By William Markiewicz
Somebody who dislikes Picasso said to me: "Probably inventing cubism is an authentic breakthrough. God knows where mankind would be without that!" It was, of course, a sarcastic comment.
Personally, I'm more in tune with a friend's comment: "What you lead people toward is more important than what you do yourself."
Creators who dare their spirit along a parallel path, not-frequented in daily life, not only live their own personal adventure but enrich other people's lives, transgressing routine thoughts toward something unexpected. The creator shares his inspiration and also his knowledge with society. People like Picasso, the Impressionists, etc. built a bridge toward other cultures which interpret reality rather than presenting it as does Western traditional realism. While elsewhere in the world the creators were attached to symbols and rituals, Western creators were following nature more than philosophy. So, they held a flexible attitude toward the visible universe; they could develop their own styles within the tradition of their epoch, and paid attention to individual differences such as facial features of their models. In other cultures, models were more symbols than individuals so the portrayals resembled one another. As reality was the only master for the Western creator, and whatever appears is realism, then, free of preconceptions or taboos, he could eagerly accept the surprising foreign patterns into his own creative fabric.
Being realistic doesn't mean that Western creators had to remain prisoners of their realism but they took their own distance from reality through deformation rather than transformation. That's how an aspect of Western ancient art -- grotesque, caricatural, monstrous -- came about, without necessarily having magical significance. Artists elsewhere have introduced ritualistic symbolism transforming reality; animals became dragons and humans became divinities and/or monsters. The Western human "monsters" retained their realistic components -- centaurs remain men and horses, mermaids women and fish, etc.
"Where would mankind be without Cubism?" This question is equivalent to: "What is the purpose of art?" At first sight, the sewing machine, the automobile, brought more to mankind than for instance, Cubism; but is it necessary to compare culture to technology? We'll always need both, because if the first makes life easier, the second gives life its colorful meaning.Back to the index of the Vagabond