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Critiquing the CriticsWho's your favorite critic?

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#31 papeetepatrick


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Posted 09 April 2010 - 08:43 AM

Balanchine and Picasso make an interesting comparison. Protean in styles; persona factors too;

This is what I started with. There's no argument about 'protean in styles', but 'persona' is a difficult word. Both men may have needed a sense of being godlike, but one had no humility when it came to that at all. Fine. That's his business. I agree with Mailer that we have to accept him. I'm talking about what Picasso said and what Balanchine said, or rather what I know that they said. I know they said many things of which I'm not aware.

I've enjoyed Norman Mailer in the past, Armies of the Night and earlier Advertisements for Myself were important works, but I wouldn't go to him for art criticism and agree with Michael Kimmelman, the Times art critic when he says,

That's marvelous, Quiggin, it rather rhymes with "I've always liked Judith Miller. I like operatic types." We were not going to Norman Mailer for 'art criticism', but for anyone for facts about the Louvre incident, and that happened to be what I had at hand at the moment yesterday, that is from what I remembered it. I'm not going to go through the Richardson to see if he didn't ever even mention it, I'll take your word for it that he didn't, since that's what you seem to indicate.

Mr. Richardson’s Picasso is not the destructive, misanthropic egomaniac portrayed in the Merchant-Ivory film “Surviving Picasso” or the heroic hipster artist depicted in Norman Mailer’s “Portrait of Picasso as a Young Man.” Rather his Picasso is a mass of contradictions, a savage artist, who was often horribly cruel to his friends like Cocteau but who also “had a very loyal, if sometimes paradoxical heart”

I think a loyal paradoxical heart may be the key term. T J Clark says tenderness and monstrosity co-exist in Picasso. Despite the Louvre incident Richardson cites Braque and Apollinaire as among his closest friends by 1917. A piece of a woman's black veil blows across Picasso's face one afternoon and he knows that Apollinaire is dead and he spends ten years devising a monument to his memory.

It could well be the 'key term', a bit like some of the rhetoric that has come out during the last week in some of the religious controversies, and I have nothing against the 'tenderness and monstrosity'; they certainly both show in the extravagant and monstrous sensibility that would be able to turn Apollinaire's own tragedy and bad fortune into a repulsive 'delicate moment' in which to assuage his guilt with this image of a 'woman's black veil', which in Clark's description unfortunately comes across as the very 'adolescent hero worship of the artist' that Kakutani pointed out, in its overt 'special grief' monstrosity. I'm sure he spent time on other things during those ten years.

Anyway I think we were comparing Picasso and Balanchine for their protean output, not for their personalities which yes are day and night apart.

I think we were talking about both. Michael brought the matter of comparing them in matters of 'persona factors'. That Michael may mean something different by 'persona factors' than I do is likely, but that doesn't mean it's not a provocatively interesting way of looking at both artists--you'll forgive me, I hope, that I took the liberty of looking at it as I happened to see it, that being the only one available to me at first. Their 'god personas' are both very impressive, and maybe, as many an artist (to use one of Mailer's favourite formulations) might say, they were both necessary in either case. Edna O'Brien certainly went so far as to say that James Joyce's monstrosity was indispensable for his own protean output. I myself have defended Leni Riefenstahl and other Nazis, including Heidegger, because of their artistic and philosophical output; others have defended Strauss and Schwarzkopf, I've defended Wagner. It may be that Balanchine, claiming something like 'apoliticalism', would have shown no more courage than did Picasso, and was simply never tested.

But if we are then through with the talk of persona, the 'protean output' could be compared, yes, but as mentioned already, a number of other figures could as easily be chosen. In the sense of 'revolutionary', for example, Graham may seem more like Picasso than Balanchine, and so forth and so on.

The whole discussion is rendered perfect, though, by Michael's superb witticism: "In that case I tend to forgive them the intellectual shotgun blasts - that is unless and until one of my own sacred cows gets wounded. "

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