This show is about the dialogue between Marcel Duchamp & myself!
Who was he?
Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) was a highly sophisticated, civilized French painter and intellectual. He seems to have been a man of charm and courtesy, highly independent and non coercive in his opinions. In early years, he was part of the avant-garde of early 20th Century Paris (Picasso, Proust, Picabia, Hemmingway, Max Ernst etc.). Later he becomes part of the New York scene – is close to people like Man Ray, Peggy Guggenheim, Rauschenberg etc. and well known collectors.
Why is he famous?
His ideas wrench the aesthetics of the art world into a new direction. He sets the cat among the pigeons, as it were. He stands at the doorway to the ‘isms’ of the modern art scene. His influence is felt to this day.
What did he say?
He said that the ‘retinal image’ is kaput, ‘dished up’; art for the pure visual pleasure is no longer enough. He demands that art now appeal to the intellect. One must search for meaning, mind games are in, the door is open to piles of bricks on the floor of the Tate Modern, the unmade bed, the braying donkey of the Venice Biennale! Ambiguity, cerebral games, reference become part of the scene.
He also claims that any object of one’s choice can be a work of art and submits a man’s urinal of glistening white porcelain and subtle curve, as an exhibit for a show. There is a furore. The outraged committee accept the urinal, but rename it ‘The Fountain’.
He also submits for another show, a bicycle wheel, inverted on its prongs on a kitchen stool. He greatly enjoys its form and movement and considers it too a work of art.
He goes on to produce a few only monumentally important works, mysterious, brilliantly executed and of Freudian complexity. He returns to full time chess. He claims to dislike cliques and ‘in’ groups. Some people even ask was he really sending up the art world?
I wanted to consider the validity of my own work in the light of his ideas. After much thought, I even think that in some things we have a foot in each others camp. One shouldn’t even say ‘camp’. Every thing nourishes everything else. I have been aware of his ideas and of course am intrigued. I also feel that we have our own paths to follow and must use the tools we have been given – his the tantalizing visions of a brilliant and original mind, mine the passion of a driven painter.
The dialogue has brought me serenity and optimism – Duchamp’s followers work in a hidden idiom, whereas I am bent on a more explicit portrayal of life, movement, sensual well being. Exaggeration, colour, irony this is my painterly language. I feel Duchamp has given me a friendly nod – Louis Armstrong dedicated a song to King George VI at the London Palladium saying, ‘This one’s for you Rex!’
Just so, with respect, and tongue slightly in cheek (for this is my way), I am dedicating my show with the words, ‘This one’s for you Marcel!’ and not forgetting to add, ‘mille fois merci!’ – a thousand thanks!