Rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture.
Wednesday, February 3, 2016
Picasso's Bicameral Mind
"Figure" by Picasso (photograph: Hallie Cohen)
It’s no revelation that Picasso amongst many classic
modernists was enamored of primitive art. However, the fixation poses a visual
conundrum when you look at some of the early work in the current Picasso Sculpture exhibit
which is just completing a run at MoMA. How can one of the most venerated
practitioners of classic modernism produce works that could have been found on
an anthropological expedition. Take, "Figure," piece number 9 in first room of the show, a
wood sculpture that exudes a totemic tribalist quality. Cubism is obviously the
influence here, but isn’t so-called “cubist sculpture” itself an oxymoron to the
extent that the fragmentation of the real object is no longer conveniently
taking place in a flat plane? Take Number 29 the famous “Guitar” piece. As a
painting you would have spied the object immediately, but here the guitar is
literally deconstructed.No one dreams
that a painting can perform a function, but sculpture is three dimensional and
intheory you might toy with the novelty
of playing Picasso’s guitar. Cubism is supposedly about time as well as space. However, with its "negative space," “Guitar” isno longer an instrument that could be played
by anyone. Here is what the curators have to say about the monumental sculptures of the Boisgeloup period: “Noses, mouths and eyes
double as female sexual organs and the sculpture’s surfaces conjure both the
softness of flesh and the unforgiving hardness of bone.” The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mindwas the name of Julian Jaynes book about the ancient world. Bicamerality might be
one way of describing the effect Picasso’s work radiates, only the paradox is
that it’s created by one of the most highly developed artistic intelligences of
the 20th Century.
Francis Levy's debut novel, Erotomania: A Romance, was released in August 2008 by Two Dollar Radio.
His short stories, criticism, humor, and poetry have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic, The Village Voice, The East Hampton Star, The Quarterly, Penthouse, Architectural Digest, TV Guide, The Journal of Irreproducible Results, and other publications. One of his Voice humor pieces was anthologized in The Big Book of New American Humor (HarperCollins). He is presently the Co-Director of The Philoctetes Center for the Multidisciplinary Study of Imagination (philoctetes.org), where he supervises roundtable discussions on topics as varied as “The Psychology of the Modern Nation State” and “Modern Traffic Theory, Behavior, and Imagination”.