Arte e Humanidade

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Sou apaixonada por uma série chamada Power of Art, que faz reflexões muito interessantes. Revela como a arte é a essência mais elementar da expressão humana - fazer as pessoas sentirem. O que eu mais gosto na arte moderna é a capacidade de expor a subjetividade em si, onde cada um pode interpretar de maneira abstrata e sem parâmetros racionais. Nesse ínterim, temos o ar de humanidade que a arte nos transpassa - além do belo, do bonito: É aquilo que nos comove. E nos deixa perplexos. É por isso que não posso deixar de compartilhar a análise da obra prima Guernica e expor o quão consternada estou em saber desse ato. Assim, torna-se muito clara a função da arte: Art should comfort the disturbed & Disturb the comfortable.

In February 2003, the American delegation to the United Nations decided to make its pessimistic case for the likelihood of armed intervention in Iraq. Colin Powell's presentation to the Security Council was to be followed by a press conference. And then, at the last minute, someone noticed something inconvenient about the location. There was a tapestry reproduction of Guernica hanging on the wall. Oh, dear. Screaming women, burning houses, dead babies, jagged lines. Cover it up, said the TVpeople. It's too distracting. So Guernica was shrouded by a big blue drape. The news handlers could have said, Hold on a minute, we could show the painting. After all, this is what tyrants do, death, suffering, misery. But they didn't. However you massaged it, there was something about the way that damned picture would look on the news that would upset people. Much better to cover it up.

Life caught up with art. It's about four in the afternoon in the little town of Guernica, 15 miles from Bilbao, in the north of Spain. Seven thousand souls going about their market-day business in the ancestral homeland of the Basques. A people with their own language, culture and fierce sense of identity. In the raging Civil War, the Basques were stalwartly anti-Franco. A black speck appears in the blue. The solitary plane is German, from the Luftwaffe's Condor Legion. It wheels over the town, then, almost casually, drops six bombs. Waves of German and Italian aircraft, flying in formation, created a relentless storm of havoc. Over 5,000 bombs were dropped on the defenceless town. When the people of Guernica fled into the streets and fields, the pilots strafed them with machine-gun fire. A rain of incendiary bombs finished the job, turning the town into an ashy cauldron. 1,645 die. Thousands more are terribly wounded. The commander of the Condor Legion, Colonel Wolfram von Richthofen, was extremely gratified by the action. So surgically precise, so tremendously modern.

George Steer, correspondent for The London Times, covering the Basque war from Bilbao, got himself to Guernica. Blocks of wreckage slithered and crashed from the houses. And from their sides, which were still erect, the polished heat struck at our cheeks and eyes. Throughout the night, houses were falling, until the streets became long heaps of red, impenetrable debris. Guernica had gone Cubist.

The nocturnal inferno burns itself into Picasso's visual imagination. That's why he pictures Guernica as a night massacre, even though it was actually death in the afternoon. In his Paris studio, Picasso summons art for the most serious thing he's ever attempted, telling the truth. Of course, he's not going to compete with Steer's gritty report from Guernica. But if the painting succeeds, it will transcend mere factual chronicle. It will be Cubism with a conscience. What Picasso was setting out to make was something foreign to the very nature of modern art, the art he had defined. He was about to try and make a truly modern history painting.

Twenty feet long and 12 feet high, the canvas is too tall to fit between the roof rafters and the floor of the studio, so it's propped up against the wall. Picasso chain-smokes his way through it in a storm of furious creativity. In the early versions of the painting, there are images of hope and defiance. But as Picasso gets deeper into Guernica, those slight gestures of optimism collapse into the bleaker, overwhelming tragedy.

But what do they strain towards? An evil eye. And within that evil eye, the merciless glare of a single electric light bulb. It's the incandescence of the exterminating angel, the searchlight of the death squad and the targeting bomber. The bare bulb of the torturer's cell. Against it is the candlelight, held straight out by a heroically beautiful arm. An epic battle, then, of the good and the wicked lights. Art versus evil.

It's almost done. But there's one more necessary touch. He and Dora cover the body of the dying horse with a field of sharp little downward strokes, that make the body dissolve into a sea of newsprint or the light of a newsreel projector. The marks are unreadable. They're the visual equivalent of static. Towering above them is the force of art, breaking through the drone of news.

When he's finished painting, he knows he's done the impossible. Created something that reaches deep into modern nightmares, hectic, terrifying, burning, screaming. There's no way out.

It's defiantly modern, but it also pulls us back into the tragedy of the ages. A Cubist commotion, yet also a classical monument, with it's wailing women flanking the massive pyramid of death. It's just paint and canvas, but it has the authority of stone. It's unbombable, it's indestructible. For this picture achieves a miracle. Despite all the images of violence and disaster with which we're bombarded, it makes us feel it. It gets under our skin. This, for me, is what all great art has to do, crash into our lazy routines. The routine that Guernica tears into is a sickness of our, as well as Picasso's, time.

Guernica's always been bigger than art. Uncontainable by mere museum walls. It's one of those very rare creations that gets into the bloodstream of the common culture. It's become the shared heritage of an appalled humanity, and a mirror of the suffering of civilians in every conflict.