Thursday, September 18, 2014

Marcel Duchamp and exploding shingles

Marcel Duchamp's painting Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 2) was a very scandalous painting in it's time.  Back then it was described by the press as (among other things) looking like a bunch of shingles exploding.


I'm paraphrasing a little.  I can't remember which of our presidents saw it at an exhibition but he wrote that he had a Navaho rug in his bathroom that was better art than this...not a direct quote either; he used many more words when he wrote about it.

Art means different things to different people.  That is a wonderful thing.

What did this work of art - and other works Duchamp created before "famously renounced artmaking in favor of playing chess for the remainder of his life"?

Here are some excerpts from the Metropolitan Museum of Art Website:

Embodying the intellect of his literary contemporaries Marcel Proust and James Joyce, Marcel Duchamp (1887–1968) has been aptly described by the painter Willem de Kooning as a one-man movement. Jasper Johns has written of his work as the "field where language, thought and vision act on one another." Duchamp has had a huge impact on twentieth-century art. By World War I, he had rejected the work of many of his fellow artists as "retinal" art, intended only to please the eye. Instead, Duchamp wanted, he said, "to put art back in the service of the mind."
One of his most important works, Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 2) (1912) (a second version of a work on cardboard from 1911), however, reflects Duchamp's ambivalent relationship with Cubism. He adopts the limited palette of Cubist paintings, but his invigorated figure is in a state of perpetual motion—a very different effect from Picasso and Braque's Analytic Cubism that held figures tightly in place. Provoking negative reactions from even the Parisian avant-garde, the painting was rejected by the Salon des Ind├ępendants for both its title and the artist's mechanistic, dehumanizing rendering of the female nude. The following year, it sparked controversy at the New York Armory Show, helping to establish Duchamp's reputation as a provocateur overseas and paving the way for his arrival in New York two years later.
He wanted to distance himself from traditional modes of painting in an effort to emphasize the conceptual value of a work of art, seducing the viewer through irony and verbal witticisms rather than relying on technical or aesthetic appeal. The object became a work of art because the artist had decided it would be designated as such. 
. . . . satirical works such as Duchamp's readymade Fountain (1917) tested the limits of public taste and the boundaries of artistic technique. By pushing and ultimately transgressing such boundaries within the art world, Duchamp's works reflected the artist's sensibility. His use of irony, puns, alliteration, and paradox layered the works with humor while still enabling him to comment on the dominant political and economic systems of his time.
Duchamp is associated with many artistic movements, from Cubism to Dada to Surrealism, and paved the way for later styles such as Pop (Andy Warhol), Minimalism (Robert Morris), and Conceptualism (Sol LeWitt). A prolific artist, his greatest contribution to the history of art lies in his ability to question, admonish, critique, and playfully ridicule existing norms in order to transcend the status quo—he effectively sanctioned the role of the artist to do just that.
So there you go.  Art history lesson for today.  Perhaps that is what Thurdays should be in this blog...Art History Day.  I like it!

I, for one, am proud of Duchamp that he had so much fun playing with art.  The most memorable art is made during play, I think. 

Hope your day is going well.  And play a little! ...why not?

Tomorrow?  I am going on a road trip to deliver my sculpture to A NEW GALLERY !!

If I get back early enough to post tomorrow - but

If not - I'll be back on Saturday to tell you all about it...with photos! :)

'Til then!

~Alex