Ron English's X-Ray Guernica

Ron English recently painted the X-Ray Guernica mural in Rome.


  1. I wish I “got” art appreciation. Everytime I read or have people explain to me what is actually depicted in that piece (or any picasso, or almost any cubist/surreal art), I just can’t see it. To me, it doesn’t look anything at all like what other people commonly agree it is. Sure, it looks pretty damn cool, but it’s frustrating not being able to interpret any meaning whatsoever, especially when it seems like everyone else can interpret the same things. (bitch moan groan etc)

    1. I hear you, Bob. Sometimes it’s best to just look without trying to think about any kind of meaning or purpose. Appreciate it in the same way you would appreciate a nice photo of the Horsehead Nebula

    2. For me, the key to grok-ing Cubism/Modernism/etc. was spending enough time with the originals to let them speak. Park your eyes in front of the real deal, and then just let it reveal whatever it chooses. Akin to “studying” your lover’s face…learning what’s there and what isn’t there over time, and how to appreciate it. My breakthrough was Duchamp’s Nude Descending… — it took a couple of hours (interrupted by a few brain-palate-clearing walks), but when I finally decoded the abstraction and saw all four dimensions (space and time), I was hooked.

      Fortunate enough to have seen the original Guernica at MOMA, maybe 35 years ago. Wow — just wow. It’s still the most powerful abstraction of war I’ve ever witnessed.

      Hope you don’t give up. Check out Picasso’s Mother and Child (non-abstract) and imagine re-mixing its elements to convey changes in viewpoint and time while never leaving the single frame. Or, watch the “bullet time” parts of The Matrix; pretty much the same technique in newer clothes.

    3. bobhughes, I minored in art history and talk pretty confidently about visual art, but you’ve captured exactly how I feel about music.

    4. It might help to know that when a German asked Picasso who created a painting about the Germans and Italians bombing the Basque Country, Picasso replied, “You did.”

  2. Curses. We just got back from Rome today – I’d like to have seen this, it looks pretty impressive. And even bigger than the original. Anyone know where it is? The student area?

  3. It’s in Testaccio. Looks pretty cool…but the slaughterhouse turned into a modern art museum right beside it (MACRO) outcools it by far.

  4. Um, is no one bothered by the idea of this furious depiction of a Basque town bombarded by the fascists during the Spanish Civil War being co-opted by a colossal vodka corporation for our viewing pleasure?
    What’s next? Absolut Kim Phuc Napalm Attack? Sheesh!

  5. So is art appreciation correlated to culture & refinement in general, or is it more of an academic endeavor that has to be developed with experience and knowledge, or is it a talent that some people will never really succeed at no matter the effort they put into it?

    morganmae I’m a hobby musician, but I don’t have any formal music education, so there’s probably alot of things I’m not doing right or taking into account when I compose my own pieces. My music appreciation and analysis is patchy, even though I regularly listen to music spread across 70-80% of all genres, and have probably spent alot more time listening to music than I have with any other recreational activity. I also have perfect pitch.
    But, I’m an engineer, so the vast majority of my creative streaks are “left-brain” (metaphorically speaking)

    S2, I actually saw Guernica myself in Madrid some 15 years ago. Back then I was a kid and I hadn’t seen much art, but also I didn’t have much appreciation for art appreciation (heh) since not only I didn’t get it, I also decided that most people who supposedly did were just following each other to arrive at the same analyses as the original one which someone had pulled outta their ass and published. I’d guess that feeling was due to envy, but didn’t realize it. My spanish teacher was going over the various components, telling us what they were & what they meant, but my friends and I were just giggling in disbelief and quietly saying stuff like “I would’ve never guessed that was a lightbulb”, “That’s totally not a horse”, etc… I’ve gotten better since then, so I’m guessing alot of it comes with practice and experience, but I wonder if it takes a certain mindset, or talent even, to ever really be good at it?
    I checked out Mother and Child in your link, and I was able to visualize it the way you suggested, but I didn’t have any kind of realization or anything… I just saw a mother holding a baby, and couldn’t really infer anything deeper.

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