Francis Picabia: Our Heads Are Round so Our Thoughts Can Change Direction at The Museum of Modern Art, November 21, 2016 – March 19, 2017

“A self-proclaimed “Funny Guy” and “artist of many genres,” Francis Picabia was born in Paris in 1879. His father was a Cuban-born Spaniard; his mother was French. He embraced this mixed lineage and occasionally extended it, declaring, “I was born in Paris to a Cuban, Spanish, French, Italian, American family, and . . . I have the very clear impression of being all these nationalities at once!”

Picabia is an artist with a strong New York connection. It was in this city that he first achieved fame as a leader of the European avant-garde. Today he is best known as an irreverent Dadaist who, like no other artist before him, created a body of work that defies consistency and categorization, ranging as it does from Impressionist landscapes to abstraction, from paintings of machines to photo-based nudes, and from performance and film to poetry and publishing.

Picabia lived through the devastation of two world wars, which fueled his persistent nihilism and profound sense of the absurd. It is against this backdrop of repeated historical trauma that his aversion to rational thinking and fixed positions—whether national, political, social, or cultural—and his ongoing shape-shifting are best understood.

“Our heads are round so our thoughts can change direction” is an aphorism Picabia coined in 1922. It encapsulates the non-linear character of his five-decade career. This exhibition is the first in the United States to present that career in full, with the aim of advancing appreciation of Picabia’s unruly genius and its vital place in the history of modern art.” — Introductory Wall Text

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Adam et Ève (Adam and Eve). 1911. Oil on canvas, 39 3/8 × 31 7/8″ (100 × 81 cm). Private collection. © 2016 Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris.

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Udnie (Jeune fille américaine; danse) (Udnie [Young American Girl; Dance]). 1913. Oil on canvas, 9′ 6 3/16″ × 9′ 10 1/8″ (290 × 300 cm). Centre Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle, Paris. Purchased by the State, 1948. © 2016 Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Photo: © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Georges Meguerdtchian/Dist. RMN–Grand Palais/Art Resource, New York.

Picabia, Francis

Je revois en souvenir ma chère Udnie (I See Again in Memory My Dear Udnie). 1914. Oil on canvas, 8′ 2 1/2″ x 6′ 6 1/4″ (250.2 x 198.8 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Hillman Periodicals Fund. © 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Photo: The Museum of Modern Art, John Wronn.

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Très rare tableau sur la terre (Very Rare Picture on the Earth). 1915. Oil, metallic paint, pencil, and ink on board, with gold and silver leaf on wood, in a wood frame possibly constructed by the artist, 49 5/8 x 38 9/16 x 2 3/16″ (126 x 98 x 5.5 cm), with frame. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, 1976. © 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris.

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391, no. 6. Published July 1917, New York. Edited by Francis Picabia. Printed journal with cover by Francis Picabia. Letterpress, page: 14 5/8 × 10 11/16″ (37.2 × 27.1 cm). Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles. © 2016 Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Photo courtesy Getty Research Institute.

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Parade amoureuse (Amorous Parade). 1917. Oil, gesso, metallic pigment, ink, gold leaf, pencil, and crayon on board, 38 × 29″ (96.5 × 73.7 cm). Neumann Family Collection. © 2016 Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Photo: Tom Powel Imaging.

Picabia, Francis

Tableau Rastadada (Rastadada Painting). 1920. Cut‑and‑pasted printed paper on paper with ink, 7 1/2 × 6 3/4″ (19 × 17.1 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller by exchange. © 2016 Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Photo: The Museum of Modern Art, Peter Butler.

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L’Œil cacodylate (The Cacodylic Eye). 1921. Oil, enamel paint, gelatin silver prints, postcard, and cut-and-pasted printed papers on canvas, 58 1/2 x 46 1/4″ (148.6 x 117.4 cm). Centre Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle, Paris. Purchase in honor of the era of Le Bœuf sur le Toit, 1967. © 2016 Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Photo: © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Georges Meguerdtchian/Dist. RMN–Grand Palais/Art Resource, New York.

Picabia, Francis

Optophone [I]. 1922. Ink, watercolor, and pencil on board, 28 3/8 × 23 5/8″ (72 × 60 cm). Kravis Collection. © 2016 Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Photo: The Museum of Modern Art, John Wronn.

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La Nuit espagnole (The Spanish Night). 1922. Enamel paint on canvas, 63 x 51 3/16″ (160 x 130 cm). Museum Ludwig, Cologne. Ludwig Collection. © 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Photo: © Rheinisches Bildarchiv Köln.

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Espagnole (Espagnole à la cigarette) (Spanish Woman [Spanish Woman with Cigarette]). 1922. Watercolor, gouache, and pencil on paper, 28 3/8 × 20 1/16″ (72 × 51 cm). Private collection. © 2016 Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Photo courtesy Mercatorfonds.

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Promenade des Anglais (Midi). c. 1924–25. Oil, enamel paint, feathers, pasta, and leather on canvas, in a frame by Pierre Legrain, 30 x 52 1/2 x 6″ (76.2 x 133.4 x 15.2 cm), with frame. Yale University Art Gallery. Gift of Collection Société Anonyme. © 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris.

Francis Picabia (1879-1953). "Les Amoureux (après la pluie)". Ripolin sur toile. vers 1924-1925. Paris, musée d'Art moderne.

Les Amoureux (Après la pluie) (The Lovers [After the Rain]). 1925. Enamel paint and oil on canvas, 45 11/16 x 45 1/4″ (116 x 115 cm). Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris. © 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Photo: © Musée d’Art Moderne/Roger-Viollet.

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Idylle (Idyll). c. 1925–27. Oil and enamel paint on wood, in a frame by Pierre Legrain, 44 5/16 × 32 1/2 × 2 15/16″ (112.5 × 82.5 × 7.5 cm), with frame. Musée de Grenoble. Gitt of Jacques Doucet, 1931. © 2016 Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Photo: © Musée de Grenoble.

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Untitled (Espagnole et agneau de l’apocalypse [Spanish Woman and Lamb of the Apocalypse]). 1927/1928. Watercolor, gouache, ink, and pencil on paper, 25 9/16 × 19 11/16″ (65 × 50 cm). Private collection. © 2016 Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Photo: Stephan Wyckoff.

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Aello. 1930. Oil on canvas, 66 9/16 × 66 9/16″ (169 × 169 cm). Private collection. © 2016 Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris.

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La Révolution espagnole (The Spanish Revolution). 1937. Oil on canvas, 63 3/4 × 51 3/16″ (162 × 130 cm). Private collection. Courtesy Thomas Ammann Fine Art AG, Zurich. © 2016 Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Photo courtesy Archives Comité Picabia.

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Le Clown Fratellini (Fratellini Clown). 1937–38. Oil on canvas, 36 1/4 × 28 3/4″ (92 × 73 cm). Private collection. © 2016 Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris.

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Têtes superposées (Superimposed Heads). 1938. Oil on wood, 28 3/4 x 24 13/16″ (73 x 63 cm). Private collection. © 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris.

Femmes au bull-dog Picabia Francis (1879-1953) Paris, musée national d'Art moderne - Centre Georges Pompidou

Femmes au bull-dog (Women with Bulldog). c. 1941. Oil on board, 41 3/4 x 29 15/16″ (106 x 76 cm). Centre Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle, Paris. Purchase from a public sale, 2003. © 2016 Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Photo: © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Jean-Claude Planchet/Dist. RMN–Grand Palais/Art Resource, New York.

L'adoration du veau Picabia Francis (1879-1953) Paris, musée national d'Art moderne - Centre Georges Pompidou

L’Adoration du veau (The Adoration of the Calf). 1941–42. Oil on board, 41 3/4 × 30″ (106 × 76.2 cm). Centre Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle, Paris. Purchase with assistance from the Fonds du Patromonie, the Clarence Westbury Foundation, and the Societé des Amis du Musée national d’art moderne, 2007. © 2016 Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Photo: © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Philippe Migeat/Dist. RMN–Grand Palais/Art Resource, New York.

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Danger de la force (Danger of Strength). 1947–50. Oil on canvas, 45 1/2 x 35 1/16″ (115.5 x 89 cm). Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam. © 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Photo: Studio Tomp, Rotterdam.

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Haschich (Hashish). 1948. Oil on canvas, 45 11/16 × 34 5/8″ (116 × 88 cm). Friedrich Christian Flick Collection. © 2016 Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Photo courtesy Archives Comité Picabia.

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Lâcheté de la barbarie subtile (Carte à jouer) (Cowardice of Subtle Barbarism [Playing Card]). 1949. Oil on board, 29 15/16 × 20 1/2″ (76 × 52 cm). Private collection. Courtesy Galerie Michael Werner, Märkisch Wilmersdorf, Cologne and New York. . © 2016 Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Photo courtesy Galerie Michael Werner.

Images courtesy The Museum of Modern Art.

Francis Picabia is organized by MoMA and the Kunsthaus Zürich. The curators are Anne Umland, The Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller Curator of Painting and Sculpture at MoMA; and Cathérine Hug, Curator at the Kunsthaus Zürich; with Talia Kwartler, Curatorial Assistant, MoMA. Prior to its presentation in New York, the exhibition was on view at the Kunsthaus Zürich.