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Photos: (left) Collage in Blue, 1957, oil and collage on canvas, Lil Picard Collection, University of Iowa Museum of Art.
(bottom) LOVE, 1958-59, oil and collage on wood, Lil Picard Collection, University of Iowa Museum of Art. Feb. 4, 2011

University of Iowa Museum of Art opens new exhibition on campus

Only in America, but with a twist -- only in New York City in the sixties and seventies, in the hot spot of the world of art -- could a refugee German Jewish cabaret performer, born Lilli Elisabeth Benedick in 1899, re-invent herself as Lil Picard, artist, feminist and activist.

The University of Iowa Museum of Art (UIMA) opens the spring semester with the on-campus exhibition, “Lil Picard and Counterculture New York,” on view Feb. 24 through May 27 in the Iowa Memorial Union’s Black Box Theater. The exhibition, which is free and open to the public, contains more than 70 original works and recreates Picard’s audio and video installations.

In addition, in place of a traditional exhibition catalogue, the UIMA has created an interactive website, http://uima.uiowa.edu/lilpicard/.

After the exhibition debuted last year in New York, The New Yorker called it “part corrective, part window into how art makes it into the canon.”

“Lil Picard and Counterculture New York” immerses viewers in Picard’s world of the 1960s and 1970s underground New York art scene. 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 Carolee Schneemann, Hannah Wilke and Claes Oldenburg. Meanwhile, Picard continued to work as a journalist for The Village Voice and as New York art correspondent for the German daily Die Welt, where her writings helped shaped German perceptions of American art.

Thus, it was a homecoming of sorts last year when the UIMA opened “Lil Picard and Counterculture New York” in New York University’s Grey Art Gallery. It marked the first American museum retrospective of the little-known feminist artist, a goal UIMA chief curator and curator of the exhibition, Kathleen Edwards, was determined to achieve after the university became the beneficiary of Picard’s estate in 1999, just five years after the artist’s death.

“I knew Picard had never really had her due,” Edwards said. When a small selection of the work was first exhibited for three months in 2000, Edwards took notice of the attention it created.

“The kind of art that really engages students is art that is on the edge; art that blurs the lines between life and art,” she said.

The Picard Collection is among the most important in the UIMA’s permanent collection, Edwards said, and it continues to serve as a primary source for research today.

“Through this collection, we are able to continue our cross-campus tradition of support and recognition for the modern, post-modern and contemporary arts,” Edwards said.

A series of museum-sponsored and co-sponsored events will accompany the exhibition including a film series, guest lecturer Carolee Schneemann on March 2 at 7:30 p.m. at the University Athletic Club, 1360 Melrose Ave., and a gallery talk by Edwards on March 31 at 7:30 p.m. in the Black Box Theater.

The Black Box Theater, located on the IMU's third floor, is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday; and noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

For more information on the UI Museum of Art, visit http://uima.uiowa.edu or call 319-335-1727.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Kathleen Edwards, 319-335-1729, kathleen-edwards@uiowa.edu; Steve Parrott, University Relations, 319-384-0037, steven-parrott@uiowa.edu. Writer: Meghan Centers