Monday, October 11, 2010

With Sound and Fury: Or, With Fear and Loathing The Master Meets His Match

If Pablo Picasso was right when he said that, “Art is a lie that gives life to truth.” Then what can be said about a man who could give life to death? Picasso built a career on a pugnacious zeal for life. His drive for success was matched if not passed by his passion for all the profane things that life could offer. There was never enough food, wine nor women for the great Spaniard. He may not have created modernism, but more than anyone he both epitomized as well as championed it. He was quite possibly the most singular artist since Leonardo Da Vinci. His determination brought about cubism, neo-expressionism, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon and Guernica in a long list of achievements. But Picasso, the Master of Modernism with a capitol M, could not out maneuver everyone. Eventually there would come for him a foe more dangerous than even Dora Maar. This foe is, of course, time. The great champion of the new would eventually become old, and how he would face his inevitable demise tells us more about this Old Master than any of his youthful masterpieces ever could. In 1972, Picasso is less than a year away from his death at the age of 91. His great love, Francoise Gilot has long since left him and he has settled into his golden years, Jacqueline at his side. He is a has-been, his child Modernity has been supplanted by the newer, younger and fresher Post-Modernity. He is relic, a dinosaur of a bygone age. America, and more specifically New York City are where it is at. Paris is obsolete, and the south of France even more so. This Old Master can’t possibly have something more to teach us, could he? Well, yes it turns out he could. One of his last works also stands up there with some of his greatest. In ‘72 Picasso does a simple little drawing, mixed media on paper. In his youth he probably would have discarded it as too sincere, not brash enough. But in old age he is able to see the value of sincerity. When we first glance upon it we are drawn to the eyes, of course. Picasso’s eyes were always strong, imposing. They were like pools of ink, large and dark, as immovable as the sphinx. But not here, no here they convey something else entirely. They convey rage and fury yes, but also fear, fear and terror and anguish. This is the self-portrait of a man, about to meet a maker he has never given much credence to. A man who has loved life but now sees that he is nearing it’s end and there is not a thing he can do about it. Picasso was a man accustomed to getting his way, who now finds himself losing an argument of which he can not win. The simultaneous frustration and soul collapsing dread that this realization elicits within him is palpable when he looks at the drawing. He is dying and he can do nothing about it. The intentionality and deliberateness with which he makes his marks on the surface mirrors a man signing the last check he will ever cash, certain to make his mark right. For all the fear in this drawing there is not a hint of ambiguity in it. There is resigned certainty, he knows his fate and although he has fear in his heart he will go out the way he went in, with sound and fury.

1 comment:

  1. enjoyed the article, from my own experience know a man that speaks easily of dieing but fights tooth and nail to put it off you can see the struggle in the face painted