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August 13, 2017


Cubism and the Tomato


TomatoCubism is the movement that preceded abstract expressionism ... incubating the grand rebellion against realism ... a rebellion that still exists in contemporary art. Basically, cubists argued that a still life painting of a tomato fell short of showing the entire truth of that tomato and that the way to remedy that was to show all aspects of the fruit all at the same time. And in order to do that, the tomato needed to be shattered/fragmented and then all its parts and pieces painted on the canvas all at the same time. If a tomato were made of delicate glass, the analogy would be more vivid, as the shattered pieces of a glass tomato (rather than a real one with juice and seeds) would better reflect the pointed angles found in cubist work. 

I appreciate the experimental nature of Cubism (and its sister movement, Futurism). I respect and admire experimentalism in general. The criticism I have is in the notion that there are only things to gain and nothing to lose by shattering and distorting a subject. Indeed, there are things to gain. I mean, I really dig it when I can actually see the nude woman walking down a staircase (as in Marcel Duchamp's famous painting: Nude Descending a Staircase) when at first glance it appears to be just a bunch of lines and shatterings.

But that doesn't mean that a representational work that shows only one view of the woman descending a staircase doesn't offer certain truths relevant to that woman.

Rendering an object by shattering it and showing all pieces simultaneously allows artists a new and magical way of looking at the subject. What we lose in the process is perspective, depth, and certain nuances that can only be captured when we take one perspective at a time. Some time in the future in my painting practice I hope I find an opportunity to render a subject in the Cubist style. But I don't think I'll be surprised to learn that by trying to show everything all at the same time, I gain wondrous things, and I lose wondrous things. And ain't that life?

#artandactivismlog

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