Whether seen as the origin of Cubism’s formal experiments, or as the traumatic scene presiding over the destruction of traditional forms of artistic expression in the twentieth century, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon determines in many ways the stories that one can tell about modern art. Through an informal rumination on the one figure in the painting that has stumped all art historians — the so-called “squatting” demoiselle – the unplumbed enigma of the work, the utter strangeness of this figure’s genesis and development can now be traced through Picasso’s sketches.

George Baker is Associate Professor of Art History at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he teaches modern and contemporary art and theory as well as the history of photography. A regular critic for Artforum magazine throughout the 1990s, he has been an editor of October magazine and October Books since 2001. He is the author, most recently, of The Artwork Caught by the Tail: Francis Picabia and Dada in Paris (MIT Press, 2007), and several other books including James Coleman: Drei Filmarbeiten (Sprengel Museum, 2002) and Gerard Byrne: Books, Magazines, and Newspapers (Lukas & Sternberg, 2003). He has published essays on a variety of postmodern and contemporary artists including Robert Smithson, Robert Whitman, Anthony McCall, Louise Lawler, Andrea Fraser, Christian Philipp Müller, Tom Burr, Rachel Harrison, and Knut Åsdam. In 2007 and 2008, his essay on the artist Paul Chan was published in a catalogue that accompanied Chan’s major exhibition of the project The 7 Lights at the Serpentine Gallery in London and the New Museum in New York. Baker subsequently published an interview with Chan for the recent anti-war issue of October. Currently, he is working on an essay on melancholy for the catalogue of the Torino Triennial in the fall of 2008.