|Replica, 1958 |
(Collection Arturo Schwarz)
Spring 1957, New York
Even though Waistcoat was produced over forty years after the first Readymades began appearing, it remains undeniably tied to the rest of the oeuvre. First of all, this Readymade is clearly a mass-produced everyday object. In fact, it is more recognizable than many of the more pure early Readymades and remains so even to modern viewers. Waistcoat also incorporates linguistic concepts, plays games with the idea of the mirror, and suggests gender interpretations.
Upon closer examination, this seemingly basic item of a men's clothing shows much more depth. Duchamp plays his typical linguistic games once again, over forty years after other similar pieces. The five vest buttons on the original version spell out "TEENY," the name of Duchamp's wife, in reverse in 24 pt lead type blocks. The later replicas all continue to incorporate this linguistic play. Duchamp gave them all as gifts to male acquaintances, each one with its buttons spelling out the name of his wife or wife-to-be. This concept of imposing the name of a female partner on the very buttons closing and, in a sense, holding together, her male partner's clothing, appears gender-loaded (Schwarz 808). Such gender play, as seen in the majority of his Readymades in varying degress, is not uncommon for Duchamp.
|Replica, 1958 |
(Collection Paul Matisse)
The reversal, or mirror-image quality, of the letters also proves noteworthy. This mirrored concept directly implicates the viewer, involving him in the dialogue of the piece. Such games are also seen in a number of other well-known Readymades. This mirror concept may also refer to Duchamp's interest in the higher ideas of n-dimensional mathematics. Adcock notes that the mirror image is the result of an objects rotation into the fourth dimension (73). Thus Duchamp isn't simply writing in reverse; he is directly involving the viewer and encouraging him to engage in higher mathematical thought. In fact, Duchamp involves the viewer in this Readymade more clearly than in most others. After all, Waistcoat suggests the actual presence of a human form. It desperately needs a figure in order for its function to be fulfilled. But of course, the museum doesn't allow visitors to 'try on' art.
|Original version, 1957|
2) Nov. 1958, New York
Collection Arturo Schwarz, Milan
Cotton flannel waistcoat with red and black stripes, medium, 5 buttons spell "PERET" because made for poet Benjamin Peret
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