The frightening central figure in this painting by Francis Picabia is taken from a Surrealist photograph by the young photographer Erwin Blumenfeld. The source image in The Adoration of The Calf (1941-42), which was reproduced in the Paris press in 1938, features the head of a dead calf posed atop a classical torso draped with fabric, and possibly refers to Hitler. To Blumenfeld’s composition, Picabia added a series of dramatically lit, expressionistically painted hands, many of which are splayed open in gestures of entreaty. They seem to emerge from the bottom of the canvas, suggesting the presence of bodies just out of sight. Although Picabia was a resolutely apolitical artist, it is difficult not to read this painting, and its cynical vision of the worship of false idols, as an engagement with contemporary politics.
Photographed in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC as part of the Exhibit Francis Picabia: Our Heads Are Round So Our Thoughts Can Change Direction.
The last couple of times I passed by the Popaganda Pop Up Store on the corner of Washington and Gansevoort Streets in the meatpacking district, the shop was closed. So I’m not sure if it’s closed for good, or was just not open for business on those days. But anyway, that’s where I saw this cow.
I wish I could even remember where I took this photo, which I just found, dated August 2014, on the camera roll in my iPad. It is pretty sweet, right? The Alien Abduction Cow Lamp was once available for purchase, but now, alas, it is sold out.