ASRL / PERPETUAL 2014
 
Influencing Jasper Johns

posted: 01-25-10
Jasper Johns, According to What, 1971
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The intellectual influence of Marcel Duchamp over Jasper Johns and other painters who came of age in the 1950s is generally known, but decoding the heritage of various Flags, Targets and other "readymade" images on canvas -- not to mention the monumental According To What -- can still provoke surprise and generate insight into Johns' career. An ongoing exhibit at Washington's National Gallery of Art does exactly that.

(Through April 4 at the National Gallery of Art.)

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Muybridge, Marey, Marcel & the Matrix

posted: 01-22-10
Eadweard Muybridge, Woman Walking Downstairs
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The pioneering motion photography of 19th century researchers like Etienne-Jules Marey and Eadweard Muybridge (both 1830-1904) had an explicit influence on the epochal Nude Descending a Staircase and its painterly representation of motion through time. A human lifetime later, the stroboscopic universe had evolved into the bullet-time aesthetic made famous in films like The Matrix.

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Dali's Chess: Pushing Fingers
By Scott Martin
posted: 01-21-10
Dali's 1964 chess set with piece (queen) in detail
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Enthusiasm for chess ran deep in Duchamp's circles, who spent thousands of hours playing the game and, in some cases, constructing their own unique sets. Salvador Dali engaged the game in 1964 by designing a set for the American Chess Federation that alludes to the function of the chess player -- omniscient and eternal from the perspective of the gameboard, meting life and death in pursuit of an abstract agenda -- as surrogate for the divine.

Naturally, Dali developed this theme by modeling most of the pieces on himself. "In chess as in other expressions of the human alchemy," he wrote, "there is always the creator -- above all, the Artist as Creator. It is this that I wanted to be represented: the hand of the Artist, the Eternal Creator. How better to express this vision than by sculpting my own hand, my own fingers?" Only the queens (a slight but pregnant variation, cast from the thumbs of Gala and crowned with teeth) and the rooks (hotel salt cellars) break the reflexive scheme. Just as the queen is both the most powerful piece on the board and feminine, Gala Dali was the most important person in the artist's life and so appears on the board under her own aegis (or tooth); esoteric elaborations of chess ascribe the rook to the element of matter or alchemical salt, and so its form here reflects the persistence of the artist's materials in the ongoing process -- the game, the work of art, the life.

More self-effacing artists tend to keep their own likeness out of the game. Man Ray, for example, created fine abstract sets, but Duchamp dismissed his friend's chess as little more than pushing wood around the board. If Dali ever played at this set, we can imagine him savoring the irony of pushing his own fingers to push their disembodied representations in pursuit of what Duchamp called the "beautiful problems" of the chess universe. If the artist creates the world, then who created the artist? For that matter, who or what takes the side opposite the artist and wields his own hands against him? And now that Dali is dead, what does it mean to sit down at the board and set these now-necromantic relics of the man to dancing?

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Matta in Miami

posted: 01-20-10
Roberto Matta, Sophyte que je m'utile
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A major -- not to mention rare -- retrospective of the work of Roberto Matta sheds new light on the Chilean-born painter's oneiric and somewhat obscure eight-decade career. Miami dealer Gary Nader has assembled 50 canvases that span the 1930s to the 1990s to chart Matta's early Surrealist associations, encounters with Marcel Duchamp, apocalyptic "inscape" period, pre-Columbian and political influences and beyond.

(Through February 22 at Gary Nader Fine Art.)

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Chess & The Origin of the World
By Scott Martin
posted: 01-19-10
Francis Naumann and Yoko Ono
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On the trail of Marcel Duchamp, art dealer Francis Naumann has diverted his professional attention from chess -- having curated the groundbreaking "Art of Chess" show last year -- to works that, like Etant Donnes, express the character of the vagina. "They are at opposite ends of the spectrum and, as it turns out, opposite ends of the body," he recently told ARTNEWS. "But I see a connection, through Duchamp."

"The Visible Vagina" will be on display at both Naumann's uptown gallery and co-organizer David Nolan's Chelsea space from January 28 through May 20. Duchamp, his relations and associates are represented among the nearly 80 artists whose work appears either in the exhibit catalog or the show itself. As Naumann notes, Etant Donnes bridges the gap between worlds in much the same way that a "sealed move" or any undisclosed intent allows the chess master to stay in play even after the game is over.

(More details at www.francisnaumann.com.)

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