This is another response to an individual work, a copy of which can be found in Krauss’ book, The Picasso Papers.
Before I get to this, though, let me offer some quick notes to the essay, “The Circulation of Signs.” Krauss brought up an interesting issue in the introductory essay, while discussing Picasso’s work in general: if the meaning expressed in a given work which is abstract is self-referential, the meaning can be without value. (Please see All signs lead to Picasso.) Because this is in the introductory essay, I thought she would spend the length of the book addressing its main concern. She does somewhat, and I’ve included what I found useful in my post, Violin (1912); however, she spends most of her time discussing how several different works refer to ongoing political concerns during the time that the works were created. (So the works refer to issues that lie beyond the work, and issues very specific to a time and place, and thus, they are not self-referential.)
I am a little disappointed. To address the issue in her introductory essay, I can again only offer my own opinion, and that is that if a given work has good form, it has something of value. OTOH, art is inherently a social medium; IE, it is made with an audience in mind. It doesn’t have to be political, but the more it comments/engages with issues that lie beyond the work, the more it engages with its audience on a level that is beyond form itself.
Okay, moving onto the work I am responding to. I thought it was by Picasso but it’s actually by Amedee Ozenfant. It can be found in the section entitled Picasso-Pistache.
Krauss goes on at length about how Picasso was criticized for creating pastiches of works/styles which were created/used by his contemporaries. I have not finished the essay, so I can only say that thus far she offers two responses: one which is critical and one which seems to justify what Picasso did by saying that he took the style of a given artist and then did more.
Today, we seem to allow this but call it “appropriating” the style of another artist while “making it one’s own.”
Ozenfant’s Dessin puriste (1925) may seem to look like a pastiche of Picasso’s work in that it is a flat representation of the objects, and the contour of one object may share the same lines of the contour of another object. But Ozenfant does something that does not make me think of Picasso, and that is how the picture is scored horizontally and vertically by how the contours of certain objects run along what would be one of two grids, one which divides the picture into thirds and the other into quarters. This does not happen with all the lines, but it happens so often that it looks intentional. It creates some interesting visual rhythm which is not very obvious.
What it fails to do which Picasso does so well in his cubist work is create tension between the flatness of the work and the illusion of dimension. This is because there are no vanishing points. You can compare this to Landscape with Posters (1912), which has multiple vanishing points. It is only flat and thus less engaging.
I tried to do this by eye, but eventually I had to use a grid, because so much of what is effective of this drawing depends on how well certain lines match up with other lines.
When I was done with the pencil version, I simply added ink using a ball-point pen.
I only wanted to make sure I had smooth lines (so I compulsively went over the lines until they “flowed” well). However, looking at the finished version, I think the variation of thicknesses in the lines creates some illusion of depth and thus creates some tension between the illusion of depth and the flatness of the drawing.
In short, it doesn’t look as flat as the original, which I guess is neither better nor worse, as the effectiveness of the original was achieved, in part, by its flatness. Either way, it was interesting to see the drawing move in another direction by merely changing the quality of line.