Of course. Of course?
Well, actually, not necessarily.
Take, for example, “The Picasso” in Daley Plaza in Chicago. It is untitled– which is the first tricky thing about it. No hints to tell you what it is. I walked by it for years, always assuming it was a horse. I’m sure I’ve heard plenty of Chicagoans refer to it as “the horse,” which looked about right to me. (The long muzzle, the powerful haunches, the glamorous mane– it all fits.) But on our recent visit to Chicago, my daughter said, “It’s a baboon.” That’s all, no debate. Clearly, it’s a baboon. Duh. And, guess what? I totally see that too. (How could I not have seen that before?)
However . . .
it turns out that if you view it from the side as you come around it, instead of straight on . . .
it’s a woman’s profile. In fact, at just the right angle, you really see the woman and her cheekbone lines from the front– especially if you look at the sculptor’s model in the Art Institute of Chicago. The hair, the shoulders, the cheekbones, it’s all there.
Although that model could still be an especially fetching baboon. Hard to say.
Picasso designed this mammoth statue for the city of Chicago– it’s 50 feet tall and weighs 163 tons. At that size, whether or not you understand it, you will find yourself looking at it.
But wait– there’s more. Because it’s a huge piece of art in a huge public space, you will find yourself as part of a community that interacts with it. People navigate by it, eat lunch by it, stage movie scenes around it (remember the Blues Brothers?), and allow their children to play on it.
Can you do that? Play on a Picasso? Is that cool? Some onlookers clearly think not, but others seem to believe this was Picasso’s intent all along– let the children run and slide on it!
Me? In my head, it will always be a horse, but Picasso loved bending the lines of life. I think he’d be thrilled that we are perplexed. “Keep your eyes squinting at it, your mind chewing over it, your children running up and down on it,” this is what I think he’d say.
After all, he’s the guy who said, “Everything you can imagine is real,” and “The chief enemy of creativity is good sense.”
So Chicago has its untitled Picasso, a gift given freely by the generous artist– a little nonsense standing at the navel of a great city, daring its inhabitants to guess its riddle. Pablo Picasso knew exactly what he was doing. . .because even if we don’t get it, we still get it.
“If I paint a wild horse, you might not see the horse…
but surely you will see the wildness!” Pablo Picasso