Nothing makes sense anymore! War rages everywhere, politicians prattle; new media come at you a mile a minute; the world your parents built is collapsing, and only chaos lies ahead. Do you cower? Do you take refuge in tradition? Or do you do what they did 100 years ago: plunge into the chaos and make something new?
For a while now I’ve believed that Cubism — specifically the later Synthetic Cubism, which slashed and sutured printed matter and found objects into a whole new kind of image — offers an invaluable example to artists today, floundering in an unstoppable stream of image and information. I felt that especially in 2014, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s outing of the Cubist gifts of Leonard A. Lauder, marveling at how Picasso, Braque and Gris used Paris’s tabloid press, blaring advertisements and telegraphed stock prices to rewrite the rules of Western pictorial representation. Now the bad boys of Montmartre are back at the Met, whose fall exhibition “Cubism and the Trompe l’Oeil Tradition” (Oct. 20-Jan. 22) will reassess how the Cubists made use of earlier optical tricks to make cunning and scheming new pictures for a crazy age.