Picasso: Celebrate!

“In art, there is neither past nor future. The art that is not in the present will never be.” (Pablo Picasso, 1881-1973)

Picasso, a rare human that comes along only once in a century — or less. The most recent evidence, the Christie’s New York sale of his “Les femmes d’Alger (Version O),” 1955 for $179,365,000 USD, setting the new world record for any work of art sold at any auction. As I wrote then: “Picasso. Still raising eyebrows. Still raising the bar. Still a powerhouse.”

Too often I hear, as the opening salvo of an artistic evaluation, vigorous denunciation of Picasso the man and his well known foibles. Invariably, this personal denigration curtails and stunts a full appreciation of the brute strength of his art. For my part, I embrace his well noted perceived flaws and foibles. Noteworthy: To embrace the whole is not necessarily to condone all parts of the whole. I wish to celebrate the man, his “animal nature and passions,” his complex psychology, as essential to the power and influence of his work. Those very prickly animal passions and psychological drives that may have personally run amok and wreaked havoc, are the source of the phenomenal power and impact of his body of work and its influence.

Picasso the man, the work — and the savage, instinctual power of each. There could not be the one without the other.

Rare, exceptional individuals, often complex or, dare I say, “offensive,” have rare needs. Often they are compelled to break traditional confines. Seems to me that our current culture is too frequently constrained by political correctness and its ensuing narrow mindedness, such that many are unable, or unwilling, to accept various aspects of human nature as something to be embraced. They run scared and afraid I think. Afraid of themselves, what they are, what they need — maybe with good reason in this judgmental and punitive environment — I am unsure. But when viewing and participating in the Arts, when formulating judgements of art and artists, this tendency should be countered with a concerted effort to refocus one’s cultural eyeglasses so to embrace the whole artist. “To embrace” does not mean personal approval of all aspects of the artist as a person, but it does demand a clear-eyed recognition that the artist’s powerful creative product could not have been realized by means of any lesser combination of human moving parts.

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With such genius, no wonder he got irritated!