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The Art Bulletin, Questionnaire Example

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Words: 1123

Questionnaire

Chave, Anna C., “New encounters with Les Demoiselles d’Avignon: Gender, race, and the Origins of Cubism,” The Art Bulletin, Vol. 76, No. 4, (Dec 1994), pp. 596-611.

How does Chave read the “reception history” of Les Demoiselles d’Avignon that is outlined in the introduction of the article?  What is the author’s objective? (pp. 597-598)

Chave reads the “reception history” of Les Demoiselles d’Avignon as dominated by sexist, racist and neocolonialist interpretations of the work. Thus, it has been interpreted from this dominant perspective. Chave’s intent is to introduce alternative perspectives on the work from voices from the margins.

What does the author mean by saying that Picasso’s representation of masks is an act of “mimicry” and “minstrelsy”?  (p. 599)

Chave suggests by mimicry and minstrelsy that the masked figures are “appropriations” of African sacred art. This is a typical colonial gesture where the white male artist uses significant cultural symbols from an oppressed culture for his own creation, entirely disregarding the context from which they originate.

How does the author read the demoiselles in African masks differently from other critics?  Why does Chave dispute the notion that the unmasked faces of the three figures on the left side of the picture are not “syphilitic monsters”? (p. 599)

Chave sees the demoiselles in African masks not as grotesque caricatures of women, but instead, suggests that what is really being critiqued are the male clients of prostitutes. Their sexual desires are namely being mocked in the painting. Accordingly, Chave does not want to state that the unmasked figures are syphilitic monsters, because this fits it in with male stereotypes of women sex workers as unclean and filthy.

How does Chave describe the “prototypical” male response to Picasso’s picture?  What psychological basis does the author provide to bolster the argument? (pp. 599-600)

Chave states that the prototypical male response to the picture is to emphasize the violent and monstrous vision of the prostitutes. However, Chave argues that this is a reflection of men’s own view of themselves: she argues that prostitution only exists because of men’s sexual desires, therefore, when men see prostitutes in the painting as violent, as “awful”, they are really seeing themselves.

How does the author characterize Walter Benjamin’s observation of modern life within the framework of a socio-economic interpretation?  (p. 600)

Benjamin suggests that the prostitute is a consequence of urban capitalism and modernism. Capitalism means the shift to the city and also to the importance of commodities. In prostitution, however, the woman herself becomes a commodity. Therefore, the prostitute shows the truth of capitalism: that workers themselves have become commodities.

How does Chave account for the fact that, unlike Manet’s Olympia, Picasso’s Les Demoiselles seemed less suited for public display?  How does the author continue this train of thought concerning matters of class and race? (pp. 600-601)

Chave states that Manet’s Olympia is more suitable than Picasso’s Les Desmoiselles because the former still corresponds to male visions of class and women. Namely, Olympia is presented in a luxurious setting that reflects capitalism’s emphasis on material goods. Furthermore, in Olympia there is also a black servant. Olympia accordingly does not challenge discourses of class and racism.

How does the author’s feminist methodology analyze “Cubist space” in gendered terms? (pp. 602-604)

For Chave, the cubist space cannot be “penetrated.” The viewer, therefore, cannot get to the heart of the painting, but is rebuffed by its abstraction. This is a pro-feminist gesture, male dominance of women, for example, through the sexual act, is prevented. Feminist art is therefore one that does not lend itself over to the male, but challenges the dominance and mastery of this viewpoint.

How does Chave explain the flattening of pictorial space differently from Clement Greenberg and T. J. Clark?  (p. 604)

Greenberg thought that painting developed from trying to represent realistic scenes to gradually revealing that it is a two-dimensional art form. Clark says that the two-dimensionality of art corresponds to the lack of depth of experience of life in capitalism. Chave, in contrast, sees this two-dimensionality as the gradual deterioration of male hegemony: paintings resist easy interpretations, they become less “deep”, and therefore cannot be mastered.

How does Steinberg frame the experience of viewing Picasso’s Les Demoiselles?  Alternatively, how does Bois explain the production of the painting?  What conclusion does Chave draw from Bois’ interpration? (pp. 604-605)

Steinberg feels that Picasso’s monstrous depiction of the women is the result of his sexually-contracted diseases. Bois writes that the monstrosity of the women eliminates any desire of approaching them. Chave thinks that Bois’ conclusion are common readings of the painting from a male perspective: the male interpreter cannot step outside his viewpoint of viewing the women as sexual objects.

According to Chave, who was Picasso’s “declared” enemy and his “undeclared” enemy? As such, how does the author interpret the shallow space of the Cubist canvas? (pp. 605-606)

For Chave, Picasso’s declared enemy was women and his undeclared enemy people of color. The gradual loss of male dominance in society is therefore for Chave reflected in the painting, since its shallow canvas mirrors the ever-receding reach of male dominance.

How can Picasso’s Les Demoiselles be interpreted through a colonialist discourse?  According to Chave, how does Picasso’s vision of the “other” differ from Mattise? (p. 607)

Picasso’s Les Demoiselles is colonialist in the sense that it uses African art themes without any reference to African culture. Chave thinks that Picasso’s other is more violent than that of Mattisse’s: it is an invasion of the Other, whereas Matisse’s is safe, clearly set in familiar Parisian surroundings.

How does Chave characterize the crouching figure in the lower right quadrant?  (p. 608)

Chave feels that the crouching figure is representative of the sexualized female body.

On what basis has scholarship suggested that the figures in African masks symbolize femme fatales? (p. 608)

The African masks symbolize femme fatales to the extent that there is a danger associated to them: a femme fatale is associated with death, as opposed to the reproductive gender role of the mother. The uprising of blacks in America suggested violence to the dominant white male hegemony: the scholarship thus linked together women and blacks in the painting according to their marginalized status.

According to Chave, in the aftermath of Les Demoiselles, what accounts for Cubism’s retreat from the “raw nudity” and African elements? (p. 609)

The retreat from the nudity and African elements were essentially a retreat from that what the male hegemony considered to be dangerous. The images were too threatening to the dominant discourse and therefore “safer” approaches that did not explicitly approach the Other were promoted.

Why does Chave agree with Felix Fénéon’s account of Les Demoiselles that it contains elements of caricature?  (p. 610)

Chave agrees with Feneon’s account to the extent the work is also for her humorous, a caricature: it shows the absurdity of male conceptions of gender roles and what sexual relationships should be.

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