Sunday, July 18, 2004

Picasso and archetypes

Picasso's "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" (1907) is a fascinating painting.
Much could be written about it, but let me point out a few things: The second and third figures are like mirror images of each other. In the composition of five women, these are positioned just off center. The process of psychological mirroring is always going to be slightly off center because when you look in the mirror you tend to privilege yourself as observer. Thus the object of perception gains a mysterious power by way of compensation. This power is reflected in the painting by the more archetypal beastlike/masklike outlying images. Picasso was definitely in touch with the archaic level of that underlies the thin mask of conventional identity. The masks that he paints are like broken glimpses into that terrifying primal power.

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