Monday, October 17, 2005

Protean Picasso does Vancouver

"It would be very interesting to preserve photographically not the stages but the metamorphoses of a picture. Possibly one might then discover the path followed by the brain in materializing dream."
Picasso to Christian Zervos, 1935

A great idea greets you as you enter the Protean Picasso exhibit that was opening around us at the Vancouver Art Gallery, in a crowd of children. Fumiyo's friend Bo from high school days wanted to see the city's art museum, as did many others on this day as the gallery celebrated its 10th birthday by smearing cake on the mouths of multitudes of the young. Pablo would have approved. A survey of Pablo's work over the decade, carefully noting his influnces, it reminded me of the Modigliani show I'd seen recently in DC even before I saw an images. Fun with African masks, other things.
The first one I liked was the oddly 3D Head of a Woman from 1905. San Francisco was still unquaked.
Still Life with Bottles, 1912 reminds me of the way street scenes reflected in downtown windows I was video'ing last week seemed to illuminate other worlds that are going on at angles to our perceptions. Cubism emperically makes a lot more sense to me than it did before I had that particular vision.
A Man With a Dog. Finally found the dog but the man appears to be a newspaper labelled Leg reading another, unlabeled newspaper with some sort of man parts below it. The bizarre, playful imagery of an old Dylan song.
A most cartoonish sculpted head reminds me of George Clinton's album covers that were the PBS show about him the other night. Did Clinton influence Picasso or....
Sculptor with Fishbowl and Nude seated before Sculptor: The woman's ass goes one way and her head goes an impossible direction. Reminded me a line from one of my favourite books, Thomas Pyncheon's The Crying of Lot 49, in describing a stamp, "...the head of a Pony express rider at the lower left was set at a disturbing angle unknown among the living." Model Viewing a Sculptured Group also has one of those impossible asses.
The Franco cartoon reminds me of Rebecca Dart's comic Rabbit Head.
Minotaurauchy reminds me of Pablo's great Russian contemporary Marc Chagall, channelling Bosch perhaps.
1934's Catalan Drinkers looks like a conversation between a sketch and a finished portrait.
Blind Minotaur led through the night by girl with fluttering dove even more evokes Chagall, and portrays the Minotaur to greatest pity. Great shading on this. For all his experimentation, this is one where the medium really contributes to the aesthetics. This wouldn't work in oil, but in its chosen medium, Illuminates.
Exploring other floors, we found ourselves in a large room filled with Chinese cut paper images, from floor to distant ceiling. Like looking at woodblock prints, the amazing thing is not the work of art itself, but that someone would spend that much effort to produce the effect. The fact that the dog sings badly isn't the point.
The File Room is even more conceptual. A good idea, but it ain't art. That's true with most of the junk in the Vancouver Art Gallery. Bo and I had continauly ask ourselves was this supposed to be art, when confronting typewriters wrapped in plastic, broken lamps, stacks of building materials, etc that cluttered the building. Along with some of local Rennaissance Beatnik Al Neil's paintings, a piano keyboard hung with what look like car parts, hence a rattle for Al Neil, was being replicated in minature by little kids busily assembling their own rattles. Elsewhere, kids put buttons on small pieces of paper and sketched furiously. The people copying the Emily Carr paintings on the 4th floor were already vastly surpassing her. Picasso isn't even one of my top thousand favourite painters, but seeing Carr's paintings is enough to make one wish one had been born blind. There was one Picasso-esque work by another artist, Mark Toby's Emily Carr Studio 1928, that really cooks. Even the worst of art is capable of inspiring beauty. A lesson for us all.


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