Saturday, February 21, 2015

From Duchamp to Duchampian

At first look, Duchamp, A Biography, written by Calvin Tomkins is intimidating with its five hundred plus pages of dense text and black cover illustrated by Poster after Self-Portrait in Profile, 1959, from Marcel Duchamp. First published in 1996, twenty five years after the artist's death, the revised edition was printed under the auspices of the Museum of Modern Art.
A detailed description of  a major work from Duchamp, The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass), 1915-1923, is followed by a chronological history of the artist's life in thirty chapters, each preceded by a quote from Duchamp or one of his close friends under the title.
The maturation of the complex character unfolds through the description of his life stories, on a background of wars and a fast changing art world. In his biography, Tomkins  not only provides solid facts, but also in-depth analysis of Duchamp's writings, interactions, interests and works. The illustrations accompanying the text include all the major pieces, family photographs and portraits of the artist and his friends.
Tomkins's easy style of writing makes the reading riveting with its succession of great stories. The material for the book was gathered during a thirty years period of research, and several hours of recorded conversations between the author and the artist in 1959 making it not only a biography but an insider's history of art. To quote Tomkins, the interview with Duchamp led to his "first interest in modern art". Following his personal interaction with the artist, Tomkins helps us evaluate the breath of his legacy.
As a testimony of his influence on the art world, Duchamp, who stated that "life is more important than art",
was posthumously awarded an adjective in the dictionnary, Duchampian.

photographs public domain
Marcel Duchamp, Library of Congress
"Rose Sélavy", 1921, Man Ray

No comments: