Saturday, April 18, 2020

To camouflage the starkness of man-dealt horrors

WWI camouflaged troop ship loading (c1918)
Bertram Wolfe, The Fabulous Life of Diego Rivera. New York: Stein and Day, 1963, pp. 95-96—

Cubist disputes were at the flood in Paris in 1914. The gabble was rising higher and higher, when it was stilled by the cannon’s roar. All at once, M. Bourgeois recognized that M. Artiste might be useful after all: to draw recruiting posters; to use his power of accenting and distorting and concentrating reality to make war's horrors (as the enemy waged it, of course) more vivid and, if possible, more horrible; to use brush and paint and optics to make solid forms like trucks and cannon merge with their background; to camouflage the starkness and irrevocability of unnatural man-dealt death by adorning it with laurel leaves; at the very least, he might find a lowest common denominator with all able-bodied males of proper age and exchange brush for gun, thereby becoming, at last, a “useful” member of society. Art, in one form or another, enlisted or was drafted for the duration, and reintegrated into a disintegrating society.

Diego Rivera (1910)