Among the more than 300 works on view through February 25 at the Centre Pompidou for its exhibition Cubism is, above, “Masque krou,” Côte d’Ivoire, undated and uncredited. Painted wood, metal, and cork. 25.5 x 16.5 x 18.3 cm. Musée des beaux-arts de Lyon, Lyon. © Lyon MBA – Photo Alain Basset.
Among the 300+ oeuvres featured in the exhibition “Cubisme,” running at the Centre Pompidou in Paris through February 25 is, above, Paul Cézanne, “Portrait of Ambroise Vollard,” 1899. Oil on canvas, 101 x 81 cm. Petit Palais, Musee des beaux-arts de la Ville de Paris, Paris. Copyright Petit Palais/Roger-Viollet.
By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2019 Paul Ben-Itzak
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PARIS — It won’t come as any surprise to many of you that, curation-wise, the Centre Pompidou — or Beaubourg, as the locals call it — is one sexist institution. But the mammoth advertising poster — in English, with no apparent translation large enough to read — that confronted me on the Boulevard St.-Germain the other night as I was finishing up a gallery run was an open invitation for a Gorilla Girls reunion or for Oksana Shachko to come back to life and make up with the rest of the Femen for one last unified demonstration. Under the cheeky proclamation “Without the Centre Pompidou, Paris wouldn’t be Paris,” was a list of some of the artists without whom the Centre Pompidou presumably wouldn’t be the Centre Pompidou:
“Joan Miro, Vassily Kandinsky, Robert Delaunay, Yves Klein, Andy Warhol, Henri Matisse, and many others.”
Now, if you’ve been to the Pompidou, you might opine that, male-female artist proportion-wise, this is just truth in advertising. I have, and even without getting into all the other worthy women included and excluded (notably Leonor Fini) from the national modern art museum, from the names on the list itself one name stands out as being ignobly left out: Robert’s wife, Sonia Delaunay, by far the more interesting and versatile artist, the mother of spontaneous color and, with Blaise Cendrars, co-author of “La prose du Transsibérien et de la Petite Jehanne de France,” at least one copy of which seems to be in the collection of the Pompidou (another is apparently in the collection of my alma mater’s art museum), whose Sonia holdings are a lot more interesting than its Robert holdings. If Sonia — or any other female artist — is featured in the museum’s Cubisme exhibition running through February 25, it’s not evident in the press kit, among which *none* of the available images (including Cezanne’s portrait of the seminal art dealer Ambroise Vollard, featured above) were of work by female artists.
My immediate instinct on seeing the lack of ANY female artist’s name, underlined by the glaring omission of Sonia Delaunay while her artistically inferior husband was highlighted, was to want to write, “The Pompidou is having its Me-Too moment.” My more considered reflection was “Rien a voir. Me-Too designates sexual harassment or aggression, and what the Pompidou’s guilty of here, curating-wise, is sexist discrimination.” And my more informed conclusion is that the twin bases for sexual harassment are the proclivity of some males for violence and domination and the conviction that women’s only legitimate place is in the bedroom or the kitchen, all of which come from the same source as sexual discrimination: the Phallocracy.
Among the 300 paintings, drawings, and historical documents on view at the Center Pompidou in Paris through February 25 for the exhibition Cubism are, left, Pablo Picasso, “Self-Portrait,” 1907. Oil on canvas, 56 x 46 cm. Narodni Galerie, Prague. Copyright the National Gallery, Prague, 2018. Copyright Succession Picasso 2018. And, right, Pablo Picasso, “Portrait of Max Jacob,” 1907. Gouache on paper, 62.5 x 47.5 cm. Museum Ludwig, Cologne. Copyright Rheinisches Bildarchiv Koln, Irouschek, Sonja, rba_c010921. Copyright Succession Picasso 2018. That the surrealist poet’s portrait hangs in a German museum is ironic; in February 1944, after none of his artist friends, including Picasso and Cocteau, were able to successfully intervene on his behalf (Cocteau tried, but didn’t talk to the right person; Sasha Guitry promised but did not come through), Jacob was arrested by the Gestapo after being ratted out by neighbors, dying of pneumonia in the Drancy way-camp before he could be deported. On his deathbed, Jacob — who had converted more than three decades earlier and regularly wrote proselytory poems for his friends — asked for a priest. “De vagues réverbères jettent sur la neige la lumière de ma mort.” (From “The Dice Cup.” To read Max Jacob’s poem on Fake News, click here.)
From the Arts Voyager archives: Gino Severini, “Mare = Ballerina (Sea = dancer),” 1913. Tempera and pastel on cardboard, 25 13/16 x 18 Â½” (65.5 x 47 cm). Triton Foundation. ©2012 Gino Severini / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris. Photo courtesy of the Triton Foundation.
By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2013, 2018 Paul Ben-Itzak
If you think the world only started getting smaller — and the many worlds of art cross-fertilizing — with the advent of the Internet, you need to get yourself to the Museum of Modern Art in New York. With “Inventing Abstraction: 1910-1925,” a pan-media exhibition of 350 paintings, drawings, prints, books, sculptures, photographs, recordings, dances, and more, running through April 15, MoMA returns to its historical and pedagogical roots and, not incidentally, furnishes a much-needed refresher for a 21st century New York art world as evidently rootless as it is profligate, as well as a template for today’s would be multi-media hopscotchers, too often content with dilettante dabbling and dipping into their sister art forms.
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Among the 300 artworks and documents on view at the Pompidou Center in Paris through February 25 is, above: Henri Rousseau, a.k.a. le Douanier Rousseau, “The Muse inspiring the poet,” 1909, an homage to poet, critic, and Cubist comrade Guillaume Apollinaire. The exhibition includes separate rooms dedicated to critics and writers and to the War, in which Apollinaire was wounded by shrapnel in the head. (See below.) Oil on canvas, 146.2 x 96.9 cm. Kunstmuseum Basel, Bale. Copyright Kunstmuseum Basel, photo Martin P. Buhler. Courtesy Musée Pompidou / Service du Presse.
by Guillaume Apollinaire
From “Calligrammes: Poems of Peace and War (1913-1916)”
Copyright 1925 librairie Gallimard and 1955 Club du meilleure livre
Translated by Paul Ben-Itzak
(The initial publication of “Calligrammes” in 1918 opened with this dedication from the author: “To the memory of the oldest of my comrades, René Dalize, dead on the field of honor on May 7, 1917.” Wounded in the head towards the end of the war, Apollinaire succumbed to the Spanish flu on November 9, 1918, 100 years ago today.)
As it was the night before Bastille Day
At around four in the afternoon
I went out in the street to see the acrobats
These people who perform feats on the sidewalks
Are becoming more and more rare in Paris
When I was young we saw many more of them than today
Almost all of them have moved on to the country
I headed down the boulevard Saint-Germain
And on the small square situated between Saint-Germain-des-Prés and Danton’s statue
I found the acrobats….
(After evoking the dilapidated, desultory state of the other performers and their worn accoutrements, Apollinaire gets to the finalé:)
….The music stopped and it was time to cajole the audience
Which little by little tossed onto the carpet the sum of four cents
In lieu of the nickel the old acrobat had set as
the price of the feats
But when it was clear that no one would give another centime
They decided to start the performance
From beneath the organ emerged a tiny acrobat costumed in a pulmonary pink
His fists and ankles wrapped in fur bracelets
He spouted out brief yelps
And greeted us by politely spreading out his forearms
A rear leg prepared to genuflect
He thus saluted the four cardinal points
And when he walked on a ball
His thin body became a music so delicate that none of the spectators were left cold
A petite sprite with no humanity
And this music of forms
Destroyed that of the mechanical organ
Molded to the man with the veiled visage of the ancestors
The tiny saltimbanque
With such harmony
That the organ stopped playing
And the organist hid his face in his hands
Whose fingers looked like those of all descendents of his destiny
Miniscule fetuses which projected from his beard
More Indian war-whoops
Angelic rustling of the trees
Disappearance of the child
The acrobats hoisted the large barbells with the tips of their arms
They juggled the weights
But each spectator searched inside himself for the miraculous child
Century oh century of clouds.