Bringing together the work of French artist Francis Picabia (1879–1953), American artist Julian Schnabel (b. 1951), and Danish artist Jens Ferdinand Willumsen (1863–1958) for the first time in the United States, the exhibition Café Dolly: Picabia, Schnabel, Willumsen will be on view at the NSU Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale from October 12, 2014 - February 1, 2015. The illuminating exhibition reveals surprising connections between stylistic and painterly concerns that span generations and geography. The exhibition at the NSU Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale will be on view during Art Basel Miami Beach, and is just a short drive from Miami.
Café Dolly is organized by the J.F. Willumsens Museum, Frederkssund, Denmark, where it was on view from September 7 through December 30, 2013. The exhibition, which will showcase additional works by Julian Schnabel and Francis Picabia in the Fort Lauderdale presentation, is curated by visual artists Claus Carstensen and Christian Vind, as well as Ann Gregersen, PhD., researcher at the University of Copenhagen and J.F. Willumsens Museum.
Featuring approximately 75 paintings, Café Dolly presents works dating from 1926–1951 by French artist Picabia, whose contributions to the avant-garde Dada and Surrealist movements are widely known, but whose paintings from his later figurative period remain relatively obscure in the United States. The exhibition also includes paintings from the late 1980s to the present by New York artist Julian Schnabel, including works on a collaged surface of broken plates, resin-coated figurative paintings, enormous canvases based on paintings found in thrift stores, and paintings that conflate figuration and abstraction. In addition, the exhibition includes paintings from the late 19th- to mid-20th century by visionary Danish artist J. F. Willumsen.
Each artist’s work conveys an intensely painterly language with recognizable motifs, clear contours, and raw colors in bold combinations, along with a need to explore and challenge the tradition of painting. The three artists’ work with figuration, narrative, and portraiture during periods dominated by abstraction has at times made them controversial. These hybrid paintings demonstrate alternative paths of modern art and the progress of painting in the 20th century.
“Comparing and contrasting these three artists heightens our understanding of their entire body of work as each challenges conventional notions of taste, style, and categorization,” notes Bonnie Clearwater, Director and Chief Curator, NSU Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale. “Their use of figuration based on found images from the history of art, popular culture, folk art, and even thrift store painting was not a rejection of modern art at a time when abstract art was the dominant order, but was rather the result of their philosophical inquiry into the very nature of aesthetics. The exhibition is consistent with NSU Museum of Art’s exploration into post-World War II European art and its connection with contemporary art.”
The exhibition’s title references the world’s first cloned sheep, Dolly, whose birth in 1996 sparked international controversy and called into question cultural ideas about ethics and materiality. In a visual arts context, Picabia, Schnabel, and Willumsen challenge the same concepts in their unprejudiced treatment of the traditions of art history and mass media images as well as private photographs and stories.
An illustrated, research-based catalogue titled Café Dolly: Picabia, Schnabel, Willumsen, Hybrid Painting, published by Hatje Cantz, accompanies the exhibition and is available at the NSU Museum of Art Store. It features essays by Margrit Brehm, Claus H. Carstensen, Anne Gregersen, Annette Johansen, Roberto Ohrt, and Christian Vind.