Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Paris Journal: "Picasso Primitif" at Le musee du quai Branly

Picasso (Sans Titre, l967), photograph by Hallie Cohen
As well as being an artist, Picasso collected “primitive art” from l900 right up until his death in l973. “I have felt my strongest artistic emotions, when suddenly confronted with the sublime beauty of sculpture executed by anonymous artists of Africa,” Picasso communicated in one letter. “These works of a religious, passionate and rigorously logical art are the most powerful and most beautiful things the human imagination has ever produced.” And here is his wife  Francoise Gilot quoting him from Vivre Avec Picasso, “Quand J’ai decovert l’art negre, il y a quarante ans et que j’ai peint ce qu’on appelle mon Epoche negre.” What would the folks who pilloried Dana  Schutz for her Emmet Till painting at the Whitney have thought about the current “Picasso Primitif” show at Le musee du quai Branly in Paris? Primitive is actually a derogatory term and one that's often used by western art historians. Remember Edward Said's Orientalism? The show is loaded with citations, one potentially more inflammatory than the next, to those who look at such appropriation as a form of cultural imperialism. Take for instance the essay by the dealer Henry Kahnweiler, “L’art negre at le cubism.” It’s an innocent enough title. However, the notion that the perspectival innocence of so called indigenous or "primitive" peoples (here designated by their African origins) could spearhead a modernist movement sounds a little like those l930’s British films where Oxbridge archeologists raid Egyptian tombs, only to face the wrath of angry empresses who return from the dead. By the way there's a whole section dealing with the influence of primitive art on Picasso’s depiction of sexuality which should trigger not only multiculturalists, but feminists too.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.