The artist Francis Picabia--notorious dandy, bon vivant,
painter, poet, filmmaker, and polemicist--has emerged as the
Dadaist with postmodern appeal, and one of the most enigmatic
forces behind the enigma that was Dada. In this first book in
English to focus on Picabia's work in Paris during the Dada years,
art historian and critic George Baker reimagines Dada through
Picabia's eyes. Such reimagining involves a new account of the
readymade--Marcel Duchamp's anti-art invention, which opened fine
art to mass culture and the commodity. But in Picabia's hands,
Baker argues, the Dada readymade aimed to reinvent art rather than
destroy it. Picabia's readymade opened art not just to the
commodity, but to the larger world from which the commodity stems:
the fluid sea of capital and money that transforms all objects and
experiences in its wake. The book thus tells the story of a set of
newly transformed artistic practices, claiming them for art
history--and naming them--for the first time: Dada Drawing, Dada
Painting, Dada Photography, Dada Abstraction, Dada Cinema, Dada
Montage. Along the way, Baker describes a series of nearly
forgotten objects and events, from the almost lunatic range of the
Paris Dada "manifestations" to Picabia's polemical writings; from a
lost work by Picabia in the form of a hole (called, suggestively,
The Young Girl) to his "painting" Cacodylic Eye, covered in
autographs by luminaries ranging from Ezra Pound to Fatty Arbuckle.
Baker ends with readymades in prose: a vast interweaving of
citations and quotations that converge to create a heated
conversation among Picabia, Andre Breton, Tristan Tzara, James
Joyce, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze, and
others. Art history has never looked like this before. But then
again, Dada has never looked like art history.George Baker is
Assistant Professor of Art History at the University of California,
Los Angeles, and an editor at October magazine and October Books.
He is the editor of James Coleman (MIT Press) and a frequent
contributor to Artforum."
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