Critics’ Picks

Nu (lissant), 1942–43.

Nu (lissant), 1942–43.


Francis Picabia

Hauser & Wirth London | Old Bond St
15 Old Bond Street
October 10–November 4, 2006

Christening the gallery’s new exhibition space, Francis Picabia’s glossy nudes flash painted lips, penciled brows, and soft flesh in a string of practiced poses. Appropriating images from magazines, postcards, and illustrated romance novels rather than engaging with life models, Picabia gives his women a vulgar air of repeated exposure. On pieces of cardboard and wood, the painter copies the distinct postures and props that mark each figure with an erotic identity and narrative. He re-creates the dramatic lighting used to maximize the impact of shadows beneath collarbones, reflections off of nail varnish, and highlights in shiny curls. The smooth curves of figures like Nu (lissant), 1942–43, become objects, possessed and reissued by the painter (and viewer). The girl’s eyes are turned downward, emphasizing her dark lashes with a coy glance at a blank book. Picabia’s paintings are studies of the conditions through which the female body is viewed as much as they are musings on the feminine figure itself. Fully clothed and in sharp profile, Picabia’s solitary Self-Portrait, 1920–24, casts a sinister eye toward the real, ready-made nakedness that surrounds him. A vitrine of Picabia’s notebooks, sketches, and postcards establishes the creativity of the painter’s rich life and travels.