Friday, January 25, 2019
Guernica and the Torture of Politics Essay
When Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) painted Guernica (1) in 1937, the painting was not only a bright documentation on the horrors that took place on a small Basque townsfolk in northern Spain on April 26th, 1937, but a testament to the calamity of all war that humankind wages upon itself. Picasso says he created the painting to toy the worlds attention to the Spanish civil war and to world-wide Francos unusually cruel tactics to try and win this war. In the case of Guernica, this painting has monumental policy-making significance and is still viewed today as greatest anti-war symbol of our time.This massive, mural- sized painting (11 ft. tall by 25 ft. wide) is painted in oil and currently on lay out at the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid. Even if we remove the policy-making significance of this close to monochromatic painting, we argon still left with one of Picassos masterpieces of cubistic composition. The twisted, disjointed figures undulating across the canvas create a tapest ry of excruciation in sharp contrasts of black, white and blue. The Spanish Republican goernment licenced Picasso in 1937 to create a large mural painting to process bring to the light the misery of the Spanish Civil War to an foreign audience.Rather than seeing this very political commission as a limitation, Picasso embraced this opportunity as a platform to use his mastery of oil painting to affect political and popular opinion. Even those who are Basque or Franco sympathizers can not escape from the deep sadness and despair they are confronted with in this painting. In no way is this paintings political tie a limitation to its greatness. Picassos Guernica has been exhibited throughout the world, viewed by millions, and almost(prenominal) would argue that this was Picassos greatest achievement.Fast-forward 70 years to 2007 Different fraudists, different politics, different wars. No longer does the general populous receive its learning in newspapers or the radio as they di d in 1937. Our access to information is now instant and mainlined. In 2004 accounts of torture, sodomy and rape at the Abu Ghraib legions prison in Iraq began to surface. The world, including its artists began to react. Richard Serra (born 1939) created a series of litho-crayon drawings depicting a paroxysm of an Abu Ghraib prisoner being tortured (2), arms outstretched like a Christ figure, with the words Stop Bush on either nerve of his hooded face.The Whitney Museum of American Art used pictures of this drawing for posters of their 2006 Whitney Biennial at a time when America was still deeply divided over the good continuation of this war. This mass-produced, photographic image had become a symbol of the anti-war movement in the United States. But unlike Picassos Guernica, Serra is working directly from a photograph of the actual event, simplifying it into a cartoon like image. Thus, Serras anti-war story does not appear to be a timeless piece of art as Picassos did. If we t ake away the political significance from Serras drawings we are left with a compositionally stark subject.The politics must be included in Serras drawings for us to have an appreciation (or hatred, depending on your political view) of it. This is, perhaps, intentional on Serras part, being a minimalist sculptor, to strip the very concept of torture and war down to its closely essential parts. The speed at which Serra created this drawing is parallel to our contemporary, insatiable appetency for news and information. It is possible that Serra wanted this drawing, like the actual photographic image itself, to be ephemeral viewed and discarded to make way for the next headline.In conclusion, the political art that can align itself with our speed of information entrust be the political art that is successful in the future. Like it or not, we are all involved in politics in some way and affected by the decisions our governments make. If art is a mirror of our surroundings, past at so me point its going to cross over into the realm of politics. We can only hope that our contemporary artists will employ the same care and skills to create political work with mature political significance rather than first-idea, sophomoric vision.