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Francis Picabia Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris
Reviews

From: Susan Aurinko
Category: Exhibitions
Date: 04 January 2003

Review

Francis Picabia Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris Through 16 March, 2003

Few artists are able to move, chameleon-like, through multiple eras and schools of art with as much strength of character as Francis Picabia shows himself capable of in this remarkable exhibit. Born in 1879, Picabia publicly showed his first work at the age of twenty, just at the turn of the last century. He came into contact with Impressionism in the next several years, a style in which he painted until, 1909, at which point he entered a br ief Fauve period, and then went on to Orphic Cubism, Dada, Dimensionalism, and several styles of his own invention. Picabia, like wood riding the waves, drifted from one style to another, finding moderate to enormous success in each. From his mechanical drawings to his poetry, his designs for ballet, and surrealist inventions, Picabia was a renaissance man who believed that he should be a 'jack of all arts', who could continually reinvent himself and his artistic expression. His work has inspired artists throughout the world. ('Le Clown Fratellini', painted in 1937-1938, for example, bears a striking resemblance to the work of Ed Paschke, who had not yet been born.) Those views contributed to Picabia's being an 'artists' artist', much revered and collected by other artists. (In 1926, Marcel Duchamp sold 80 canvasses “representing different periods of the work of Picabia” at auction in Paris.) Picabia was forever trying something new, and flexing his multi-disciplinary artistic muscles; the very openness to the new that made him so popular with artists he befriended. He lived in a constant state of wonder, never allowing himself to take anything too seriously, never becoming mired in a single style, and therefore never being predictable, boring, or bored. Some of the stronger periods of Picabia's work, for me, were his silhoutettes, both politically motivated and graphically stunning, his mechanical drawings of the Dada period, and the 'transparences', ornately layered work created from 1927 through 1932. His skill as a draftsman is apparent throughout his artistic life and his eye for detail and composition continues through his last, minimal 'pointe paintings created from the late forties into the early fifties. This exhibition is a survey not only of one man's work, but a journal of the art world itself over half a century. When Picabia died in 1953, the world lost a great talent, with a soul that embodied the very spirit of artistic ideals.

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