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University of Iowa News Release


April 9, 2010

IMAGES: (Top to bottom) "9 Wigs," c. 1979, gelatin sliver photograph of photo collage, 8" x 11",
(c) Lil Picard Collection, University of Iowa Museum of Art; "Crossing, 1947," oil on canvas, 32"x 36", (c) Estate of Lil Picard, University of Iowa Museum of Art

UI Museum of Art debuts major retrospective exhibition in New York City

The University of Iowa Museum of Art (UIMA) has organized the first American museum retrospective of artist and critic Lil Picard, on view in New York City at New York University's Grey Art Gallery from April 20 to July 10. Known as the "muse of the American avant-garde," Picard was a fixture of the downtown New York art scene of the 1950s, '60s, and '70s. The exhibition, "Lil Picard and Counterculture New York," comprises more than 70 works by this pioneering artist and journalist who played varied and vital but under-acknowledged roles in the New York art world.

Following its debut in New York, the exhibition will be on view at the University of Iowa in the Iowa Memorial Union's Black Box Theater from February 24 through May 15, 2011.

All the works in the exhibition, including paintings, sculptures, drawings, collages, installations and performances, as well as archival photographs, writings, recordings and films, are drawn from the Estate of Lil Picard, donated to the University of Iowa in 1999. The Lil Picard Collection is in the UIMA permanent collection; the Lil Picard Papers are in Special Collections of UI Libraries.

"Picard was an early practitioner of socio-political 'happenings' and installations," said UIMA Chief Curator Kathleen Edwards, who organized the show. "But she was 40 years older than the iconic female performance artists Carolee Schneemann, Hannah Wilke and Yoko Ono. The Estate of Lil Picard at the UI is a tremendous resource for scholars and students working on Manhattan's downtown art scene."

"'Lil Picard and Counterculture New York' brings much needed recognition to an important artist and demonstrates the vast resource of the UI for research in this area," added UIMA Interim Director Pamela White. "The UIMA has always had a history of organizing major traveling shows in addition to showing our collection, and we are determined to continue to bring new exhibitions and scholarship like 'Lil Picard' to our public."

Born in 1899 in Landau, Germany, Picard worked as a cabaret actress, accessories designer and writer in 1920s Berlin. Facing oppression under Nazi Germany because of her Jewish heritage, Picard immigrated in 1937 to New York, where she opened a successful custom millinery shop on Madison Avenue.

Studying and making art in New York in the 1940s, Picard met artists such as Franz Kline, Mark Rothko, and Jackson Pollock. In the 1950s Picard studied at Hans Hofmann's school in Provincetown and was soon exhibiting at the Martha Jackson Gallery in New York. Later she frequented Andy Warhol's Factory and participated in the nascent performance scene with colleagues like Schneemann, Warhol and Claes Oldenburg. While she was making art, Picard continued to work as a journalist for The Village Voice, among other publications. She was the New York art correspondent for the prominent German daily Die Welt and her writings instrumentally shaped German perceptions of American art of the time.

Throughout her career, Picard referenced her own life in her art. "The debris of her daily life -- tickets, wine and cigarette labels, pieces of clothing -- is imbedded in these dynamic and brightly colored paintings," Edwards said. "She glued her own cosmetics and costume jewelry into her assemblages, building an early critique of the cosmetic industry. The trauma of war was another basic theme in Picard's work."

"Lil Picard and Counterculture New York" will be accompanied by a multimedia Web site, which will launch on April 16 at 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 is made possible in part by the Grey's Director's Circle, Inter/National Council, and Friends, and the Abby Weed Grey Trust.

For more information on the UI Museum of Art, visit or call 319-335-1727.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACT: Steve Parrott, University Relations, 319-384-0037,; Writer: Claire Lekwa, UIMA marketing and media assistant