“Painting is not intended for decorating apartments … it is an offensive weapon of war and a defensive one against the enemy.”
[from Daix, Picasso]
Picasso, like Einstein and Gandhi, gets a lot of quotes attributed to him that are not his. But this one, captured in similar form in more than one instance and published by two people who were very close to Picasso [Daix, and Francoise Gilot] is certainly authentic.
People who want to give more heft to something they want to say, rather than claim it themselves, like to attribute what they are saying to one of these three, even if the quote has no relationship, or is even contrary, to the ideas and beliefs of these three giants.
Particularly peculiar are the quotes attributed to Picasso which discuss some aspect of art in terms of God, or mention the word “God”. It is well known that Picasso never used the term “God” and was at best agnostic. He did make some comments that are extremely antagonistic to any religious sentiment or belief in God. He also produced some art that amounted to a scathing critique of the Church and religious belief.
In America as it came onto the edge of things, it did not take long for Tobey, then later Pollack and an entire generation or two [followed by another in Europe with Art Informal, Tapies, etc] to come up with an entirely new approach to abstraction. Approaches primarily centered on improvisation, an emphasis on scale, broadly brushed expressiveness, and a certain approach to materials and paint, process and gesture.
But once this abstract “expressionism” if you will is seen as exhausted, a more pictorial means is sought, and used to subvert representation. Thus we see Pop emerge and pictorial tactics intended to critique media and advertising and other coercive modes of representational pictorial production.
There’s more to be done, abstraction-wise. After the pictorial retrenchment of Pop, we see a new generation of “format” abstraction, from Stella to Bridget Riley, where each “signature style” claims a very specific, rather small, highly constrained territory of format, technique, and idea.
This heralds a generation that sees the most ruthless reductivist tendencies since Malevich: All black paintings and minimalism exploiting both pictorial and constructive means of extreme visual reduction.
The 70s sees a matched triumph of an ancillary aggressively formalist art criticism emphasized in art magazines such as ArtForum.
From there things swing so far as Coplans declaring the eternal triumph of photo-based, thus pictorial, imagery forever more, and the consequent rise of Flash Art magazine.
New endpoints. New subsequent diversion into pictorial means. And so it goes.
Once Kandinsky and other modernists go abstract, the highly reductive Malevich and the Supremacists, and Mondrian find what seemed like suitable end-points for non-objective painting, that is, painting that is so abstract that it no longer has a motif, or represented object.
Mondrian systematically took himself step by step through the whole process, from an initial reduction from representation, through increasing abstraction of that representation from the motif, to the total abstraction of his signature style. At the end of his life, he injects an abstract referentiality, if you will, back into the mix in the final Broadway Boogie Woogie paintings..
Once the abstract end-point is found, it seems to shunt the next generation off into other concerns. To the Modernists, from there, it only remained to find abstract means to paintings that still contained recognizable motifs, or to move to more figurative and hence, pictorial, means, albeit for purposes that still intended to subvert traditional representation, such as the multivariate tactics of the Surrealists.
For Picasso, who lives and flows through several generations, he carries out these swings within his own work. Sometimes within a single day. This has also been a tendency in the current generation [Humphries, Josh Smith, Christopher Wool, Richard Prince, et al.].