new-york

Francis Picabia

Mary Boone Gallery | Chelsea

It has become possible to speak about Francis Picabia’s later work only in the light of the current postmortem on Modernist values, since what was previously unspeakable was its apparent subversion of one of Modernism’s most sacred canons: the artist as unique individual engaged in a problem-solving activity from which would develop an original “style,” a heroic myth that is currently enjoying a revival. Picabia’s work is not original in this sense; it stylistically defeats attempts to determine a unified “vision,” confiscating the image in favor of the signature as the sign of authorship. Indeed, one of the artist’s most “characteristic” works, L’Oeil Cacodylate, 1921, is literally more inscribed with his friends’ than with his own handiwork.

Picabia’s profligate range of pictorialism is such that a good deal of current work could be given a superficial credibility in relation to it, except

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