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Francis Picabia, Montparnasse, ca. 1941–42, oil on board, 41 1/2 x 30 1/4".

Francis Picabia

Michael Werner | New York

Francis Picabia, Montparnasse, ca. 1941–42, oil on board, 41 1/2 x 30 1/4".

In 1983, Michael Werner and Mary Boone mounted the first survey of Francis Picabia’s post-Dada work to be seen in New York. The essayist for that occasion was the late Robert Rosenblum, who pointed out that while Picabia had a determinant place alongside Marcel Duchamp in the development of Dada and the picaresque adventures of the Mechanomorphs, his career had more or less petered out around 1924. Thirty years ago, such was the received truth of modern art history. Not only did the bracing shower of Picabia’s midcareer “Transparencies” speak to the artist’s own flight from a curdling Dadaism, but his “bad painting” also underscored his rejection of the affably decorative Synthetic Cubist style of his day. To be sure, the genius of Dadaism is literary, not painterly—and so, despite the occasional delights when Picabia yet again picked up palette and brush, his mediocre hand

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