“Our Heads Are Round so Our Thoughts Can Change Direction” is the title of the show. It is a good one. But I am not sure whether it is a sincere admiration of artistic fluidity or a tongue-in-cheek pun on superficiality.
I get it. Picabia was smart and talented. He got it quickly, churned out creatively, shocked shamelessly, and turned away swiftly. He was all over the place, and that is a compliment. How many artists can achieve that kind of range in their entire career? Picasso maybe? The fluidity and ease of mastering and transitioning across styles and techniques are enviable.
But what happens when the head is so round and the thoughts change direction constantly? The works just don’t have artistic profoundness. Here is where it feels to me that Picabia’s talent was also his demise. Everything seemed so easy to him that he was not making any efforts into any process of transcendence, through which an artist’s soul and spirituality can be revealed. As such, his works are more statements of “Look what I can do” rather than “This is who I am.”
That is probably why despite his “audacious, irreverent, and profoundly influential work across mediums”, which “encompassed painting, poetry, publishing, performance and film”, he remained “elusive” and less familiar in modern arts. People like me, will look at all this artistic equivalence of martial arts and ask “Who is Francis Picabia?”