Francis Picabia
(French, 1879-1953)
The Cacodylic Eye (L'Oeil cacodylate)

Francis Picabia. The Cacodylic Eye (L'Oeil cacodylate). 1921

(French, 1879-1953) Oil with photomontage and collage on canvas, 58 ½ x 46 ¼” (148.6 x 117.4 cm)
Centre Pompidou, Musée national d'art moderne-Centre de création industrielle, Paris. Purchase, 1967
CNAC / MNAM / Dist. Réunion des Musées Nationaux / Art Resource, NY
© 2006 Francis Picabia / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York Audio courtesy of Acoustiguide

NARRATOR: Curator Anne Umland:

CURATOR, ANNE UMLAND: Picabia's Cacodylic Eye is a wonderfully radical group portrait of sorts that resulted from his collaboration with about 50 different friends who came to visit him while he was recuperating from an eye illness.

It is a singular demonstration I think of the importance of group dynamics to Dada. There is no single author. It is covered with collage, doodles, puns, aphorisms, irreverent phrases, from such a variety of different hands, and it also draws upon so many of the strategies key to Dada. Chance, in the first place, because anyone could mark wherever there was room to do so. Collage is introduced, and photomontage. There's an overall impression of illicit markings, of scratching on barroom tables, of things written half secretly, half overtly.

Picabia decided the work was finished when there was no more space left for anyone to write. This work was first displayed in a chic Paris bar, and I think there is no better example of the way that Picabia consistently takes aim at and seeks, as he once said, to deflate all ideas of grand art with a capital A.

12 / 19