07 June, 2010

me + duchamp = a house on fire!

right, i'm back. sorry about that, life encroached on my blogging duties. but here we go, art is the topic of the day.

i have always found a great affinity with the works of the great franco-american dada and surrealist artist marcel duchamp. he was a playful man and his ideas about art and the way we perceive it are all fascinating to me. not to mention during a very successful career, he gave up paining and sculpting to become a chess master.

perhaps his most famous series of work were his 'readymades'. these are, specifically, what i want to tell you all about. ordinary manufactured objects that the artist selected and modified, as an antidote to what he called 'retinal art'. by simply choosing the object(s) and repositioning or joining, tilting and signing, the object becomes art. as this process involves the least amount of interaction between artist and art, it represents the most extreme (maybe even pure) form of minimalism.

he believed, quite strongly, in this, "....it was always the idea that came first, not the visual example. a form of denying the possibility of defining art". he only made 20 readymades, this was to avoid the trap of his own taste. meaning, that once you deemed a piece 'good' or 'bad', it became what he called, 'an enemy of art'. as a result, he never was able to define how he himself felt about the pieces in the series and even the style in general. the enigma that was duchamp is tied up in this fact, he was never able to define 'readymades' fully enough to satisfy him and moreover, felt that defining it wasn't essential to the series of work.

the 'fountain' is easily the most famous work in this series. this is because it took the idea of common place objects that are then defined as 'art' to its most conceptualised visceral extreme. this picture of the piece is the only one of the original, taken by photographer alfred stieglitz. it was lost in 1917 shortly after its installation. it is believed to have been thrown out with the garbage like other duchamp works of the time.

still, this doesn't reflect its worth or importance as a great artwork of the 20th century. in 2004, it was voted the most influential artwork of the century by 500 British art world professionals and the artist-authorised replica (1964) was sold in 1999 for $1.7 million. it is now housed in the tate modern, london. check it out an do what others have done, piss on it. if you love it or hate it....it was after all, what it was made for.

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