Sunday, September 20, 2009

Marcel Duchamp , Readymade and Anti-art

Marcel Duchamp

Anti-art efers to art that challenges the existing accepted definitions of art. It is generally agreed to have been coined by Marcel Duchamp around 1913 when he made his first readymades, which are still regarded in some quarters as Anti-art (for example by the Stuckist group). In 1917 Duchamp submitted a urinal, titled Fountain, for an exhibition in New York, which subsequently became notorious and eventually highly influential. Anti-art is associated with Dada, the artistic and literary movement founded in Zurich in 1916 and simultaneously in New York, in which Duchamp was a central figure. Since Dada there have been many art movements that have taken a position on Anti-art, from the lo-fi Mail art movement to the YBAs, some of whom have embraced the absurdities of Dada and Duchamp’s love of irony, paradox and punning.

Readymade is the term used by the French artist Marcel Duchamp to describe works of art he made from manufactured objects. His earliest readymades included Bicycle Wheel of 1913, a wheel mounted on a wooden stool, and In Advance of the Broken Arm of 1915, a snow shovel inscribed with that title. In 1917 in New York, Duchamp made his most notorious readymade, Fountain, a men's urinal signed by the artist with a false name and exhibited placed on its back. Later readymades could be more elaborate and were referred to by Duchamp as assisted readymades. The theory behind the readymade was explained in an article, anonymous but almost certainly by Duchamp himself, in the May 1917 issue of the avant-garde magazine The Blind Man run by Duchamp and two friends: 'Whether Mr Mutt with his own hands made the fountain or not has no importance. He CHOSE it. He took an ordinary article of life, and placed it so that its useful significance disappeared under the new title and point of view – created a new thought for that object.' There are three important points here: first, that the choice of object is itself a creative act. Secondly, that by cancelling the 'useful' function of an object it becomes art. Thirdly, that the presentation and addition of a title to the object have given it 'a new thought', a new meaning. Duchamp's readymades also asserted the principle that what is art is defined by the artist. Duchamp was an influential figure in Dada and Surrealism, an important influence on Pop art, environments, assemblage, installation art, Conceptual art and much art of the 1990s such as YBA. (See also Postmodernism.)

Marcel Duchamp - An enigma to art historians and a great source of inspiration to other artists

Someone else may have invented the wheel, but Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) invented the ready-made. A bottle dryer may be a bottle dryer, but signed by Duchamp it is also one of the major works of 20th century art.

Duchamp has been an enigma to art historians and a great source of inspiration to other artists. Mythical and charismatic Marcel Duchamp.

His early figure paintings were influenced by Matisse and Fauvism, but in 1911 he created a personal brand of Cubism combining earthy colours, mechanical and visceral forms, and a depiction of movement which owes as much to Futurism as to Cubism. His Nude Descending a Staircase, No.2, 1912 (Philadelphia Museum of Art), created a sensation at the 1913 New York Armory Show. Duchamp did very little painting after 1912, creating the first of his 'readymades' in 1913. These were ordinary objects of everyday use, sometimes slightly altered, and designated works of art by the artist. His earliest readymades included Bicycle Wheel (1913), a wheel mounted on a wooden stool, and a snow shovel entitled In Advance of the Broken ArmFountain and signed 'R. Mutt', which he submitted to an exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists in New York in 1917. In the ensuing controversy, the concept of the readymade became associated with an assault on the conventional understanding of the nature and status of art. Duchamp also used readymades as parts of a private symbolic language. He spoke of how using prefabricated objects freed him from the 'trap' of developing a particular style or taste. (1915). One of his best-known pieces is a urinal, titled