Artists in pictures: Marcel Duchamp
To me, Duchamp is the most intimidatingly sophisticated artist there ever was. The implications of his work, what it destabilized and what it made accessible, are still unfolding, and taken individually, the works are as slippery and baffling now as ever. The Large Glass (aka The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even), besides being pretty funny if you read the notes that go with it, is an experience somewhat akin to going to a ten-year-old violin prodigy’s concert. You feel as though you’re somehow getting both less and more than art, or that the art is bypassed, or that something a little bit alien is standing in its place, haunting the material, pushing it into the background. Duchamp made possible something outside of what we used to think art was that has some things in common with it, and that divide, between the two versions of “art,” is still being negotiated today, not always favorably for art. But Duchamp wouldn’t have cared, and I often think I should care less. What makes him so scary, in a way, is that freedom - there was nothing he let himself get too attached to, nothing he couldn’t give up - his home, his hand, the aesthetic, then even art itself. Except chess. The other games he quit playing.
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