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Notebook

Notebook, 1993-

APPROACHES - In The Words Of . . . .

From: Ferrier, Jean-Louis, Director and Yann le Pichon, Walter D. Glanze [English Translation]. Art of Our Century, The Chronicle of Western Art, 1900 to the Present. New York: Prentice-Hall Editions. 1988.

Juan Gris

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Art is a Science
1924 - Writings and Theories

On May 15, in the Michelet Amphitheater at the Sorbonne, Juan Gris gave a lecture to the Groupe d'Études Philosophiques et Scientifiques, founded by Dr. Allendy. The lecture, entitled "The Possibilities of Painting," was covered in its entirety by the 'Transatlantic Review' in its June issue, and significant portions of it were published in Spanish in the September issue of 'Alfar.' In the passage reprinted below, Gris contrasts architecture, a single and indivisible entity, with construction, which, according to him, was completely lacking in homogeneity. As the reader will realize, it serves as an excellent introduction to the work of this great Cubist.

All construction in the natural world, whether it be organic or inorganic, is architecture. The molecular structure of a body, in distinguishing it from other bodies, gives it its individuality. The phenomenon of crystallization offers beautiful examples of natural architecture, since the bodies always crystallize in the same volume and form. Oxygen and hydrogen combine in certain proportions to provide a certain quantity of new molecules, a quantity dependent on the quantities of the elements that were combined, no more and no less. Thus, one realizes the synthesis of water in its quality and its quantity. This is a chemical architecture, a true architecture, since the result of this combination has a unity, a homogeneity, and chemical proportions that are completely different from those of its constituent elements. It has a new individuality. But, mixing water with wine, for example, is only a construction. The result has no new chemical properties, no unity, no homogeneity, and no individuality. In short, it is not synthesis . . . .

An architectural entity cannot be dismantled into pieces where each piece would maintain autonomy or a separate life. An isolated fragment of architecture can only be a bizarre and detached piece having no existence outside of the place where it belongs. Thus, construction is but an imitation of architecture. The technique of painting is an example of colored, flat architecture and not construction. This is so by virtue of the relationship between the colors and the forms that contain these colors.

One may now say that if esthetics is the collection of relationships between the painter and the external world, relationships that lead to the subject matter of the painting, technique is the collection of relationships between the forms and the colors that they contain, and between the colored forms themselves. This is composition, which leads to the picture . . . .

Each form in a picture should perform three functions: one by virtue of the element that it represents, another by virtue of the color that it contains, and still another by virtue of the other forms which, together with it, make up the totality of the picture. In other words, it must respond to an esthetic, it must have an absolute value in the system of architectural relations, and it must have a relative value in the particular architecture of the picture.

Juan Gris, The Possibilities of Painting

[An Exerpt From: Ferrier, Jean-Louis, Director and Yann le Pichon, Walter D. Glanze [English Translation]. Art of Our Century, The Chronicle of Western Art, 1900 to the Present. New York: Prentice-Hall Editions. 1988. p. 243]




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