The Artwork Caught by the Tail: Francis Picabia and Dada in Paris

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MIT Press, 2007 - Art - 476 pages
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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 enigmaticforces behind the enigma that was Dada. In this first book in English to focus on Picabia's work inParis during the Dada years, art historian and critic George Baker reimagines Dada through Picabia'seyes. 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, theDada readymade aimed to reinvent art rather than destroy it. Picabia's readymade opened art not justto the commodity, but to the larger world from which the commodity stems: the fluid sea of capitaland money that transforms all objects and experiences in its wake. The book thus tells the story ofa set of newly transformed artistic practices, claiming them for art history--and naming them--forthe first time: Dada Drawing, Dada Painting, Dada Photography, Dada Abstraction, Dada Cinema, DadaMontage. Along the way, Baker describes a series of nearly forgotten objects and events, from thealmost 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 toFatty Arbuckle. Baker ends with readymades in prose: a vast interweaving of citations and quotationsthat converge to create a heated conversation among Picabia, André Breton, Tristan Tzara, JamesJoyce, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze, and others. Art history has neverlooked like this before. But then again, Dada has never looked like art history.George Baker isAssistant Professor of Art History at the University of California, Los Angeles, and an editor atOctober magazine and October Books. He is the editor of James Coleman (MIT Press) and a frequentcontributor to Artforum.

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Review: The Artwork Caught by the Tail: Francis Picabia and Dada in Paris

User Review  - Tosh - Goodreads

Francis Picibia is one of my favorite artists, and this is a very good study on the man and his times. The thing I am wishing for is a straight ahead biography on the man himself. This is not it. But still any book on this great personality and visoinary is OK with me. Read full review


Dada Drawing
Dada Painting
Dada Photography

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About the author (2007)

Karl Toepfer is Associate Dean in the College of Humanities and the Arts, San JoseState University. He is the author of Empire of Ecstasy: Nudity and Movement inGerman Body Culture, 1910--1935 (University of California Press, 1997); Theatre,Aristocracy, and Pornocracy (PAJ Publications, 1991); and The Voice ofRapture (Peter Lang Publisher, 1991), as well as a novel, Ursumari (Orella, 2001),and numerous scholarly articles on theatre, dance, dramatic literature, and film. A currentproject is a book about ancient Roman dance drama.

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