Sunday, August 26, 2012
In Late Picasso, covering the last two decades of his life and art production, Picasso re-examines, remarks, re-evaluates and takes off from his own work and those of his peers and ancestors. He does not re-paint, he does not repeat himself as much as builds on his oeuvre, visiting, no retaking and occupying, the highest vantage points of his work.
Late Picasso is a deeper, newly found Picasso. Older yet now slower. He is quoted as saying that in while in one day he does a hundred drawings, variations, sketches and paints, other painters spend a 100 days on one painting.
A painter I admire much once told me that Picasso was over-rated. I did not ask after her why. Poring over each page of "Late Picasso," squinting at the paintings reproduced, he has completely reached another level, twisting-inside-out of the skin of Cubism, distortions that create a new lens of focus. While some of his late work may appear to verge on the sloppy, closer and closer inspection says otherwise. yes, his precision changed but his output didn't. In the 20-volume catalog of his complete work, more than half was produced during the period covered by "Late Picasso."
In art, in poetry, in painting, there are no accidents. In Picassos, there were no accidents.
Picasso painted his daily life, made meaning from his studio, from his relationships to women and other painters, friends and political unfoldings. Picasso made a chronology of art and the artist of a new type out of the life of his imagination. Picasso feared death, dying. This spurred him on to paint and paint, knowing that one day -- whether alive and incapacitated by age or dead, which to him we're the same -- he would not be able to. Picasso made many drafts and versions of his work, from sketches, to paintings to sculpture and collages. He then would paint his paintings, create sculptures from his paintings, an auto-locura [a self-crazyness], creating in the process a new process and fusion of what he had produced and accomplished and then some.
One of my favorite poets wrote that it was a crime for a poet to not write, to not produce poetry, every day. Picasso acted in the same way, literally to the day he died. For us, Picasso not painting was a crime to humanity.
Picasso evolved and emerged out of himself a few times over, a butterfly emerging out of the one cocoon where he created several lifetimes. Not reinventing himself but becoming a creator anew, not stuck on his accomplishments, pushing himself -- and in the process art, artists and us viewers-- to new limits.
Maybe many of us would have stopped, and maybe even the majority of work forgotten, after painting "Guernica." Picasso did no such thing. Ceramics, sculpture, collages, mural-sized paintings, poetry, theater, love making in all, Picasso's work will take many more eyes and generations to settle accounts. His last painting was an open work, yet to be finished or even started. The last painting? He left a blank canvass, signed Picasso.
Over-rated? Maybe. Great, yes. Individual, yes.
No one will confuse Picasso with anyone else other than Picasso.
Sunday, August 12, 2012
The Prison Poems of Nikolai Bukharin by Nikolai Bukharin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
A note to start reading "The Prison Poems of Nikolai Bukharin | Transformation of the World (Verse about the Ages, and About People."
Nikolai Bukharin in Russia's revolutionary and socialist history represented a potentially humane leadership alternative to the catastrophe of Stalinism. We will never know. An economist, a sportsman, an organizer, theoretician and now a poet, you can imagine that someone with such a broad political and cultural background would have created a different result from the ex-Soviet Union. In other words Bukharin was a revolutionary with a different approach to culture and vision that was, could have been, different and had an impact. Yet, he ended up in a Stalinist prison. Bukharin was defeated in political debates by Lenin, though not eliminated. After Stalin took power, through COINTELPRO-like tactics, infiltrated, smeared, hounded, isolated, caused divisions, and persecuted, murdered some and then imprisoned many fellow leaders and members who may have thought that their views and organizing were covered by freedom of expression. Debate, oppositions and differences should have been signs of health and may have been comsidered par for the course towards achieving some semblance of unity of action. Many found out otherwise. The Stalin machine attacked Bukharin, imprisoned him, and finally erased him from official history and he faded from the scene.
Bukharin is probably only known by specialists, historians of the Bolsheviks and partisans of the long-faded communist movements. Even then only his writings, much less about his life and fate and even less so about his poetry.
Now, in a 533 page book, the reader will find out that while imprisoned he wrote a cycle of poems dedicated to telling the stories and histories of revolutionaries and their revolutions, their battles, dreams and defeats. Bukharin, even as he was imprisoned and headed towards death, believed in the machine. Irony of ironies, to believe your executioner is your liberator, that good will overcome evil, that there must have been a big mix-up and in due time will be corrected. Subtitled "Transformation of the World (Verse about the Ages, and About People," Bukharin saw all the way to the edge of the first global darkness called fascism, -- and the impending wars -- writing from the other bank of the river of history called Stalinism. Bukharin's backbone is not promising; as I skimmed the pages I saw him write a poem on the "Stalin charter." Optimism and hope never perish? C|S
“But the most amazing thing is that, despite everything, the time of shining hopes had not passed for him. He would pay for these hopes with his head. Moreover, one reason for his preposterous confessions in the dock – incomplete, but sufficiently egregious confessions – was precisely this: he still hoped that the idea to which he had dedicated his life would triumph.” [Anna Larina, This I Cannot Forget, Pandora, 1994. Bukharin's wife.]
Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Picasso 1926-1939: From Minotaur to Guernica by Josep Palau i Fabre
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In Picasso 1926-1939: from Minotaur to Guernica, Josep Palau I Fabre tracked and linked Picasso's daily output of paintings, drawings, etchings, scultptures, collages, poems and other artwork reflecting almost a chronology of his intimate, private and at times public life. A Herculean task, Palau i Fabre provides unusual insights into the creative dynamics and cultural process that is named Picasso. Covering approximately 12 years of Picasso's life and work, Palau documents over 1300 pieces of art produced by Picasso. From the monumental piece "Guernica," including dozens of preparatory pieces that are masterpieces in and of themselves, to pencil drawings on pieces of matchboxes, Palau highlights the connections and the circuits between Picasso's art and the women in his life. "Guernica" was a commissioned painting (about 11 by 25 feet) that became a homage to the city namesake that was carpet bombed during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and a continuing outcry against all war.
In From Minotaur to Guernica, Palau shows how Picasso wove his personal struggles into his artwork and in the process made art and culture that took on a life of their own. Palau links Picasso's art to Picasso's daily strife and tribulations, marriage, love affairs, politics, cultural developments, interpersonal relationships, war and nationality.
Picasso created a new way of seeing art, transforming and creating new spatial dimensions or illusions on a canvass. Picasso's art and life still continue turning heads, being contradictory, controversial, contorted, communist even, utopian, cubist, cartoonish, animated, childish, whole, full, intoxicating. Picasso showed that you can edit an image, much like a writer cuts and pastes words or sentences, and rework an idea over and over, with each iteration a stand alone piece. Fascinatingly detailed, this book is for individuals that want to learn from Picasso's method, his contributions that continuing impacting artistic production.
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