Only in America—or should we say, only in New York City in the ’60s and ’70s, in the hot spot of the world of art—could a refugee German Jewish cabaret performer, born Lilli Elisabeth Benedick in 1899, reinvent 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 web site.
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 says.
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 says.
The Picard Collection is among the most important in the UIMA permanent collection, Edwards says, 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, postmodern, and contemporary arts,” Edwards says.
A series of museum-sponsored and cosponsored events will accompany the exhibition, including a film series; guest lecturer Carolee Schneemann at 7:30 p.m., March 2, at the University Athletic Club, 1360 Melrose Avenue; and a gallery talk by Edwards at 7:30 p.m., March 31, in the Black Box Theater.
The Black Box Theater, located on the IMU’s third floor, is open 10 a.m.—5 p.m., Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday; 10 a.m.—9 p.m., Thursday; and noon—5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday.