While downtown on an errand, Joann and I impulsively stopped in on Picasso, or what remains of him. He was contained in four or five rooms in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. His paintings are pretty, I think. I like all the funky little boxes and randomly dissecting diagonal guitar strings. My favorites were the more monochromatic ochre compositions.
Other cubists were on hand to pad the $20 show. In 1913, Marcel Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase was greeted by one New York Times critic as "an explosion in a shingle factory." American Art News offered $10 to anybody who could identify either the nude or the staircase, but I spotted it right away. I knew it had to be either a nude or an explosion in a shingle factory.
It was necessary to pass through the Cézannes and Monets to get out of the building, and though the Impressionists are always my fallback guys, they looked almost academic after Chagall and Lipchitz. I wasn't sure if I was supposed to like Picasso. I was trying to remember if I had been disturbed the first time I saw a canvass with an eye where a nose should be, and if I should pay more attention to my initial instincts than my "refined" ones.
I mean, what is Picasso all about philosophically? Does he represent a fragmenting or dismantling of truth and absolutes? I don't know. On the one hand, he expands our minds in a positive way by depicting objects and people from different perspectives. And that can be a good thing. It is always well to remember that there is another way of looking at someone or something---inside, outside, sideways, upside down.
But is Picasso saying there is no truth, only opinion? Only perspective?
The cubists' breakthrough in style could mean nothing more than that they were sick of painting apples and oranges on a folded tablecloth, or setting up easels in hot fields in Provence. Whether in drawing or music, persons of genius can only play their scales the orthodox way so many times before they get a mischievous urge to break out. Theolonious Monk got bored with traditional jazz and played around with dissonant harmonies.
Whatever the case, I am firmly convinced of one thing, that The Three Musicians would look good in my living room. I would have to change the drapes, of course.
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