The Assembled Artist
By Scott Martin
posted: 02-02-10
Nelly van Moorsel as I.K. Bonset, as photographed by Theo van Doesburg
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The dada family resemblance -- never genetic, always a matter of aspiration and intent -- has been invoked to clarify the ways in which both Marcel Duchamp and Theo van Doesburg treated their artistic personas as performances. Duchamp famously had his Rrose and van Doesburg, best known as the founder of the rigorous Stijl, created "I.K. Bonset," dada poet and provocateur, and others in his efforts to "splinter" himself. (Man Ray, meanwhile, always had "Man Ray.")

As in any family, what's interesting is what each artist makes of this or any other common birthright. Having pursued his brothers' passion for art into the avant-garde, Duchamp toyed with both pseudonymous characters and artistic movements but ultimately remained Duchamp, courted by many "isms" but owing no allegiance to any of them; it was his brothers who had to change their names. Van Doesburg appears to have used his characters to negotiate between contradictions, partaking in both the ascetic purity of the neoplastic and the smut of dada. (And Man Ray grew into "Man Ray.")


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