Lil Picard and Counterculture New York

February 24–May 27, 2011 | Black Box Theater, Iowa Memorial Union

Black Box Theater, Iowa Memorial Union
125 North Madison Street, Iowa City, IA

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The first American museum retrospective of artist and critic Lil Picard, an exhibition organized by the UIMA, comes to the University of Iowa in Spring 2011 after its debut at New York University's Grey Art Gallery from April 20 through July 10, 2010. Lil Picard and Counterculture New York brings the first major exposure to Picard, an important 20th century feminist artist who played varied and vital—yet under-appreciated—roles in the New York art world during the 1950s, '60s, and '70s.

The exhibition is curated by Kathy Edwards, UIMA Chief Curator, and takes a comprehensive look at almost 30 years of Picard's work with over 70 of the artist's paintings, assemblages, drawings, installations, and performances from the UIMA permanent collection. The works in the Estate of Lil Picard were given to the University of Iowa in 1999. The range of work—several hundred of Picard's artworks as well as 40 linear feet of archive material: the artist's papers, including diaries, photographs, writing, and letters—forms the foundation of the exhibition.

Born in Landau, Germany in 1899, Lil Picard worked as a cabaret actress, accessories designer, and journalist in the heady, avant-garde art scene of 1930s Berlin. Because of her Jewish heritage, Picard and her husband were forced to immigrate to New York in 1937. Picard continued to work as a journalist in New York City—writing for Arts Magazine, East Village Other, and Interview, and several German publications, among others. She also began painting and making collages and assemblages, and soon she began frequenting Andy Warhol's Factory and mingling with cohorts like Carolee Schneemann and her famous lovers, Al Jensen and Ad Reinhardt. An early practitioner of socio-political performance and installation, Picard was several generations older than groundbreaking female performance artists such as Schneemann and Hannah Wilke.

Throughout her career, Picard referenced her own life in her art. Her autobiographical observations and experiences—recorded in personal journals, snapshots, notes—as well as drafts, published articles, and images of her past work, were all fodder for and often incorporated into her visual and performance art. Beginning with the vigorous, expressive brushstrokes of her early work Crossing, 1947, the exhibition follows Picard's move toward the dynamic and brightly colored collaged canvases of the 1950s. Layered with the detritus of her everyday existence—theater tickets, wine bottles, cigarette labels, and scraps of clothing—paintings such as the four-paneled Love, 195859, and the complex Collage in Blue, 1957, with their active, highly tactile surfaces, reflect the artist's simultaneous engagement with both the past and the present.

Sponsors of the exhibition are Doug and Linda Paul, the Members Special Exhibition Fund and Lil's List. The presentation at the Grey Art Gallery was made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Grey's Director's Circle, Inter/National Council and Friends, and the Abby Weed Grey Trust.