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28 October, 2012
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Up until the early part of this century, the line between painting and sculpture was, pardon the pun, etched in stone. A few ships' figureheads and cigar store Indians had been sculpted from wood and had paint applied to them as decoration... perhaps even as preservatives, but that was about the extent of it. Then, in 1911-12, a little known Parisian artist of Spanish descent, perhaps growing tired of painting faux prints and textures into his paintings had the audacity to take the caning from an old chair and glue it to a portion of his canvas, then paint on top of it. To this he added some oilcloth and a rope frame around the small, oval canvas. He called it Still Life with Chair Caning. Except that upon closer inspection we notice the chair caning is not chair caning at all but the printed illusion of chair caning on the oilcloth. Today it can be seen in the Musee Picasso in Paris.

Picasso invented French...simply "gluing". It's hard to believe that this "art" is less than ninety years old as today we see it done by kindergarteners with the same enthusiasm as college art students. We take it for granted as an artform. Yet with the advent of collage, the line between painting and sculpture was breached. The door was ajar. By 1914 Picasso was attaching real objects to the surfaces of his canvases, thrusting forward the subjects of his still lifes with all the gusto of a kindergartener with a new-found toy.

Inevitably, sculptors, recognising this invasion of their sacred domain ceased upon Picasso's innovation and in the process learned to "add" as well as they had "subtracted" for so many centuries. The art of "assemblage" was cloned as interesting cast-off flotsam and jetsam of society were "collaged" together in the creation of "high art". Whereas in the past most sculpture had been done by the "subtraction" process of carving, and only clay or wax had been utilised in the "building" of sculpture (the addition process), now, thanks to Picasso, anyone with some imagination, a little glue, a few nails, and a hammer could call himself a sculptor. In fact today, most sculpture is done by the "addition" process. One could perhaps even go so far to say that Picasso changed sculpture even more than he did painting.

Contributed by Lane, Jim
10 February 1998


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