Thursday, 21 February 2008

The root of modernism

Picasso And Africa
An exhibition at the Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa

"When I discovered art nègre, forty years ago, and painted in what is called my Epoque nègre ['black period'], it was to question what was called 'beauty' in the museums. For most people at that time, an African mask was no more than an ethnographic object. When I went to the Trocadéro museum for the first time with [Andre] Derain, a smell of mould and neglect caught me by the throat. I was so depressed that I would have chosen to leave immediately. But I forced myself to stay, to examine these masks, all these objects that people had created with a sacred, magical purpose, to serve as intermediaries between them and the unknown, hostile forces surrounding them, attempting in that way to overcome their fears by giving them colour and form. And then I understood what painting really meant. It's not an aesthetic process; it's a form of magic that interposes itself between us and the hostile universe a means of seizing power by imposing a form on our terrors as well as on our desires. The day I understood that, I realised that I had found my path.
And then people started judging these masks in aesthetic terms: now, everyone repeats that there is nothing more beautiful, and they no longer interest me. If they are only aesthetic objects, then I prefer Chinese objects. Moreover, this thing from New Guinea frightens me. It must also frighten [Henri] Matisse, and that's why he wants so much to give it to me. He probably thinks that I will know better than he does how to exorcise it.
" - Pablo Picasso

Taken from Vivre Avec Picasso by Francoise Gilot and Carlton Lake.

Left, Beautiful high backed chair. Jimma. Ethiopia
Right, Rare form of four legged high backed chair. Ethiopia

Two beautifully shaped small early 20th century chairs.Oromo,Ethiopia.
Chairs from Tribal Gathering, London.

Very important stool of a Chief of the Ashanti tribe. This stool belonged to Chief Nana-Otumfuo Osei Tutu
Twiga Gallery, San Francisco.

In order for modernism not to appear soulless its roots must be acknowledged and referenced.

Now playing: Odyssey - Going Back to My Roots
via FoxyTunes


Mrs. Blandings said...

You, my friend, are an inspiration. Picasso's text is wonderful, but your single line struck a chord.

Easy and Elegant Life said...

Bravo HOBAC! I once carried a Cameroonian camp chair back in my luggage because I just couldn't walk away from it. Years later I "discovered" Picasso (my exposure to art was pretty limited to Dutch Old Masters) and was amazed. Your final sentence sums it up for me. Not that anything I'm writing makes much sense to anyone but me, but I was gobsmacked by this post. Thanks!

the House of Beauty and Culture said...

Mrs B - what can one say to that, other than thank you.

the House of Beauty and Culture said...

E&EL - I'm so glad you liked it.