Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Art of Time Travel

I have always wanted to time travel. The sense of being at the wrong place at the wrong time has been with me since childhood. The right place and the right time has always been Paris at the turn of the century.  Art was changing in ways that could not have even been imagined by those doing the changes. Cubism and Dada were taking art and throwing it sideways and forward. How I would have loved to be a painter then. To be alive then. To have conversations about the work then.
The clip above is from Woody Allen's new film called "Midnight in Paris".  It is a film exactly about my time travel fantasies to turn of the century Paris. Although I'm sure that Woody Allen will take my fantasy and slap me in the face with it!... Ah, but I don't care. It's all about appreciating what we received from history. Of course I do appreciate my very rare upbring with two very important players from the Post-War European/American art scene. I mean, how many children got to play in the backroom of Leo Castelli's gallery, right? I get it. I appreciate the magic. But just for today, let's live my fantasy and go into the work studios of two of the artists from the turn of the century Paris.

Bateau Lavoir or "The Laundry Boat" circa 1905 
It was in this strange structure that art changed forever in 1906/07 with one canvas. When Picasso painted five hookers from Barcelona in a painting later titled Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, he broke and shattered the foundation of art. His circle, who adored him and worshipped his every brushstroke, saw it for the first time a few years after he painted it. It took that long because he was so unsure of it that he actually put the painting facing toward the wall behind a staircase. When his circle finally saw it they all gossiped about how this was the end of him. That he would now decline and disapear from the art scene. Well,eh, not quite. But the painting was not exhibited until 1916 and remained with Picasso until it was sold in 1924.

Right, Picasso at his studio in Bateau Lavoir in 1908 and left, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon
Above is young Picasso. Does he know that the canvas he has been working on and is hiding behind the stairs in his modest studio will make him an art deity? No,he actually looks fairly angry and he is probably pissed off that his live in lover, Fernande Olivier is off modeling for Van Dongen yet again. 
Look at the beautiful collection of tribal art Picasso has in his studio. It has been written over and over that the influence of tribal and Iberian art is evident in Les Demoiselles d'Avignon. Picasso was an artist collector. And the collection of Iberian and tribal art he amassed throughout his lifetime is sublime. There have been books written on it. 
Yes, I would travel gladly to this time and place just to have a day with this great man... And now on to Duchamp!

Marcel Duchamp in his Studio 1916
And then there is the father of Dada and the uncle of the Surrealists, Marcel Duchamp. In the photo above, we see the mind of the man who gave us the "Readymades" in art. Is that the R. Mutt urinal "Fountain" of 1917 hanging above his doorway? Duchamp is the one who brought "Art" to the masses by taking the "IT" away and bringing in the "everyday". Swipe a hammer at Art and break the incomprehensible and the God-like! Take away the capital A in Art so that it may enter different dimensions and come out new. If you can't tell, I love this man. He even borrowed some money from my mother one night in the 1950's after a night of partying with her and some other friends. He must have felt quite comfortable with her to have asked for a few bucks to get home. And if I have not convinced you to love him as well, then take a look at Duchamp as his alter-ego, "Rrose Selavy" which sounds like "C'est La Vie", no doubt he had that intentionally in mind when naming his Rrose self. The photograph below by Man Ray is the forerunner to the work of the wonderful Cindy Sherman, but even more complex because Duchamp lived part of his time as an artist as "Rrose" and even attributed work to her. 

Duchamp as Rrose in 1920 by Man Ray
Oh yes, I do want to time travel to early 20th century Paris and spend time with Rrose, Duchamp, Picasso and all the artists there. What a time and place to be... Anyone want to  join me?