Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Artist of the Month-Marcel Duchamp

"I don't believe in art. I believe in artists."
M. Duchamp

More than anyone else the face of Modernist hatred seems to be focused primarily on Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968). I think this stems from a fundamental lack of knowledge and understanding, which is a shame, because his work is so accessible. Personally I love Duchamp. There's nothing to get. Its not about classical mythology or esoteric historical figures. His work is funny, self-deprecating and iconoclastic, qualities that I admire in any artist. Duchamp was the ultimate anti-art-artist. (Banksy and Warhol are amateurs compared to Duchamp). He went up against a centuries-old academy of stuffed shirt authorities with their Victorian salons and Gilded-Age aesthetics and tweaked their handle bar moustaches.

You gotta love Duchamp for the absolute punk he was. At a time of classical ateliers and Ecole de Beau Arts he was the first garage artist. Nothing was sacred to this guy. If it was classical or institutional he laughed at it, turned it upside down, drew a moustache on it and pissed on it. (literally and figuratively.) You don't have to like it. You're not supposed to like it. If you want nice, easy, likable pictures, look at Bouguereau, but if you want art that challenges, look at Duchamp. He was a crazy, Dada-Surreal, Steampunk, Mad-Scientist! The Einstein of the art world. Art became Relative. He wasn't saying that an upside down urinal is art, he is saying that ALL art is upside down urinals. 500 year old traditions of smearing colored mud on canvas with sticks is just as silly and random (or more) as bicycle wheels on stools. There is nothing intrinsically sacred or artistic about paint or marble, but rather the conceptual, creative process of the artist is where the value lies, and he reveals that with humor and sacrilegious glee. He was the first Concept Artist. If inspiring emotion is a prerequisite of art than Duchamp does it in spades. It is a hundred years later and he's still pissing people off. He makes every sophomore painting student scream in red faced wrath, "Its not Art!!" and Marcel just smiles from the grave and sardonically quips, "Exactly." For that alone Duchamp is awesome.



at top:
Bicycle Wheel
1913 mixed media
Museum of Modern Art. New York

1917 porcelain and ink
Tate Gallery. London.

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