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Christine Poggi. The Paradox of the Pictorial in P...

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Christine Poggi. The Paradox of the Pictorial in Picasso’s Late Sculpture

Pablo Picasso Bull

Pablo Picasso, Bull, April 1958, Blockboard (wood base panel), palm frond and various other tree branches, eyebolt, nails, and screws, with drips of alkyd and pencil markings, 144.1 x 117.2 x 10.5 cm. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Jacqueline Picasso in honor of the Museum’s continuous commitment to Pablo Picasso’s art. 649.1983 © Photograph by Christine Poggi © Succession Picasso, 2016

L’une des raisons qui a motivé Picasso dans son exploration de la sculpture était l’opportunité qu’elle offre de traduire des techniques picturales dans un espace en trois dimensions. De ses constructions Guitares de 1912, à ses sculptures de métal plié et soudé de la fin des années 1920 et 1930, et jusqu’à ses travaux postérieurs en bois et feuilles de métal découpées, l’artiste s’est intéressé aux relations paradoxales entre l’image plane et l’objet matériel, les contours fictifs et réels, la frontalité de l’image et une vue de biais. Les sculptures de Picasso restituent fréquemment en trois dimensions les distorsions issues de la perspective, de telle sorte que des formes virtuelles d’un espace fictif, par l’intermédiaire de la vision, adoptent des formes tangibles. Les plans sculpturaux sont souvent utilisés comme des surfaces pour une nouvelle figuration, et les matériaux du peintre – bouts de toile, peinture, pinceaux, papier à dessin, tendeurs, cadres métalliques – se révèlent en de nouvelles configurations. Le dessin défie la masse, le poids et la résistance des matières physiques : des cordes tendues convergeant vers un point de fuite ; du papier ou du carton coupé, courbé ou plié ; des fils de fer tordus et noués ; des branches et des ready-mades de bois ; des bouquets de clous. Ces sculptures, pour la plupart, refusent la caractéristique axiale, centrée et frontale de l’image plane traditionnelle et ses volumes déductifs, en faveur de visions divergentes, inclinées, contradictoires et toujours partielles. En cela, elles reconnaissent la situation spatiale et temporelle de l’observateur.

One of the motivating impulses of Picasso’s exploration of sculpture was the occasion it offered to translate pictorial devices into three-dimensional space. From his constructed Guitars of 1912, to his twisted and welded iron sculptures of the late twenties and thirties, to his later works in wood and cut sheet metal, the artist engaged the paradoxical relations of picture plane and material object, fictive and literal contours, pictorial frontality and the oblique view. Picasso’s sculptures frequently render the distortions produced by perspective into three-dimensions, so that virtual figures in fictive depth, mediated by vision, assume tactile form. Sculptural planes often serve as surfaces for further figuration, and the materials of painting—bits of canvas, paint, brushes, fine art drawing paper, stretchers, cast iron frames—turn up in newly configured ways. Drawing takes on the mass, weight, and resistance of physical substances: taut strings that converge to a vanishing point; cut, folded, and bent paper or cardboard; twisted and knotted iron wires; branches and readymade pieces of wood; clusters of nails. These sculptures, for the most part, refuse the axial, centered, frontal address of the classical picture plane and its deductive structures, in favor of a sequence of divergent, tilted, contradictory, always partial views. As such they acknowledge the temporally and spatially situated observer.

Christine Poggi is Professor of the History of Art at the University of Pennsylvania,where she has taught since 1987. Her research has focused on early twentieth-century European avant-gardes, the invention of collage and constructed sculpture, the rise of abstraction, and the relationship of art to emerging forms of labor and technology. Heressays on Cubism and the work of Picasso include: In Defiance of Painting: Cubism,Futurism, and the Invention of Collage (Yale 1992), “Cubist Faktura,” in Picasso and Braque: The Cubist Experiment, 1910–1912, ed. Eik Kahng (Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 2011); “Picasso’s First Constructed Sculpture: A Tale of Two Guitars,” The Art Bulletin (June 2012); “Double Exposures: Picasso, Drawing, and the Masking of Gender, 1906–1908,” in Cubism: The Leonard A. Lauder Collection, eds. Emily Braun and Rebecca Rabinow (Metropolitan Museum of Art 2014); and “Cubist Equivalents: Picasso’s Céret Sketchbook of 1913,” in The Cubism Seminars, ed. Harry Cooper (Washington DC: National Gallery of Art/Yale University Press, 2017), forthcoming.