Conversations with Picasso

Animation created during initial 4 hours the painting was created (5 loops)
Animation created during initial 4 hours the painting was created (5 loops)

The painting is loosely titled ‘Guernica’s Ghost’ and perhaps the logical narrative begins here…

A full moon was rising on October 30. Near midnight, I was staring at a five-foot-square of un-stretched black-gessoed canvas loosely stapled to the wall. A rough idea that was bouncing around my head for months finally matriculated. After feverishly painting for 2 straight hours I stepped back and instantly felt the goosebumps. I began having a conversation with the painting – and not just the painting, but Picasso himself:

PICASSO: Really?

ME: What?!

PICASSO: I get it. I coined that silly phrase “Bad artists copy, good artists steal.” But Really!?! You’re gonna steal from me?! And with one of my greatest works of all time – the cojones on you!

ME: Listen, I didn’t realize the implications – only the impulses. (I proceeded to explain my idea for about a minute)

PICASSO: Ok…I understand the homage part…but, if you’re gonna do this make sure you represent me well. And remember: always use caution when you steal. Your concept is clear, I appreciate the gesture, however don’t forget about your individuality! Your love of materials is obvious, and your fascination with technology is prevalent. Direct your focus on those two things – and try converging them!

ME: Thanks for the advice, and I agree – these two animations I just made of the initial painting stages are very interesting. The hybridization of computer technology mixed with sequences of paint, masked with a screensaver layer, integrates well into the framework of a painting…

PICASSO: I like your thinking here, these digital investigations are curious, and it extends the artwork beyond the canvas into the realm of contemporary discussion.

ME: However, pushing that technology aside for a moment – I’m also very excited about these new paintings over there loosely titled the ‘Money Series’. I’ve been experimenting with new materials and different applications of paint and I almost feel like a kid again!

PICASSO: Yes good, that is what you want! Keep working on those money paintings – it’s an idea worth expanding upon.

After that initial conversation, I continued working on the ‘Ghost’ painting for another 50 hours that week, documenting the progress and creating videos and animations along the way. What’s amusing for me is how the well-known expression on Picasso’s face helps describe our conversation. Using the iconic photograph of with hand pressed against his face warrants an obvious annoyance or dismay that a contemporary artist is pulling old tricks out of the master’s bag.

Years earlier I read a fascinating book about the long and controversial history that Guernica possesses. When visiting Madrid, I was awestruck while standing in front of the massive canvas. A chilling feeling rolled through my body when I saw it in person, and a similar feeling happened the day I started painting my reinterpreted version.

Days later on facebook I read a post that Picasso’s ‘Black & White’ retrospective had just opened at the Guggenheim – goosebumps crept through my body again. I had no idea this show was being planned – granted I don’t live in NY, but I do visit often. This was the second major time this year I felt a collective unconscious and really in-tune with our current cultural wavelengths. The painting was undoubtably a success in my eyes after these little signs and ironic connections.

2nd animation of the 56x56" canvas
2nd animation of the 56×56″ canvas