Saturday, January 28, 2012

Threatening Head

Threatening Head by deanv41
Threatening Head, a photo by deanv41 on Flickr.

I struggle with the work of Paul Klee, the Swiss modern artist whose work in the first half of the 20th Century has been cited as so extremely influential. His oeuvre is so wide-ranging and unsettled that categorizing it collectively is futile. I don't regard "categorization" as anything but a tool to sort through disparate, copious information, which is a defining feature of contemporary life. I also believe an artist can have multiple facets, more than one category of work, which is how I approach Klee. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art maintains a Klee gallery and are regarded as a major repository of his work. So, slowly, slowly, I've approached him in an attempt to get a handle on why he made such an impression. I connected with this particular piece called Threatening Head when I visited SFMoMA the other day. The facial features seem Asiatic or maybe Maori, but certainly exotic. The rat with a twig in its teeth is clearly strange but likely symbolic as much as literal. If "threat" is a part of Klee's message, this piece conveys it. It also poses as many questions as its title answers.

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