True Cubism

Strictly speaking, Cubism is rare. It is the product of three artists. Picasso and Braque created it. Juan Gris was the third true cubist.

Other artists did create a few cubist works, and many superficially cubist works were also created in the cubist era. But few true cubist works were ever created. Most of the artists who came under its influence moved on to other forms of visual discovery, including non-objective art.

The cubists' concern was to portray reality through a new abstract visual language. It involves a balance between the object world and the realm of abstraction.

Applied Cubism

The Institute for Applied Cubism is exploring changes in contemporary human and natural history. It is our premise that the last century’s technical, social and political innovations, combined with population increase, have resulted in a sharply increased rate of history. Stress to world cultures and the natural environment are the result. The stabilizing influence of old cultures is reduced as technology enhances the locomotive of fashion and commerce.

Some of the characteristics of this speedy history are predicted in the visual art we call cubism. This art form, the creation of two artists in Paris in the first decade of the 20th century, announced to the world that this century would have a very different look and feel. They invented a new user interface, cubism, which spread with viral speed.

The overall qualities of cubism are: fragmentation, simultaneous divergent perspectives, dissolution of form, persistence of form fragments, free-floating extra-rational abstraction, and multiple frames of reference. Cubism carries with it an implicit rejection of the unified space we call Renaissance perspective. It chose the everyday over the epic. It’s indifference to the past placed its consciousness perpendicular to the flow of history.

Applied cubism reveals the variety of phenomena in our world culture which share these same qualities. Applied cubism does not embrace these phenomena as any sort of active philosophy. Applied cubism is neither optimism, nor cassandrism. Rather it uses cubism as a organizing metaphor, a dissecting dye, to reveal structure where at first there appears to be only dissolution in this era of rapid change.

The word cubism began as an insult to the work of two painters. It has taken on authority in the following century as the world appears to be rebuilding itself to agree with that word. The pixelated world of the Information Age is indeed a world of little cubes, from the rasterized information we receive on our computing boxes, to the cubicles that info workers accept as their quotidien environment. And it is a world of multiple overlapping cultures, polities, and groups, each with its own divergent frame of reference.

The comfort and trust which would help us navigate this new world come from familiarity with the landscape of signs and symbols, a world of abstraction which is never far from the everyday world, but which often seems unfamiliar.

(c) 2000 John Boak