Monday, April 2, 2012

AHA! Happy Birthday Juan Gris!

Google doodle, inspired by Gris
Last week while visiting the Google search page, the Googe doodle dedicated itself to Spanish painter, sculptor, and influential Cubist José Victoriano (Carmelo Carlos) González-Pérez, better known as Juan Gris. 
Gris was part of the art movement known as Cubism. Cubism is a 20th century avant-garde are movement. It was pioneered by artists like Pablo Picasso, who may be the most notable Cubist of the movement. In Cubist art, the concrete images are broken up, they are analyzed and examined, then put back together again with an emphasis on the abstract form, whatever it may end up being. "Instead of depicting objects from one viewpoint, the artist depicts the subject from a multitude of viewpoints to represent the subject in a greater context," (Wikipedia). This emphasis on the presence and persistence of multiple perspectives might be what makes Cubism so unique, and also what makes it more pleasing and entertaining to those who view Cubist art. In fact, it might be safe to say that abstract are is more fitted for interpretation and discussion, because of its ability to be seen from multiple perspectives. I personally enjoy abstract art due to the fact that I can look at different paintings, photographs and images and judge what I see for myself. 

Look at these two paintings:

Whistler's Mother
Violin and Glass by Juan Gris 
The first painting, painted by James Abbot McNeill Whistler, is an example of Realism, a painting style that emphasized making an image out to be as life-like and "real" as possible. What do you see when you look at this painting? Does it allow for open interpretation, or are we forced to see what it depicts because it is so completely realistic? Of course we can ask questions about the subject (who is this, why is she significant, and what is the context of the painting), but we cannot "see" anything but Whistler's Mother, because she is depicted right there, in color, in indisputable profile.

The second is a painting by Juan Gris, the artist to whom Google dedicated their Google doodle. What do you see in this painting? Is there any concrete image that can be deciphered from the Cubism with which the painting has been created? I see a lamp floating over some furniture that has been upset in a fancy living room. Or, I only focus on the jumble of elements that suggest this painting is about music (because of the forte symbol in the center of the painting). Now, the name of this painting is actually "Violin and Glass." Would you have guessed that if you had been given more of a context for the painting? Is there anything in the painting (besides the forte symbol) that suggests this would be about a violin? Where is the glass? Do you see how this painting, in its Cubism, has been rearranged to become something new, yet is still reminiscent of the original image?

Cubism, and abstract art in general, allows for us to look at images from multiple perspectives, relying upon our own perception and knowledge of the world in order to interpret what it is. Something we can learn about visual literacy from abstract art, Cubism, and Juan Gris, is that images sometimes do not seem to be what they actually represent. Therefore, we always need to have an open mind for perception in order to really "figure out" the images we encounter, both in art and in everyday life.

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