Mr. Anil Pinto
In the Name of Picasso: Rosalind Krauss
Thesis Statement: For a painter, life and art allegorise each other,
both caught up equally in the problem of representation.
Topic Sentence: With these two works, we find ourselves looking at two
different universes-and by this he meant different formal as well as
William Rubin-leading Picasso scholar-described two different
universes-formal and symbolic-insisted on this difference-difference
becomes incontrovertible-a real world model-with a different name.
Topic Sentence: The changes in Picasso's art are a direct function of
the turns and twists of the master's private life.
1920's-sordid conditions of Picasso's marriage-his passion for the
somnolent blonde-she was seventeen-was to reign over half dozen years
of his art-Olga and Marie Therese provide-not antithetical moods and
subjects-of the same artist-but function as determinants in a change
in style-Autobiographical Picasso-Rubin was the first to invoke
it-changes in Picasso's art-direct function of the turns and twists of
the master's life-except cubism-his style is inextricable from his
Topic Sentence: With the Museum of Modern Art's huge Picasso
retrospective (1980) has come a flood of critical and scholarly essays
on Picasso, almost all of them dedicated to 'Art as Autobiography'.
Art as Autobiography-name of a just published book on Picasso-sees his
work as a pictorial response to some stimulus in his personal life-the
same author-accounts to 'prove'-Picasso's decision to go to Paris to
pursue his art-due to his need to exile himself from Spain to escape
his tyrannical mother-provides a delicious but unintended parody of
the Autobiographical Picasso.
Topic Sentence: But prone to parody or not, this argument is upheld by
many respected scholars and is attracting many others.
John Richardson-took up to review Museum of Modern Art
exhibition-agreed with Dora Maar-Picasso's art is a function of
changes in five private forces-his mistress, his house, his poet, his
set of admirers, his dog-Autobiographical Picasso-new to Rubin-his
earlier practice-of ways of understanding art in transpersonal
terms-Rubin's case is instructive-has all account of the personal, the
private, the biographical-a series of proper names of Olga, Marie,
Dora, Francoise, Jacqueline.
Topic Sentence: Unlike allegory, in which a linked and burgeoning
series of names establishes an open-ended set of analogies-there is in
this aesthetics of the proper name a contraction of sense to the
simple task of pointing or labelling, to the act of unequivocal
Achieving a type of signification beyond which-no further reading or
interpretation-interpretation-must stop somewhere-more absolutely and
appropriately in-positive identification-an individual-a 'key' to an
image-thus the 'meaning' of the image-a singularity-like a name-the
meaning stops within the boundaries of identity.
Topic Sentence: The instance of 'positive identification' that led off
to a last dozen years' march of Picasso studies into the terrain of
biography was the discovery of a major painting of the Blue Period-La
La Vie-contained a portrait of Casagemas-Spanish painter and friend of
Picasso-committed suicide in 1902-till 1967-La Vie interpreted within
the general context of fin-de-siecle allegory-with relevant
comparisons of Gauguin's D'Ou Venons Nous? And munch's Dance of
Life-when a real person is placed as a model for the male figure-the
earlier interpretation could be put aside-picture could be seen as
tableau vivant-dead man torn between two women-one old and one
young-earlier studies showed the male figure as Picasso's self
portraiture-thus the artist's identification with his friend is
Topic Sentence: The problem with this reading is not that the
identification is wrong, but that its ultimate aesthetic relevance is
yet to be proven or even, given current art-historical fashion,
Aesthetic relevance-problem is it dissociates the work from all other
aspects-nothing to do with Casagemas and sexually provoked suicide-the
left out fact being-work is located in-highly fluctuating and
ambiguous space-of multiple planes of representation-the setting is an
artist's studio-figures are related to an allegory of painting-Courbet
and Manet say-for a painter-life and art allegorize each other-equally
caught up in the problem of representation.
Topic Sentence: La Vie is after all a narrative painting and this
close examination of its dramatis personae is an understandable
(though in sufficient) response to the work.
Recent study by Linda Nochlin-takes up the question of Picasso's
colour-completely ignored earlier-modernist art-colour would seem set
the furthest possible –this is not true-1912-Nochlin analyses cubist
painting to be grisaille-broken by intrusion of a flat plane striped
in red, white, blue-'Notre avenir…'-inaugurates both the invention of
collage and the opening of cubism to colour.
Topic Sentence: The actual red-white-and-blue tricolore pamphlet that
Picasso depicted in this cubist still life had been issued originally
to promote the development of aviation for military use.
The pamphlet means-French nationalism-its colour bear the name of
Topic Sentence: Thus the significance of colour reduces to a name, but
then, in the following example, so does the significance of names.
Robert Rosenblum- 'Picasso and the Typography of Cubism' –proposes to
read the names printed and identify the objects labelled-many
newspapers are named-frequent usage of Le Journal-Rosenblum describes
the name as fractured and the puns released-JOU, JOUR and
URNAL-realism of Picasso's cubist collages-secures-the presence of
actual objects-the new imagery of the modern world.
Topic Sentence: The most recent major addition to the scholarly
inquiry on cubism is Pierre Daix's catalogue raisonne, Picasso:
Daix-insists on characterizing collage elements as signs-not in a
loose way-but in a way that announces its connection to structural
Topic Sentence: Daix is careful to subdivide the sign into signifier
Signifier-affixed collage bit-element of schematic
drawing-signified-referent to the signifier-may not be an
object-rather a free floating property-like a texture-Daix tells
us-cubist collage-exchanges the natural visual world of things-for
artificial and codified language of signs.
Topic Sentence: But there is, nowhere in Daix's exposition, a rigorous
presentation of the concept of sign.
Concept of sign-Daix's manner-easy to convert the issue of collage
sign-to a question of semantics-transparent connection-to a theatre of
a proper name.
Topic Sentence: If we are really going to turn to structural
linguistics for instruction about the operation of the sign we must
bear in mind the two absolute conditions posited by Saussure for the
functioning of the linguistic sign.
Saussure-two conditions-first condition-analysis of signs-relationship
between signifier and signified-signifier a material
constituent-signified an immaterial idea or concept-insists on the
literal meaning of the prefix re-in representation.
Topic Sentence: This grounding of the terms of representation on
absence-the making of absence the very condition of the
representability of the sign-alerts us to the way the notion of the
sign-as-label is a perversion of the operations of the sign.
Representation on absence-representability of the sign-sign as
label-doubles a material presence-by giving it its name-sign-a
function of absence rather than presence-coupling of signifier and
immaterial concept-therefore no referent-no thing at all.
Topic Sentence: This structural condition of absence is essential to
the operations of sign within Picasso's collage.
Picasso's collage-structural condition of absence-is essential-one
example-appearance of two f-shaped violin sound holes-inscribed on the
surface of work-signify the presence of musical instrument-two fs do
not mirror each other-the inscription involves-a vast disparity
between the two letters-one bigger and thicker than the other-simple
but emphatic size difference-Picasso composes the sign-not of
violin-but of foreshortening-this experience of inscription-forms the
status of signs.
Topic Sentence: What Picasso does with these fs to compose a sign of
space as the condition of physical rotation, he does with the
application of newsprint to construct the sign of space as penetrable
Sign of space-penetrable and transparent-perceptual disintegration of
the fine type-a sign of the broken colour-painting represents
atmosphere-thus Picasso inscribes transparency on the collage's
fabric-which is otherwise reified and opaque.
Topic Sentence: The extraordinary contribution of collage is that it
is the first instance within the pictorial arts of anything like a
systematic exploration of the condition sof representability entailed
by the sign.
Formal strategies-developed from collage-first into synthetic-then
late cubism-insistence of figure/ground reversal-continual
transposition between negative and positive form-structure of
signification-no positive sign without negation of material
referent-contribution of collage-systematic exploration of conditions
Topic Sentence: The use of word fragments is not the sprinkling of
nicknames on the surfaces of these works, but rather the marking of
the name itself with the condition of incompleteness or absence which
secures for the sign its status as representation.
Notion of absence-preconditions of sign-visible objections-to cubist
collages-use of word fragments-not sprinkling nicknames-rather marking
of the name-status of sign as representation.
Topic Sentence: The declaration of the diacritical nature of the sign
establishes it as a term whose meaning is never an absolute, but
rather a choice from a set of possibilities.
Saussure-second condition-operation of the sign-not on absence as on
difference-'In language there are only differences'-difference
implies-positive terms-but in language-differences without positive
terms-diacritical nature of sign-never an absolute.
Topic Sentence: In analysing the collage elements as a system of
signs, we find not only the operation of absence but also the
systematic play of difference.
Collage-system of signs-operations of absence-and play of
difference-1913-Violin and Fruit-reads as 'transparency' or
'luminosity'-patch of wood grained paper-sign for open form-as opposed
to close form-complex cubist collages-each element
diacritical-instantiating both line and colour-closure and
openness-plane and recession-system of form-not systemised in collage.
Topic Sentence: That form cannot be separated from Picasso's
meditation on the inner workings of the sign.
Form-cannot be separated from the inner workings of the sign-when
operates within the pictorial field-function of formal status-act of
literalisation-opens up the field of collage-to the play of
representation-for supporting ground-the obscured resurfaces in a
Topic Sentence: The collage element as a discreet plane is a bounded
figure; but as such it is a figure of a bounded field-a figure of the
very bounded field which it enters the ensemble only to obscure.
Collage elements-perform the occultation of one field-to introject the
figure of a new field-a surface is the image of eradicated
surface-eradication of the original surface-reconstitution of the
figure-collage as a system of signifiers-absence of a master term.
Topic Sentence: The various resources for the visual illusion of
spatial presence becomes the ostentatious subject of the
Resources of visual illusion of spatial presence-becomes an
ostentatious subject-of collage signs-in writing-they guarantee its
absence-collage-thus is the representation of representation-beyond
the analytic dismemberment-into constituent elements.
Topic Sentence: What collage achieves, then, is a metalanguage of the visual.
Collage-metalanguage of the visual-talks about space without employing
it-can figure the figure through constant superimposition-can speak in
turn of light and shade-through the subterfuge of a written text-as a
system-inaugurates a play of differences-both about and sustained by
an absent origin-fullness of form is grounded-forced impoverishment-a
ground both supplemented and supplanted.
Topic Sentence: it is often said that the genius of collage, its
modernist genius, is that it heightens-not diminishes-the viewer's
experience of the ground.
Genius of collage-heightens viewers experience of the ground-the
ground-forces itself on our perception-but in collage-ground is
literally masked and riven- enters our experience-not as an object of
perception-but as an object of discourse-of representation.
Topic Sentence: It is here we can see the opening of the rift between
collage as a system and modernism proper.
Collage-operates in direct opposition to perceptual plenitude and
unimpeachable self presence-modernism's goal-to objectify the
constituents of a given medium-beginning with the very ground-the
objects of vision-collage problematises the goal-setting up discourse
in place of presence-founded on a buried origin-fuelled by that
absence-the discourse-leads through the maze of polar alternatives of
painting-displayed as a system-this system-never objectified-but only
Topic Sentence: We are standing now on the threshold of a
postmodernist art, an art of a fully problematised view of
representation, in which to name (represent) an object may not
necessarily be to call it forth, for there may be no (original)
Simulacrum-postmodernist notion of the originless play of the
signifier-structure of post modernism-representational system of
absence-recognised as the contemporaneous alternative to
modernism-Picasso's collage-an extraordinary example of proto history.
Topic Sentence: At the very same moment when Picasso's collage becomes
especially pertinent to the general terms and conditions of
postmodernism, we are witnessing the outbreak of aesthetics of
autobiography, what I have earlier called an art history of the proper
Aesthetics of autobiography-an art of the proper name-finding an exact
referent –is questionable-with regard to art-when applied to Picasso
in particular-is highly objectionable-and to collage-is
grotesque-collage-raises the investigation of the impersonal workings
of pictorial form.
Topic Sentence: The linguistic structure of signs 'speaks' Picasso's
collages and, in the 'signs' burgeoning and transmuting play, sense
may transpire even in the absence of reference.
Daix-in classic collage-stresses on the de personalisation of
Picasso's drawing-use of pre existent and industrialised
elements-language-as per Saussure-is at stake in reference to
readymade and impersonal-a synchronic repertory of terms-into
which-each individual must assimilate himself.
Topic Sentence: The aesthetics of the proper name is erected
specifically on the grave of form.
Aesthetics of proper name-more than a failure-with the structure of
representation-that failure is an extremely serious one.
Topic Sentence: One of the pleasures of form-held at least for a
moment at some distance from reference-is its openness to multitude
imbrications in the work, and thus its hospitableness to polysemy.
Pleasures of form-openness to multitude imbrications-and its
hospitableness to polysemy-determined 'formalists'-glorified in the
ambiguity and multiplicity of reference-made available by the play of
Topic Sentence: For the art historians of the proper name, form has
become so devalued as a term (and suspect as an experience), that it
simply cannot be a resource for meaning.
Rosenblum's simple semantics-does not enrich the forms of cubist
collage-it depletes and impoverishes them-by giving everything a
name-it strips signs of its special modality of meaning-and capacity
to represent-deprecation of the formal-the systematic-is now much more
open-the boredom with form-emblematic of a dismissal-widespread among