Press Release
14 January 2000
PDF Version v

In keeping with its 10-year reputation as one of the leading U.S. galleries for European masters, the Michael Werner gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of late paintings by the French artist Francis Picabia (1879-1953). The exhibition will focus on major paintings from the 1930s through the end of his career, including transparent works, 'kitsch'paintings, and other experimental works from this period. Inaugurating the gallery's new space at Four East 77th Street, this show will provide American audiences with the rare opportunity to view a large group of works by an artist whose work has been the subject of major retrospectives throughout Europe.

Francis Picabia is one of the seminal artists of the twentieth century whose experimentation with a variety of styles has defied categorization, bringing him recognition as a spiritual pioneer for artists since the 1960s. Indeed, Picabia's enigmatic body of work demonstrates his frequent vacillation between figurative representation and abstraction'-a practice which often caused consternation among critics who, during his lifetime, were accustomed to artists working within a singular style.

Picabia began his career painting Impressionist landscapes that won him significant public acclaim as a contract within the reputable Galerie Haussmann in Paris. After meeting Marcel Duchamp in 1910, however, he began to experiment with an increasingly abstract style that writer Guillaume Apollinaire termed 'Orphism.' During this period, Picabia was heavily involved with artists, writers and theorists such as Duchamp, Andre Bréton, Jean Cocteau and others who were instrumental in developing the Dada and Surrealist movements that prevailed in the arts during the 1920s. Picabia's works were first exhibited in the United States at the Armory Show of 1913. An exhibition of his watercolors and drawings was shown at Alfred Steiglitz's gallery '291'later that same year.

In 1927, Picabia began his celebrated series of transparences which combined figurative elements and abstract forms in enigmatic, multi-layered works. Shortly thereafter, however, he adopted a more concrete style, producing naturalistic drawings overlaid with transparent layers. A new style of richly colored, high contrast portraiture thus emerged, inspired by black and white photographs culled from erotic magazines and other sources.

These 'kitsch'works, which were initially ignored and labeled as insincere, have since the 1960s, become an inspiration for a generation of artists, including Sigmar Polke and Georg Bsselitz. Particular notice has been given to Picabia's painting process, incorporating popular culture, and repeated recycling of images, making these late paintings perhaps his most important and enduring contribution to twentieth century art.

Through many highly acclaimed and influential exhibitions over the past ten years, the Michael Werner gallery has established itself as the principle source for viewing and purchasing contemporary German art in the United States and has played a vital role in educating American audiences about contemporary European art in general. The gallery has introduced and explored the work of important figures in European painting who are little known or under-appreciated in the United States. This exhibition of Francis Picabia's late paintings will build on that tradition as the Michael Werner gallery inaugurates its new space.

Until March 30, 2000, Michael Werner gallery will be open by appointment by contacting (212) 988-1623, or by faxing (212) 988-1774.