WHEN PICASSO TAKES HIS PLACE
Open any art history book, and you will find somewhere in between the chapters of European and American masters, Impressionism and Abstraction, the edifying artist of Modern Art, Pablo Picasso. Brash, complicated, mischievous, demanding and provocative, Picasso wielded his life and career in the full knowledge that he was great before widespread recognition, was going to be greater than any influence of his contemporaries and that his work would be the greatest patrimony left to mankind. What exactly did this disruptor leave behind? Countless paintings, etchings, ceramics, sculptures and prints in traditional, gestural and Cubist styles that are of the world, around the world, in public and private collections. Arguably however, none rival in his synthesis and climax, concept and evolution than his iconic painting, Guernica.
Created in the immediate aftermath of the 1937 bombing of the Basque town, Gernika, Guernica is the explosive response to all forms of the status quo–political, polemic, societal, mental, emotional, and artistic–by the man whose only mode was that of greatness. No wonder then the pain expressed, anguish, upset, turmoil, defiance, resolution and warning Picasso felt deeply, personally, would be the expression of Pain, Anguish, Upset, Turmoil, Defiance, Resolution and Warning felt by people all over for generations to come, collectively. Such is the effect when an individual lives in greatness, for greatness, by greatness, even if it is at the expense of personal relationships–of which there were too many in Picasso’s life–whose place in history became more commonly referred to as muses, playmates and personalities, rather than partners, kin and best friends.
Those heartbreaks, shakeups, grieving and consolation (always the art) is essentially what plays out on grand scale, on the mural-sized, Guernica. Symbols and facture from Picasso’s past (the Minotaur, the Roman bust/plaster head and geometric shapes) become enmeshed with those of the future (the Weeping Woman, amorphous forms and collaged picture planes). Together, they demonstrate his attempt at reconciliation, first with himself, then with humanity, and at last, himself in the place of humanity. The new approaches and imagery however is what enables Picasso to exit from the conflict while creating an entry for other kinds of expression and subject matter to happen. Enter Genarcha: my exhibit about the evolution of that warring from the person to the people so great, it is symbolic for all time, as Guernica did and still does, since its inception in 1937, right on through its 2017, 80th anniversary.
To understand the protest repeatedly upheld by the painting, I had to examine it in parts, much like its maker approached his art. Using my signature technique of pieced folded, painted papers I discovered Picasso’s interstices, cross-sections and perspectives to also be the subject of his grisly portrayal in the same way his severed heads, ghostly profiles, animals, and furnishings function. Actually, it was these cutting diagonals from one end of the canvas to the other; small, stressful spaced dashes; isolation of parts and angles; and expanses of shape superimposed on figures that made me realize Picasso was obliterating and creating over, what would otherwise be a scene of devastation, to a physical account of upset and release prompted by the murder of innocents of his fellow Spaniards. In my estimation, these layered markings are the reason why the painting has been reclaimed by many people in many forms, including vandalism, which is arguably the greatest visual act of protest. It is also why to appreciate the shape of my own pain and that of present-day society, I had to consider the genarcha, or family head, of 20th century art simultaneously as the personage of the man and his Great painting.
Genarcha exhibits on the main-level of BoxHeart Gallery, Pittsburgh PA from April 16 to May 17, 2019. Public reception with the artist (me!) will be held on April 27, 5-8 pm, and to note, the day after the tragic bombing originally took place (April 26, 1937). BoxHeart Gallery is located at 4523 Liberty Avenue, within the Bloomfield-Little Italy community. Regular gallery hours are 11 am-6 pm Tuesdays, 10 am-6 pm Wednesdays through Saturdays and 1-5 pm Sundays.
For more information about the gallery, including exhibition and event details, please visit BoxHeart’s website, Artsy and Eventbrite profiles online. Also, refer to my portfolio at www.andrewpjooi.com/genarcha. Join me and my friends, peers, advocates and so fortunately, a combination of all-three, triple-threats, as we continue to develop the next chapter of the history of art in the spirit of greatness of that which came before us. See you there!