Warhol's Self-Portrait to sell at Christie's
By Jenny Fan
posted: 04-27-11
Warhol, Self-Portrait, 1964, Christie's
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Before Warhol was Warhol, there was Duchamp.  In fact Andy Warhol (1928-1987), the arbiter of Pop Art and cool, was greatly influenced by Duchamp’s ready-made concept and redefinition of art.  He was the high priest of engaging “ready-made” objects, perhaps photos, with the finer mechanics of art such as acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas; which dominated his oeuvre.   Among his seminal works is this four-paneled self-portrait aptly titled Self-Portrait (1963-1964).  It was created with picture stamps from a photobooth—an object or a machine everyone presumably had access to.  In the process of democratizing the process of producing art, Warhol both paid homage to Duchamp, and charted art into the terrain of massmedia, self-aggrandizement and machine-like/machine induced immortality.  Perhaps Facebook would not have existed had Warhol not become Warhol.

Andy Warhol (1928-1987) Self-Portrait, Sale 2440 / LOT 22, selling $20,000,000 - $30,000,000 at Christies
11 May 2011
New York, Rockefeller Plaza (Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale)

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Vassar Students Explore the Dizzying Effects of Duchamp's Rotoreliefs
By Eli Epstein-Deutsch
posted: 04-24-11
Duchamp, magician
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What's part turntable, part optical-art, part children's toy? A Duchamp rotorelief: a colored, spiral-patterned disk the artist designed to create a three-dimensional visual effect when spun (hence the term "relief").

Duchamp designed them in 1935, and tried unsuccessfully to sell them, not on the art market, but at Concours Lapie, a trade-fair for Inventors. They were first exhibited at  jazz club called La Cachette, where they spun at a booth you'd otherwise see the house dj at. Duchamp eventually reproduced them many times over, selling them to a variety of collectors.

Vassar College, ("A highly selective, residential, liberal arts college located in the heart of the Hudson Valley in New York State,"), has a set of rotoreliefs in their permanent collection; they recently posted on their "Off-The-Wall" blog that students in the art department had been playing with the surrealist toys. While spinning them, even if with one eye closed, such solid objects appeared as "a Chinese lantern, a soft-boiled egg, a table lamp, a Bohemian glass, a Japanese fish circling in a bowl, a hot-air balloon, hoops, corollas, a cage, a snail, a white spiral and a total eclipse."

Sounds like about as much fun as one could have at college with clothes on, and within the bounds of the law.

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Jodorowsky Contends with the Surrealist Ego
By Maria Goldverg
posted: 04-22-11
A still from the performance of Sacramental Melodrama.
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Those who are not yet familiar with Alejandro Jodorowsky's works would do well to check them out. His surreal, and Surreal, films have always artfully, and pleasurably, wreaked havoc upon their viewers' minds. They are always monstrous to behold and can be absolutely devastating to watch and enjoy. His infamous masterpieces, El Topo (1970) and Holy Mountain (1973) became cult classics almost immediately upon release, however limited those releases may have been.

AnOther magazine recently caught up with the now aged and legendary filmmaker and recalled the collage-performance attended by surrealist Marcel Duchamp among others in Paris, "Sacramental Melodrama," performed on March 24th, 1965. "Sacramental Melodrama" starred Jodorowsky himself and featured such extravagant and grotesque histrionics as Jodorowsky slitting the throats of two geese and taping two snakes onto his chest. It was a notorious masterpiece of Jodorowsky's Panic Movement, a name inherited from Pan the god of goats, which sought to reconstitute the 'shock' of the surreal performance. Surrealism had become, simply, too bourgeois.

Though he dissolved the Panic Movement in 1973, Jodorowsky remembered Panic in his brief interview during which he criticized surrealism for being too preoccupied with "extreme individualism," the "ego." This may very well be an accurate observation. Just take a look at Duchampís definition of a ready-made from Andre Breton's Surrealist Dictionary: "an ordinary object elevated to the dignity of a work of art by the mere choice of an artist." Duchamp, the artist, needed little more than a signature to accomplish this in Fountain (1917). "Today," Jodorowsky contends, "individualism is over." I, if reluctantly, can't help but disagree.

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Artist Gets Into the Head of Duchamp, literally
By Jenny Fan
posted: 04-21-11
Duchamp, The Anatomy of Skulls by Istvan Laszlo, Sebastian Guinness Gallery, 2010
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Marcel Duchamp’s gesture of drawing a mustache and a goatee on the Mona Lisa in L. H. O. O. Q. (1919) redefined art and our perception of art in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.  At first glance, or using Duchampian rhetoric, “retinal art,” we see only the sexually ambiguous Mona Lisa espoused by her feminine fingers and bosoms, and a masculine, albeit comical, goatee.  By that interpretation, Duchamp only redefined art by deconstructing or mutilating ready-mades, which amply sums up the concept of ready-made. Unless we are content with that rakish interpretation, an insult to the integrity and intelligence of the artist, L.H.O.O.Q. deserves another look.  (see, for example, an article from ASRL for an analysis on the subject).  The complexity of L.H.O.O.Q., however, isn’t the focus of this news bite. It is, though, about the idea of the manifestation of interpretations; of “retinal,” visual perceptions manifested on canvas in the form of a skull sketch by a young Romanian artist name Istvan Laszlo. It follows the reverse trajectory of the analysis to L.H.O.O.Q.  Whereas  L.H.O.O.Q. challenges retina interpretation, Laszlo's skull sketches restore it to garner meaning.

In his tribute to an eclectic mix of some of the world's most prominent figures, albeit by a somewhat morbid method, Istvan Laszlo, (b. 1981), sketched their skulls. In a series titled “The Anatomy of Skulls,” Laszlo featured the cranium sketches of Pope John Paul, Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Lennon, Michael Jackson, Mao, Lenin, Warhol, Beuys, Hitler, and of course, (but actually a surprising choice given the selection of the rest), Duchamp. 

Laszlo’s sketch of Duchamp’s cranium is easily ascribable as Duchamp. Not only does it follow the observable structure of Duchamp’s skull, but it also is embellished with Duchamp’s identifiable fine and slicked back hair style, as well as his thin, pursed and thoughtful lips.  Another amateur dally into the analysis of anatomy from the writer is Duchamp’s frown, as represented by the downward inclined/depressed supraorbital process (?) or the eye sockets, perhaps too, defending the stereotype of that of the pensive artist.

Duchamp’s skull sketch isn’t unique being the only one with identifiable characteristics germane to the individual.  Laszlo depicted Gandhi with round, enlarged eye sockets and Warhol with his (early) trademark, slick, shiny and platinum gold (to the imagination) locks. If the L.H.O.O.Q. was the emblem of the destruction of retinal interpretation, then Laszlo's skull drawings seems to be the antithesis of it; at least when using the arguments of the weaknesses of visual perceptions.

In any case, what's next? Side views of infamous Skulls? Cranium drawing of the Mona Lisa or the L.H.O.O.Q.?

The Anatomy of Skulls by Istvan Laszlo is in holding at the Sebastian Guinness Gallery in Dublin, Ireland.

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The Irony of Institutions: What the Battle over Kafka Can Tell Us about Duchamp (and vice-versa)
By Eli Epstein-Deutsch
posted: 04-20-11
What is a Urinal? To Whom Belongs Kafka?
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Duchamp, Kafka. Kafka, Duchamp. Seemingly an odd pairing, though both famed modernists. But bear with me.

Duchamp was many things, but always French. Kafka on the other hand, wasn't Czech or German. In fact, neither country existed when Kafka was doing the bulk of his writing. The author lived in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a polyglot territory stretching from Bohemia to Transylvania. Neither was Kafka Israeli; in fact he had a notorious falling out with a good friend over the latter's Zionism.

So, surely there's some way to ultimately determine Kafka's nationality once and for all, even if the details are a bit thorny? Weren't even the Austro-Hungarian peoples basically nations-in-waiting, ready to awaken and seek self-determination as soon as the Austrian emperor took his boot-heel of their necks?

Not according to Swarthmore College's Professor Judson, a current fellow at the American Academy in Berlin. Professor Judson, an expert on the Hapsburg Monarchy, is working on a book project challenging received notions about nationalism in Central Europe, particularly the common narrative that places the emergence of nationalist consciousness at the core of the Empire's history. For example, he marshalls many sources demonstrating that what language an Imperial subject chose to speak or write was hardly an indicator of Nationalist loyalty, as it later came to be seen.

So, when Kafka wrote in German, was this a betrayal of his Czechoslovakian roots, as commonly thought? Not really. There was no Czechoslovakia yet! In Bohemia, home to both languages, whether an individual chose to speak German or Czech depended on a host of factors, pointed out Judson in a recent lecture.

So can't we just say that Kafka was neither this nor that, but betwixt and between, as he famously experienced himself? We could, articulated Judith Butler last month in the London Review of Books, were it not for Big Money and the Force of the Law. Kafka's archived papers are literally sold by weight, worth almost as much in gold, and everybody wants them. Der Spiegel dishes the best gossip on the origins of this convoluted scandal.

Butler, on the other hand, gives the best account of how the need for economic valuation and juridical standards highlight strange and intractable paradoxes that inhere in the post-19th Century Wilsonian insistence on grouping everything under the concept of nationhood. And the irony that everybody seems at least vaguely aware of: it was Kafka's own works that most keenly satirized the absurdities arising from the application of legalism and institutionalization to the "swamp world" (as Walter Benjamin called it) of messy reality.

Duchamp may have beat Kafka; he satirized modern institutions and caused one to erupt in controversy at the very same time (Kafka had to wait for posterity). I'm referring of course to his submission of a signed urinal to the Salon Des Independants in 1917. Was this art, or just a manufactured product? You could argue that Art as such (meaning Art as a transcendent category separate from any technique, skill, or social utility) was, like the nation state, an invention of the 19th Century. So you could reject the false choice by rejecting its metaphysical presupposition. However, now we have a judging institution that must decide the undecidable, and Big Money (which the art market had become) is on the line. Thus, subversion. Thus, chaos. Thus, irony. And a prophetic rehearsal for the current Kafka brouhaha.


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