"It's better than nothing, because really, here, there's nothing ...", wrote Francis Picabia to Alfred Stieglitz from Barcelona on 22 January 1917, to announce the publication of his "magazine", 391, the "double" that of the New York photographer, 291 [Cited in M. Sanouillet, 1966, p. 46].
Even if Picabia appeared to be duplicating 291 in the title and material presentation of his magazine 391 is the instrument which allowed him to diffuse his art and his ideas: from the launch of the magazine in 1917 until 1924, each issue contained the artist's poems, notes, and drawings, and the covers almost always reproduced one of his works. The periods in which Picabia experienced difficulty account for the magazine's irregular rhythm of publication: a turning point in his art, boredom, solitude, and illness... "Better than nothing": to do everything to avoid doing nothing, to work, to create to live. For Picabia, as for the Dada movement, which he joined after the creation of 391, these years of war were about battling nothingness, the vacuum that is civilization, with provocation.
Between January and March of 1917, four issues appeared in Barcelona, then three others in New York between March and July of the same year. Behind a 'mechanomorphic' drawing by Picabia, he published texts and illustrations from the circle of artists located in Barcelona, then from innovative artists from New York, whom he tried to federate around his journal, but without success; numbers six and seven contained almost exclusively his own texts and drawings.read more »
Rémi Froger, '391', translated from the French text, published in the catalogue Dada (Editions du Centre Pompidou : Paris 2005) 64-65. The translation was part of the Press Pack, published by MNAM Centre Pompidou 2005, p. 61-62 [Courtesy MNAM Centre Pompidou].
No. 8 (February 1919); collection New York Public Library.