Picasso and the Avant-Garde in Paris, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art through May 2nd, confirms for anyone lucky enough to see it that there’s always more to learn about Picasso.
And there’s a bonus for furniture-design aficionados: a very substantial pouf custom-designed by Philadelphia artist Virgil Marti for the exhibit’s Salon Cubism room. This room replicates the Salon d’Automne of 1912 both in palette and in the way its “salon-style” groupings are mixed in with sculpture.
Curator Michael Taylor told a group of us you’re meant to recline on the pouf and look up at the very high-hanging Nude Descending A Staircase whose landscape emerges clearly from that perspective. At eye level, he said, the painting has more of a patchwork-quilt effect.
It was funny he used that descriptor since Marti’s pouf is certainly quilt-ish — not in a serene Amish-quilt kind of way but more like “I tried to use up all my fabric scraps in one project.” The fake fur button at the pouf’s center grounds the radiating wedges of pattern (floral, peacock) and texture (velvet, wool) that are footed with curtain fringe. Just like a Cubist painting, it’s a lot to take in.
The exhibit shows how Cubism breaks three-dimensional objects into fragments. Is the Sigmund pouf doing the same with centuries of design tropes? I’m probably just overanalyzing this piece which is inarguably a comfy place to perch and ponder the Salon Cubists. I wonder where it’s headed after the exhibit closes.
UPDATE: Since I posted about Virgil Marti’s Sigmund Pouf, I saw that the Museum of Art has a great pouf post on its blog. Click here to check out a video of Marti talking about how the faux ostrich signifies “denial” and “burying one’s head,” and the eyes fabric alludes to insight. A bonus: There’s footage of the artist and curator demonstrating how to lounge on the pouf.
(photos by Contance Mensh, courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art)