the dove: pecking the juice out of life

There is more than a little irony, incoherent on the surface, that Picasso, a lifelong communist and aetheist was the beloved poster image icon of the American art establishment; the godfather of abstract expressionism and the tidal wave of non-aesthetic content art which was to permeate popular culture. A symbol of art as a form of arrested emotional development, an expression of the death instinct, a glorification of the ugly. In short he was a malevolent, envious, destructive SOB.And those are the good qualities.

…Picasso once said “nature has to exist so that we may rape it.” There was the myth of Picasso and then the reality of this utterly unredeemable human being, catapulted, the great manipulator became the manipulated, the voice of modernism, the spokesman for ugly, an anti-christ in socialist garb. A misogynist ambassador of the dark workings of white, male patriarchal power. Unsafe at any speed.

---Thus the many images of women, who when not weeping are often displaying their nakedness for the lustful edification of the artist. Of course some of Picasso's women just sit placidly, often scooped out by his famous gaze, or lacking any sign of independent personality. In fact, the exhibition sets up a contrast between the heads of women, mournful or distorted with grief -- certainly personal, rather than having to do with historical events -- and (mostly) animal death's-heads, which, I want to suggest, no doubt all too speculatively for some people, are symbols of Picasso's own death instinct, that is, his own aggression in the form of annihilation anxiety. But of course it was his girlfriends -- and there were some male friends as well, for example, Max Jacob -- who were annihilated. ---Read More:

It was the triumph of the anti-art. The great leap backward. While an Otto Dix was inspired by the Old Masters, the moderns, egged on by Breton, were time-warping to primitive tribes. Worse, to take inspiration from primitive cultures- they became and reinforced colonialist racist stereotypes- they appropriated a superficial iconology without the faintest understanding or interest in the very profound cultural complexity which they then simply bastardized into a commodity. So, Picasso was not a great painter, but he was a great actor, a confidence trickster, a song and dance man, a marketable phenomenon in the society of the spectacle.

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…Les Demoiselles d’Avignon portrays “five horrifying women, prostitutes who repel rather than attract and whose faces are primitive masks that challenge not only society but humanity itself” . Even Picasso’s admirers were horrified, but continued to promote him. Adulation of Picasso became the fashion among critics and in academia, and multiplied when he, always of left-wing persuasion, officially joined the Communist Party on October 5, 1944, shortly after the liberation of Paris from Nazi occupation. He served Party propaganda for many years even though his art was not in agreement with “Stalinist realism.” Perhaps his greatest service to Communism came at the Second World Peace Congress in Paris on April 19, 1948 when Louis Aragon…

---In fact, Guernica, ostensibly about the first blitzkrieg -- a kind of trial run for the bombing of civilians that later became de rigeur military strategy -- shows not a single instrument of modern technological warfare. Indeed, the only thing vaguely modern and technological in it is the light bulb. Instead, we see a rather triumphant bull running wild and wreaking havoc among women, a kind of allegory of Picasso's attitude. ---Read More: image:

picked a marvelous lithograph of a pigeon Picasso had completed at the beginning of January, declared it a dove and turned it into the poster of peace…. by five o’clock that afternoon, the poster appeared all over Paris. From there, the dove flew around five continents, and Picasso became for millions the world over the man of the dove, the man of peace. “Poor old Aragon,” Picasso chuckled as soon as Aragon had left his studio. “He doesn’t know anything about pigeons. And as for the gentle dove, what a myth that is! There’s no crueler animal. I had some here and they pecked a poor little pigeon to death because they didn’t like it. They pecked its eyes out, then pulled it to pieces. It was horrible. How’s that for a symbol of Peace?”

---In any case, it is the complexity of space and intricacy of line that makes these pictures convincing, and keeps them from sentimentality. It is as though Picasso had to turn the child in First Steps (May 21, 1943) into a weird little creature -- and he certainly has caught the awkwardness of those steps -- to keep himself from showing his love for her. This no doubt is to our artistic benefit, and it shows that Picasso is a sensitive observer of his surroundings. But it also shows a peculiar failure of intimacy, which is also the problem with High Cubism, where the failure is masked by a brilliantly astringent, punitive esthetic, which squeezes the juice out of life. ---Read More:

“This famous Picasso,” wrote (Helene) Parmelin, “did the dove of peace for the Peace Movement. There was the international power of the title. There was the power of art … and there was audacity. There was the power of his fame and celebrity.” And there was, above all, the power of myth that transformed a man at war with the universe into “the man of peace’–and a cantankerous bird into the symbol of peace. Read More:

---Picasso marched at the front of the Communist contingent of Paris’ May Day Parade in 1949. When he served as honorary chair of the Jo

Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee, Picasso was fined $1,500,000 by the state of New York, which targeted the supposed Soviet front organization for misuse of funds. Picasso created the famous Dove of Peace design for the anti-war movement, and made a bitter Guernica-esque work to protest U.S. conduct in the Korean War. ---Read More:

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