This Francis Picabia Retrospective Is a Call to Mutiny

18-francis-picabia-002.nocrop.w529.h565Jerry Saltz at New York Magazine:

Who was Picabia? On some level it is astonishing that anyone would have to ask. Born wealthy in Paris in 1879, Picabia is a crucial co-inventor of five of the most far-reaching movements of the 20th century — Cubism, Dada (which he broke with), Surrealism (which he renounced), abstraction, and postmodernism. Provocative from start, he claimed to have made perfect copies of the art in his parent's home, selling the originals and replacing them with his own work. Picabia was smash success by the age of 26, called “a master” for his stiff Impressionism. The next year, he was showing internationally; the year after that brought the first monograph on his work. Revolutionary until the day he died, a bon vivant and ladies' man who often had overlapping wives or mistresses all living and traveling together, he said the “phallus should have eyes” to see “love up close.” (Put eyes inside the vagina as well and who could not love him!)

It’s not easy to generalize about what his work looks like since what really characterized his life was his overwhelming aesthetic restlessness. Picabia is the least know of the great modern masters. His animalistic unwillingness to be caged into any style or ism, his “can't step in the same river twice” insistence on constant artistic flux makes Picabia the Heraclitus-like God of Change of Modern Art. He said “the only movement is perpetual movement”; called isms “absurd traffic”; espoused a continuous “revolution in taste”; asserted that anything not modern has “no reason to exist.” Importantly, he refused to see art as a career, calling painting movements and isms the “paintocracy.”

more here.