It seems today this might just be true. I have been thinking about writing a little informative blip about Marcel Duchamp. “Why,” everyone I know would ask…”Why, today would you care about Marcel Duchamp?” Well, rather than being accused of completely loosing it, and remembering things from the past that absolutely no one I know cares about, I guess I should explain what prompted this behavior and sudden interest in the Marcel Duchamp of Modern Art History 323. I ran across this picture of what at first looked like Nude Descending A Staircase No.2 . The painting, you might remember, is from the controversial 1913 Armory Show in New York. The same Armory Show that had America in a roar over this new artistic style, that flaunted traditional cubism and moved forward to a whole new movement, now termed Modernism.
I thought at first glance it was the very recognizable painting as the movement and composition of the lines and the color is hard to miss. Then, when I came to my senses, I recognized the robot like figure was really not at all the cubistic nude of the Duchamp I was remembering.
I was somewhat relieved by a quick search to find a picture of the original, look at it again after many years of it never even entering my conscious and remember the words of my professor, Olli Peter Valaine as he tried to explain Modernism. Remembering his words, I am now again interested, and drawn to the compelling fearlessness of Duchamp as he presented this entirely new look to cubism. Of course, he was practically kicked out of the French art world for it, and was ridiculed even in the cartoon media of the day when it was first shown at the New York Armory Show in 1913.
The point of this whole story, I guess, is somewhat varied, first I thought the robotic art piece was a bit of a slur on the original and some how almost sacrilegious, but then I remembered it was Marcel Duchamp that practically started this concept, of using famous art and turning it into your own. Talk about sacrilegious…he is the one that drew a mustache and beard on the Mona Lisa and called it “Ready Made” art, named it L. H. O.O. Q. which loosely translated from French slang means “a hot tail.” Marcel Duchamp was the one who signed his name, well sort of… he really signed it Richard Mutt… to a urinal, set it on a pedestal, entered it into an art show and called it “Fountain” and then defended it with some esoteric thought process of what constitutes art.
So I guess my, “What in the world is that about,” reaction to the robots, harks back to Duchamp and his art and brings me full circle, as I remember the convoluted sometimes entertaining story of Marcel Duchamp.
The rest of the circle is the Hemingway quote at the beginning. At first I was going to write this serious art history lesson about Marcel Duchamp and his role in the development of Modernism and the Cubustic movement and the Armory Show of 1913 and the artistic family of Duchamps, and how line development and repetition go hand in hand with art and interior design and on and on…well, that just became too much work and too uninteresting, thus the bleeding that lucky for us all did not happen. Instead, I decided to help you win a trivia contest. Question:
What artist added a mustache and beard to the Mona Lisa and got by with it?
Who signed a urinal and called it art?
Now you have the answer if it ever comes up.
Note: For some reason I can’t capture a picture of the Fountain and post it here, but if you are interested you can google it further. You will notice it is signed R. Mutt which was the name Duchamp used to enter it into an art show. All of that is another story, amusing and interesting, and like all art forms a pathway to the thinking of the artist. There is also an interesting article on Google by Sara Shea, that explains the tongue in cheek attitude of Duchamp.
Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 is part of The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Fancy – Bleed.