Thoughts on ‘Picasso and Paper’ When Watched While Sheltering-in-Place

Just watched the Royal Academy of Arts’ livestream of their Picasso and Paper exhibition. I had some thoughts.

I think it’s interesting that cubism was named by an art critic; the creation of “Cubism” was not necessarily a conscious act; what happens to an art form when someone names it? Does it restrict it? Does it affect the artists or the work at all–do the artists even care? Did Picasso himself think of it as Cubism? Did he have a name for it, or was it just a known thought that didn’t need or hadn’t received a name? 

In this livestream, we were viewing the work as mediated through two layers of lenses–the first layer is that of the curator of the physical exhibit. This is the person who picked each piece and decided what went where and why. The second layer is that of the curator of the video; this was a pre-recorded piece, and the creators had to decide what pieces to share, how to share those pieces, and how long to focus on each piece. I couldn’t ‘lose myself’ in a piece in the way I could have if I were there; there were too many layers between myself and each work.

Additionally, while I am very grateful for this sort of video (as I am currently thirsting for art), my relationship with each piece is not as full of awe as it would have been if I had the opportunity to view these pieces in person. There’s a sense of scale and grandeur that gets lost when viewing a video or photo of a physical object instead of the object itself. There’s also a loss of process, especially when one is unable to get a close-up view of the medium.

I had a twitter conversation that echoes this idea–a woman posted a picture of a table with a coffee mug on it. From looking at the image, it was impossible to tell if the table was laughably small or if the coffee mug was laughably large. She very kindly put a ruler on the table to show that it was the table that was, in fact, the “wrong-sized” object; however, that kind of mediation wouldn’t be necessary if I had seen the objects in person. Similarly, with these art pieces, I can’t understand the full depth and effort of a piece or understand the way a piece can feel overpowering without seeing the piece in person. 

Finally, I took interest in the cardboard 3D sculpture collages that were featured. To be honest, one of my first thoughts was ‘look at how Picasso, one of the greats, just cut and glued a bunch of shit together to make art.’ Which I think is a valid thought at the surface. However, this makes me think–what does this reconstruction of physical matter into another object say about the world? What does it say about our ability to reconstruct the world around us? How can we take the pieces of the world around us and rearrange them into something more interesting or even just different?

Anyway, these are just some thoughts I had. The recorded livestream is available on YouTube at the following link:

By Summer

librarian by day, artist and writer by night, ponderer of nature, petter of nasty ol’ stray cats, cooker and eater of foods. she/her/destroyer of worlds

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