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Posted at 10:27 AM ET, 11/24/2010

Gopnik's Daily Pic: Picasso's "Arm" - again

By Blake Gopnik

(Courtesy the Hirshhorn Museum)

Yes, once again Picasso's 1959 "Arm" at the Hirshhorn. It's been on my mind, because I think I got it wrong in yesterday's post. I was responding to the idea of a freestanding artist's arm, rather than to the particularities of Picasso's piece.

The more I look at it, the more I realize there's something curiously inert and limp about this "Arm" - as though the limb had originally been cast lying flat on a table, and raised to vertical only in its final presentation as a work of art. Picasso's not signaling a viewer to stop. He's not holding his arm up, strong and tensed, to mark his presence in the room. He's just erecting it, almost like a shop sign, as a symbol of what an artist's hand might do, but without much commitment to his own 78-year-old limb's ability to do it. Looking yet again, it's almost closer to a weak hand raised in a desperate, last-ditch appeal than to any gesture of manly self-assertion. Compare it to the dead arms in Gericault's "Raft of the Medusa."

(Click on the image to see it larger.)

By Blake Gopnik  | November 24, 2010; 10:27 AM ET
Categories:  Blake Gopnik, Museums  | Tags:  Daily Pic  
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I like it.

Posted by: pronetoviolins | November 24, 2010 6:54 PM | Report abuse

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