Lil Picard, a pioneering artist who played varied and vital—but under-acknowledged—roles in the New York art world during the 1950s, '60s, and '70s, receives in this exhibition the first American museum retrospective of her work.
Born in Landau, Germany, in 1899, Picard lived in Berlin and Vienna before she immigrated to New York in 1937. She had begun her career in Berlin as a cabaret actress, accessories designer, and journalist. Forced to relinquish her press credentials because of her Jewish heritage, she escaped Berlin with her second husband, Dell, and quickly reestablished herself as an artist—and as the owner of the unique millinery shop De Lil.
Lil Picard’s collage paintings and assemblages of the 1940s and 1950s combine colorful, thickly layered, active brushstrokes with the detritus of everyday existence: theater tickets, wine bottle and cigarette labels, materials picked up off the street. The works reflect the artist’s simultaneous engagement with both the past and the present.
As post–World War II New York became the center of the art world, Picard began to write about New York artists and their work for German and American publications. Through this role she met many artists and grew familiar with the intellectual and aesthetic currents of the time.
An early practitioner of sociopolitical happenings and performance art, Picard was several decades older than other groundbreaking female performance artists. At age 65 she performed publicly for the first time at Café au Go Go. She frequented Andy Warhol’s
Factory and the Judson Church alternative space in innovative performance art programs produced by Jon Hendricks, and she participated in the nascent performance scene through artist Charlotte Moorman’s annual Avant Garde Festivals. Both culturally and politically aware, Picard demonstrated her feminist and antiwar concerns in performances that criticized the Vietnam War and the manipulation of women by media and advertising.
Throughout her career, Picard referred to her own life in her art. Her autobiographical observations and experiences—recorded in personal journals, snapshots, and notes, as well as in drafts, published articles and images of her past work—were all fodder for, and were often incorporated into, her visual and performance art.
By the time of her death in 1994, Lil Picard’s work had been featured in 15 solo exhibitions and included in more than 40 group shows. Drawn entirely from the Lil Picard Collection and the Lil Picard Papers at the University of Iowa, Lil Picard and Counterculture New York sheds much-needed light on a remarkable woman whose life spanned a century and her long career devoted to art, performance art, and journalism.
- Kathleen A. Edwards, Curator
Organized by the University of Iowa Museum of Art Kathleen A. Edwards, Chief Curator
Grey Art Gallery,
New York University
100 Washington Square East
New York, New York
University of Iowa Museum of Art
Black Box Theater,
Iowa Memorial Union
125 North Madison Street
Iowa City, Iowa
Lil Picard and Counterculture New York is supported in part by Doug and Linda Paul, Lil’s List, the UIMA Members Special Exhibition Fund, and the University of Iowa Arts and Humanities Initiative.
With special thanks to UIMA staff and volunteers: Betty Breazeale, Steve Erickson, Dale Fisher, Pat Hanick, Claire Lekwa, Jeff Martin, Guldeniz Danisman Martinek, Nathan Popp, Buffie Tucker, Pamela White, Gail Zlatnik, UI Libraries staff Kathy Hodson and Sid Huttner, and IMU Marketing + Design Staff Brett Canfield, Bret Gothe, Ben Lewis, Nathan Ley, Maddy Osmond, Dustin Quam, Ben Speare, and Dan Sweeney.
The presentation at the Grey Art Gallery is made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Grey’s Director’s Circle, InterNational Council and Friends, and the Abby Weed Grey Trust.