence. They are a world of comedy to him. And delight above all.

But the greatest delight is to be found in the small throwaway fribbles (the cardboard masks, the tiny blobby statues, the splodgy ceramics) and in the magnificent assemblage sculpture. Picasso seems happiest playing against the odds with materials that have no great artistic tradition. He wants to draw in space and to discover what happens when he does so; he wants, in effect, to be less portentously Himself, less what he already knows 'Picasso' to be; more fantastical, more formally mobile. The material of the wooden, cardboard and bronze assemblage statues tease him by resisting. Line, which is Picasso's domain par excellence rediscovers itself through laughter, just as his actual caricatures do.

Someone will tell me, most earnestly, that his art shows him to be mysogynistic - his women being sexual objects cut into violent shapes and that what this means is that he, like all men, genuinely wants to violate women and tear them limb from limb. The same people tend not to say this when the male figures are cut up in the same way, but maybe they'll get round to that. When informed of these solemn facts, I will reply with the greatest pleasure imaginable:

I don't give a damn.

Let me repeat that:

I don't give a damn.

Pleasure is what I take from this exhibition. I have never smiled so much in an art gallery. Smiled? Almost laughed. Life is funny and majestic and savage and childlike and spectacular. Absolute joy.


Mark Granier said...
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Mark Granier said...

'It would be easy to be trapped in his colour. His colours and his paint texture have never been anything to write home about. He isn't nor ever has been a colourist: frankly I don't think he cares about colour.'

Yes George, that's the Picasso I know and love. He is supposed to have said: 'When I haven't any blue I use red.' But his line is supreme, fabulous in everything from Guernica to the simplest drawings and etchings, the mock-Grecian ceramics, the lot. If Klee took his line for a walk Picasso's often entered into something between a bolero and a bullfight (though he could also do sauntering).

Sounds like a great exhibition. would love to see it.

George S said...

Quite terrific exhibition, Mark, to the extent that I bought the book, which at £70 more than makes up for it being a free show to enter. Still, we don't buy very many expensive art books.

Mind you, the girls in charge of the show - at the entrance, in the book stall, and even in the cloakroom, all looked as thought they had never seen any spoon that wasn't silver.

JohnD said...

Yes George , I had the same impression about the counter girls....but they were Very pretty..classy ! haaha
Im afraid Ive been looking for the Catalogue on ebay !! as I couldnt afford it at my visit.
Are you (& Mark Granier) aware of the online Picasso Project ? If not take a look , I recently discovered it. Its Full of Info.
Personally I like PP's use of colour and I do think he is a colourist.