Flattening Space

Rosalind Krauss

  • Picasso and the Invention of Cubism by Pepe Karmel
    Yale, 233 pp, £40.00, October 2003, ISBN 0 300 09436 1

It has become conventional to ask of Picasso’s early work how he came to invent Cubism, the style fundamental to the course of 20th-century aesthetics. Its influence can be seen in abstraction (Mondrian’s gridded panels), Surrealism and Expressionism; in the readymade and in Dada’s exploitation of industrial raw materials (John Heartfield’s political photomontages would have been impossible without collage); and even Abstract Expressionism (as Clement Greenberg argued, the little pockets of ‘depth’ that pucker the surfaces of Cubist paintings presage the hills and crannies in paintings by de Kooning and Pollock). Early commentaries on the movement focused on the notion of the fourth dimension as the vital element in Picasso’s sweeping reconception of the experience of reality; the argument was that in showing successive sides of an object as though the viewer were circumnavigating it, Cubist paintings represented time as well as space. (This fascination with temporality was pursued by the Futurists, who wanted the viewer swept up into the cacophony and whirlwind of the modern city.)

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