Friday, July 25, 2014

Post #49: Picasso and Me

In case you're puzzled by the above image, it is a "conceptual" New York gallery show featuring my latest triptych as IMAGINED by graphic designer, Robert Callahan. If only it were really so!

Picasso and Braque had a horror of theories and rationales, but between them, they came up with a new form of reality, not the realism of previous eras, but their own. They heartily disliked the shimmering, “pretty” surfaces of Impressionism. When Cezanne simplified forms (the infamous cone, cube cylinder) he was still involved in the old Renaissance struggle to depict “real space”, although in his own way, using geometric planes and the advancing and receding properties of color. When P & B began using these volumes, they had little interest in Cezanne’s goals, capturing what the eye actually saw. It was the “inner eye” that counted to them; paintings had their own reasons to exist, a life of their own; let the camera deal with external reality. Even subject matter was unimportant, especially in Cubism’s second phase, the so-called “Synthetic” period (synthesis). “Still Lives” were merely shapes for Picasso and Braque to play with. Who cared about pieces of newspaper, bowls and chairs? They were merely objects that enabled artists to create a new reality appropriate to the modern world. 

In one of my former blogs, Post # 29, I wrote about how I had taken an art workshop forty plus years ago from an elderly Hungarian emigre painter named Victor Kandell who  managed to extricate me from “copying” life, just as Picasso and Braque had done decades earlier. He pushed me into creating my own artistic reality by playing around with size, enlarging and shrinking forms, not as the eye saw them, but as the composition required. He taught me to create new shapes using transparency and overlapping. No perspective, no shading, no story line. I learned to treat my paintings as a world of their own, with bits and pieces of reality introduced only where needed. But it wasn’t until I read Richardson’s “A Life of Picasso” that I realized who had been Kandell’s “teacher” (and indirectly, mine.)

For the past few months, I have been working on a series of large, 72”x48” oil paintings. I recently finished the fourth (and probably last) one. They are loosely derived from visits to the Lower East Side when I was in my twenties. I seem to have internalized the jumbled imagery of signs, people, the El, buildings etc. It’s like free association in psychotherapy. I treat the paintings first and foremost as compositions, not illustrations and they are lots more powerful that way. I finally understand, so many years after I began to study art, what abstraction is about. 

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