Patrick Painter

Francis Picabia

07 Mar - 25 Apr 2009

© Francis Picabia
“Paintings and Works on Paper”

March 7, 2009 – April 25, 2009

Patrick Painter Inc. is excited to present an exhibition of paintings and drawings by iconoclastic French-Spanish artist Francis Picabia at its Melrose gallery. It may come as a surprise to read that this is Picabia’s premier exhibition in Los Angeles, so it is also an historical art event for the city. The show primarily concentrates on Picabia’s later work from the mid 1930s to the early 1950s.
Dismissed as kitsch in its day, this period in the artist’s career has experienced a reappraisal of its brilliance. Although the work was created nearly three quarters of a century ago, its sarcastic humor and non-conformist attitude make it feel ever more contemporary.
Francis Picabia was born in 1879 in Paris to an aristocratic family. Their independent wealth and his subsequent inheritances allowed him to pursue his artistic endeavors and liberated him from subscribing to any particular style of art. As a teenager he studied at the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Arts Decoratifs and 104 Boulevard de Clichy in Paris, the latter of which boasted graduates such as Vincent Van Gogh and Toulouse-Lautrec. Picabia spent the rest of his life as a working artist, swiftly passing through a series of vital movements: Impressionism, Cubism, Dadaism, and Surrealism. In the final phase of his life he focused on abstract and figurative painting. He passed away in 1953 in the same Parisian house he was born in.
In his Impressionist years, he had several successful shows at the distinguished Galerie Hausmann. Picabia was the sole member of his Cubist circle to attend the Armory show in 1913, where he took New York by storm. He was friendly with many of his famous contemporaries; Marcel Duchamp, Alfred Stieglitz, and Andre Breton, to name a few, all had a significant impact on the direction of his work. He was given a major retrospective at Galerie Rene Drouin towards the end of his life in 1949. Picabia also had a post-mortem retrospective at Centre Pompidou in Paris, who remains the largest institutional collector of his art.
Interest in Picabia’s work is steadily increasing. In 1990, his widow, Madame Olga Picabia, founded the Comite Picabia, an organization dedicated to researching and maintaining an exhaustive inventory of his pieces. The committee is in the midst of producing a catalogue raisonné, which will be the first comprehensive document of Picabia’s life’s work.
Picabia’s work is not only coveted by collectors but is also a favorite among contemporary artists.
He has had a pronounced influence on Sigmar Polke’s painting as well as David Salle’s, and Julian Schnabel and John Currin are among his most enthusiastic collectors. It is no wonder that these painters embrace his work, for Picabia was an early master of appropriation. For example, Picabia’s “French Can-Can” could be a perverse nod to Degas, if Degas were painting burlesque dancers instead of ballerinas. Picabia’s fascination with popular culture and the dichotomy between low vs. high art are what keeps his work feeling as exciting and current as it did in the mid-20th century.

Tags: André Breton, John Currin, Marcel Duchamp, Vincent van Gogh, Francis Picabia, Sigmar Polke, David Salle, Julian Schnabel