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Why you should see ‘Naked Problems’


Pable 2Pablo Picasso was the most dominant and influential artist of the first half of the twentieth century. Associated most of all with pioneering Cubism, he also invented collage and made major contributions to Symbolism and Surrealism. Famously charismatic, his many relationships with women not only filtered into his art but may have directed its course, and his behavior has come to embody that of the bohemian modern artist in the popular imagination.

Picasso purposely avoided titling his artworks, and that is true of The Demoiselles of Avignon. When Pable 1he originally introduced the brazen painting at a private unveiling, the poets he associated with named the painting The Philosophical Brothel to lighten the mood of disappointment with which the work was met. But the title did not stick, and it was renamed Les Demoiselles d’Avignon in anticipation of the painting’s scandalous 1916 Paris début.

Today, the painting is part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan, and the work’s gallery label states:

Naked Problem 5Les Demoiselles d’Avignon marks a radical break from traditional composition and perspective in painting. It depicts five naked women with figures composed of flat, splintered planes and faces inspired by Iberian sculpture and African masks. The compressed space the figures inhabit appears to project forward in jagged shards; a fiercely pointed slice of melon in the still life of fruit at the bottom of the composition teeters on an impossibly upturned tabletop. These strategies would be significant in Picasso’s subsequent development of Cubism, charted in this gallery with a selection of the increasingly fragmented compositions he created in this period.

Naked Problem 9“Picasso unveiled the monumental painting in his Paris studio after months of revision. The Avignon of the work’s title is a reference to a street in Barcelona famed for its brothel. In Picasso’s preparatory studies for the work, the figure at the left was a man, but the artist eliminated this anecdotal detail in the final painting.”

BNaked Problem 3ut sculptor AR Kara contends that this and the other reviews of Les Demoiselles d’Avignon that have been rendered over the years fail to reveal the painting’s true meaning and significance. In his 15-minute short film, Naked Problems, Kara claims to have solved the riddle of this famous painting.

“The Brothel and Demoiselles titles tacitly cast the painting’s five nudes as a group scene. They set an interpretive course (titles often do) that remained unquestioned, even as the enigmatic painting’s early infamy turned to influence and then worldwide awe,” writes Kara on the website he’s created for the film. (Please visit

Naked Problem 1According to the film, Picasso did not intend Les Demoiselles d’Avignon as a group composition, but rather as a blatant and unabashed seduction in which each of the figures creates a separate and distinct relationship with the viewer through movement and time. “Naked Problems bares this seduction’s iconic drama,” claims the filmmaker.

Naked Problem 6Kara introduces a siren’s silhouette into the painting to uncover its demoiselle by demoiselle seductive content along with spirited music performed with brio by acclaimed virtuosos Angele Dubeau and La Pieta. Then, as the music fades, an off-stage bard removes each demoiselle’s art mask to reveal “every boldly painted but never-before-noted attitude, nuance and emotion.” This segment Naked Problem 7of the film also focuses on the painting’s skewed perspective and props, such as the impossibly upturned table and priapic fruit mentioned in the MoMA gallery label … along with “the critical till-now-unrecognized curtain billowing in its lower right corner.”

As the music cascades back in, the film makes “the long-surmised leap from the revolutionary Demoiselles to Cubism – briskly, simply and for the first time.”

Naked Problem 8Had distinguished critics and historians been aware of the painting’s Brothel title, filmmaker Kara speculates, “the unifying principle in Naked Problems would have stood out long ago, resolving The Demoiselles of Avignon, redefining Cubism and magnifying our amazement at the depth, speed and wit of Picasso’s eye and hand.”

But Kara has one final surprise. But for that, you’ll Pable 3just have to see the film.

Naked Problems was written, produced & directed by sculptor AR Kara, with stage veteran Richard Grusin voicing Pablo Picasso and dancer Mary Kay Lee as the Siren. The Camille Saint-Saëns’ spirited Dance macabre is performed by renowned virtuosos Angèle Dubeau & La Pietà.

February 282017 FMff Logo 1, 2017.



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