Recreating Etant Donnes at Francis Naumann
By Eli Epstein-Deutsch
posted: 02-26-11
Etant Donnes 2 Installed
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Jasper Johns called Duchamp's Etant Donnes, a sculptural installation of a naked, lifelike female limply sprawled against a lush woodland landscape,  "the strangest work of art shown in any museum." Visible only through a peephole in a brick-rimmed wooden door, it  has been variously understood as a send-up of nude-in-landscape voyeurism, a reference to the Black Dahlia murder (generally discredited), and a tribute to Duchamp's mistress of the time, the Brazilian sculptor Maria Martins. It has been the subject of countless artistic reinterpretations and intertextual commentaries, including Hannah Wilke's deconstructive performance video Through the Large Glass (1976) and Marcel Dzama's phantasmagorical reimagining, Even the Ghost of The Past (2008).

The Brooklyn and Ohio-based artist T.R. Ericsson's entree into this tradition, Etant Donnes 2, may appear more literal-minded than its predecessors. In an exhibition shown recently at the Francis Naumann gallery, Ericsson displayed black and white photos taken of his unclothed wife posed like Etant's prone nude. The deep reported bond between the married couple, and the tender care Ericcson took in the arrangement of the scene, are together offered as a strong editorial on the original: it was really all about love.

While this message seems to simplify Duchamp's queasy, overdetermined riddle more than desired,  there is also much more going on in Ericsson's creation than meets the eye.  For instance, by applying scrupulous photorealism, Ericsson first calls attention to the uncharacteristic opticality of Duchamp's creation. Yet then he plays a very Duchamp-like trick: because of his elaborate manual silkscreening technique, his works turn out to be "more accurately referred to as drawings," as the gallerist writes.

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