The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 92
Like the Futurists and like his friend Marcel Duchamp, Picabia recognized the importance of the machine in the dawning technological age. The hard-edged, evenly rounded shapes of I See Again in Memory My Dear Udnie, some of them in metallic grays, parallel fusions of the mechanical and the organic in Duchamp's painting, and anticipate more overt references of this kind in Picabia's later work. Perspectival lines at the painting's sides suggest a space around this fragmented body, which seems to stand on a kind of stage. Segmented tubes among the curling forms may have a sexual subtext, and Picabia himself described his art of this period as trying "to render external an internal state of mind or feeling."
The "Udnie" of this work's title was surely a certain Mlle. Napierskowska, a professional dancer whom Picabia met on the ocean liner that took him to the United States to participate in the famous Armory Show of 1913. Fascinated by Napierskowska's performances (which were suggestive enough to provoke her arrest during her American tour), Picabia began to produce gouaches and watercolors inspired by her even before landing in New York. Over the following year, he extended this imagery in paintings, titling one of them Udnie (Young American Girl)—and thus suggesting that the abstract planes of these works relate to the human form.
Inventing Abstraction, 1910–1925
December 23, 2012–April 15, 2013
When Picabia painted this work, in Paris in 1914, he had recently returned from a triumphal trip to New York. There he had exhibited at the famous Armory Show of 1913, whose mix of American and European modern art had attracted large crowds, and concurrently in a one-man show at Alfred Stieglitz’s avant-garde 291 gallery. Aboard the steamship that had taken him to New York, Picabia had been captivated by the movement of Stacia Napierkowska, a Polish dancer en route to a tour of American music halls. (Her performances were suggestive enough to provoke her arrest once on U.S. shores.) Over the next two years, Picabia produced several monumental canvases that he said were inspired by his memories of Napierkowska, and also, he said, "of America, evocations from there which, subtly opposed like musical harmonies, become representative of an idea, of a nostalgia, of a fugitive impression." In Je revois en souvenir ma chère Udnie, rather than representing the dancer herself, Picabia creates a visual analogy for the lingering sensation of this sensuous encounter: segmented tubes and curling organic forms fill the vertical axis of the canvas in a slow upward spiral.