In my last post, I wrote about the artist Jean (Hans) Arp. He made collage according to the laws of chance. He dropped squares of paper onto paper and gave the works titles like Squares Arranged According to the Laws of Chance. The image below is made with cut and pasted papers, ink and bronze paint (1917), image courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY.
Arp was a founding member of the Dada movement that started in Zurich, Switzerland in 1916. A lot of Dada was about the laws of chance. The movement started as a political protest and dissipated after the close of World War 1. Many of the artists (Jean Arp, Kurt Schwitters, and Max Ernst) left protest for studio practice and went on to build stellar art careers.
I am fascinated by Dada. I think it’s resurgent, and think a lot of contemporary art is inspired by Dada.
Dada and Marcel Duchamp
Dada is still with us because of the artist Marcel Duchamp.
Duchamp was not a member of the Dadaist movement (he resisted joining groups). But, he was a natural Dadaist all his life.
The Bride and the Bachelors
Read Calvin Tomkins book The Bride and the Bachelors: Five Masters of the Avant-Garde (Duchamp, Tinguely, Cage, Rauschenberg, Cunningham). I bought the paperback, first published in 1965. The first chapter is about Marcel Duchamp (French, 1887-1968).
Duchamp said: “Why worry about art when life is what matters…Do unto others as they would wish – but with more imagination.”
Duchamp invented the term readymade – see the image below of “Bicycle Wheel” (1913/1964)
Calvin Tomkins: Unlike the Surrealist objet trouve – a common object chosen for its accidental aesthetic value, the readymade has no aesthetic value whatsoever (according to Duchamp). Tomkins adds: therefore, it functions in a sense as a derisive comment on all art traditions and dogmas.
Read more about Duchamp at the Centre Pompidou (Paris, France) website.
Every art movement that uses everyday objects today can thank Duchamp for leading the way.
One of Duchamp’s most famous readymades was titled “Fountain” – a porcelain urinal turned upside down with the signature R. Mutt.
Duchamp (and Joseph Stella) sent the sculpture to the 1917 exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists at the NYC Armory show. Duchamp was a founding member of the Society. The work created a furor. The hanging committee refused to exhibit the readymade sculpture.
Calvin Tomkins wrote: Duchamp commented slyly: The only works of art in America are her plumbing and her bridges.
Fountain Art Fair, New York 2012
Flash Forward to 2012 and the Fountain Art Fair (March 9-11) at the 69th Regiment Armory at Lexington Ave. and 25th Street during New York Art Week.
This is the same 69th Regiment Armory where Marcel Duchamp famously hung his “Nude Descending a Staircase in 1913 (showing alongside contemporary artists like Edgar Degas, Edvard Munch and Pablo Picasso) – Duchamp would later secure a place in art history with his readymade (urinal) titled FOUNTAIN (1917).
In March, I participated with a group of 72 artists in a salon-style installation at the Fountain Art Fair with a group called Hullaballoo Collective – at booth E212. The collective was organized by Bernard Klevikas and several other artists who live and work in Brooklyn, NY. I exhibited 2 collages.
Here’s a link to the BlouinArtInfo blog with the title: Fountain Artists Honor Armory History with Playful Nods to Duchamp…
One Hullaballoo member made the connection from the Fountain Art Fair to Marcel Duchamp, exhibited a work titled Idol Inaction, and arrived at the opening reception wearing a Duchamp jersey. See image of Brian Goings below at the Hullaballoo booth.
Bernard Klevickas wrote the Hullaballoo statement:
Hullaballoo Collective is a diverse group of artists who have come together through social media to present a salon style exhibition at the Fountain Art Fair… We are artists. We are part of the egalitarian zeitgeist, the energy that underlies the new century and that uses new tools to reach broad audiences. There’s a Hullaballoo website. There was a lot of buzz. The website shows works by the artists in the Collective.
The image below is my work, titled Recycle 1, collage, assorted papers recycled from old monoprints, 22×18 inches, cut and assembled in random order.
I don’t know if this year’s downtown Armory show was different from recent years. I’ve read reviews that say the show has changed and is getting upscale. I was expecting the space to be raw and unfinished and the art to be young and edgy.
According to Fountain organizers, this year’s show attracted over 10,000 visitors in 3 days. On opening night, there was a line around the block to get in – and we did get art critics Jerry Salz and Roberta Smith at our booth. Read about the record attendance…
WHAT WOULD DUCHAMP SAY?
What would Duchamp say? I know he disdained the confluence of art and commerce (but managed very well – thank you!). some art critics say he gave up art for chess, but his readymades were re-made in the mid-20th century, shown to great fanfare, and his work is now known around the world.
I bet he would love the idea of social media and the possibilities of the Internet.
What do you think Duchamp would do about Social Media?