To think, to dream, to conceive fine works is a delightful occupation…’, wrote Honoré de Balzac, in his novel Cousin Bette, in the first half of the 19th century. Another famous Frenchman, Marcel Duchamp, who signed a urinal he’d picked up from a plumber’s yard and proclaimed it a work of art (Fountain) in 1917 , would at first glance, appear to have agreed with him. Renowned father of object art, from which conceptual art emerged, Duchamp said he liked living and breathing better than working, and that his art was that of living. But his words were never to be taken at face value and far from being a remote thinker and pure intellectual, who turned his back on the ‘artist’s enslavement to manual dexterity’, Duchamp, almost in secret, completed many finely crafted works.
This exhibition at La Verrière Hermès, assembled by the space’s new curator, Guillaume Désanges, who co-wrote and co-directed the play ‘Le Cerveau’ Master Duchamp’, presented at the Centre Pompidou in March, highlights one of the Foundation’s core commitments: the transmission of artistic and expert artisan skills. Taking Duchamp as a figurehead, Des Gestes de la Pensée / Gesture, and Thought brings together the work of 10 international contemporary artists: Elias Crespin, Hubert Duprat, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Michel François, Ann Veronica Janssens, Irene Kopelman, Anna Maria Maiolino, Benoît Maire, Corey McCorkle and Francisco Tropa, exploring this same fascination with ‘finish’ and craftsmanship as an extension of thought.
The innovative bookbinder Mary Reynolds (1891-1950) was Duchamp’s partner for thirty years. It was Reynolds who, in the 1930s, executed Duchamp’s binding design for Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi/Ubu the King, with cut-out U-shaped front and back covers that when fully opened, either side of the B on the spine, spell out UBU. It is not included in the exhibition, but his binding for Prière de Toucher / Pray Touch, an exhibition catalogue for Le Surréalisme en 1947 was a breast made from foam rubber, with pigment, velvet, and cardboard, adhered to removable cover, is. Also on display will be La mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même [Boîte Verte], The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors Even [The Green Box] published by Duchamp in 1934, which is a collection of 94 documents – works on paper, photographs, lithographs and drawings – to explain some of his thinking and to show some of the preliminary works relating to The Large Glass.
Duchamp also produced Box in a Valise (From or by Marcel Duchamp or Rrose Sélavy, 1935-41), which is a leather case containing miniature replicas, photographs and colour reproductions of works by Duchamp, and one ‘original’ drawing. An earlier piece Standard Stoppages (1913-14), which he called ‘a joke about the meter’ – the originally French standard of measurement – is a wooden box 11 that house three threads each 100 cm in length, glued to three painted canvas strips, each mounted on a glass panel, and three wood slats , shaped along one edge to match the curves of the threads.
Images from top
Handprint from Charlotte Wolff (Marcel Duchamp)
Courtesy Hans-Peter Feldmann et galerie Martine Aboucaya
La mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même [Boîte Verte], 1934
Courtesy Association Marcel Duchamp
Prière de Toucher, 1947
Courtesy Galerie Ronny Van de Velde, Anvers
Circunconcentricos Inoxidable, 2012
Acier inoxydable, nylon, moteurs, ordinateur, interface électronique 100 cm Ø
©Elias Crespin. Photo Pascal Maillard
Ann Veronica Janssens
IPE 535, 2009
©P Lemmens. Courtesy Galerie M.Szwajcer
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