Thursday, September 15, 2005

making the magic happen

I've never seen the show "Cribs", but I understand that there is a virtually de rigueur shot of the featured celebrity homeowner leading the camera crew to the bedroom and saying, this is where the magic happens. Yeah, uh-huh. But I love the phrase, and use it whenever possible, regardless of its true applicability.

Which brings us to a little experiment in art-making. I've drawn a monster over at I think, if I understand this right, that you can go look at her, and then add to the drawing if you like. Which I think would be a hoot, if it works.

The function where you can replay how the drawing was made (hint: turn the speed all the way up, or you'll hate me forever) reminds me of 1956's The Mystery of Picasso. I haven't seen it yet, but I've been hearing about it for years, and should probably throw it on the Netflix queue. Henri-Georges Clouzot filmed Picasso as he worked, placing the camera on the other side of a transparent canvas so what we see is not the artist, but the paint going down, the image being born. I have mixed feelings about Picasso--who doesn't?--but I'm still intensely curious about this film, and look forward to seeing it.

A cool Picasso story I heard somewhere, or read maybe in the process of researching Steve Martin's Picasso at the Lapin Agile a couple years back. He and Matisse were rivals, yes, but it was the sort of rivalry where two people prod each other toward greatness. They were also friends. And if you look at their pieces side by side, in chronological order, you can see how they fed off of each other's ideas.

So the war came, and Matisse was unwell; out in the country trying to recuperate. And the Nazis were going around cataloging the work of Paris' artists against its potential commandeering and sale. Picasso and Matisse stored their paintings in the same facility, which I believe was underground. So Picasso offered to take the Nazi auditors around Matisse's storage space, help them with the inventory. He was selling out his friend, I can hear you say. But no. Instead he got the Nazis totally disoriented in the maze-like facility (this may be an elaboration that reflects his fascination with minotaurs and labyrinths), showed them some of Matisse's pieces multiple times (playing them off as different each time), underestimated the value of the best pieces and dismissed some completely as worthless trash, kept the auditors moving too fast to really see and note everything, and generally circumvented the whole process without their being aware that they had been utterly had. He could have been shot for this, but he took the risk, and there's a lot of Matisse's work out where we can see it now as a result.

That's a good friend.