Saturday, June 17, 2023

Pablomatic for the people


Gadfly Patrick Marlborough offered something of a defense of Australian quasi-comedian Hannah Gadsby's critical and creaky post-feminist takedown of Picasso with a piece claiming to detail what Americans are missing about her show. It's because Americans are unfamiliar with the Australian vernacular, goes the article's claim. You might expect a brief linguistics lecture to be offered here, since it couldn't be anything as obvious that maybe Gadsby isn't really all that funny. 

It's clear from the outset that Gadsby's has no love for the artist, and is committed to debunking his myth and exposing his misogyny with a late comer's vigor. (I seem to remember quite a few books and magazine articles about Picasso over the decades that hanged him in effigy for being a brute and all-purpose lout, but no matter). If enough people “miss” what an artist is trying to do or attempting to tell us / teach us/ lecture us about, and if it takes a nervously apologetic essay in a major online platform to direct us to the wisdom that was waiting for us, it's a safe bet the artist flubbed the chance to do anything interesting at. 

It's impossible for every misunderstood artist to be an anonymous genius. The odds are not good for even most of them to be any good as visual artists.  The more I think about, it seems to be the case that most artists striving to make big statements in abstract fashion are rather muddle-headed fools who have the talent, none of the less, to secure grant money to fund their projects and pay their rent. Her worst sin, it appears, is the smug obviousness of what she's up to with Picasso. Naming this project with the anemic and obvious pun “Pablo-Matic” previews a level of banality that is ironically break—taking. Is this comedy? Criticism? Post-feminist grave digging? Is this any sort of attempt to get us to see Picasso differently through a specifically focused lens? It is none of these things. Worse, it's none of the things in any interesting way. It's a slight shrug of the shoulder, a flat punchline, a cocked head, a side glance, another shrug, another try at irony.  All gesture, no ideas. 

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