The French Dada artist Marcel Duchamp was a member of artist Florine Stettheimer’s family’s inner circle. He is depicted here in the company of Rrose Selavy, the female alter ego that he invented in 1920. He casually carries out his game of sexual transformation by means of a contraption operated from an armchair. The clock and the chess knight are both Ducahmpian symbols: the one being a reference to the circularity of Dada time; the other an illusions to Duchamp’s prowess at chess. The frame (also by Stettheimer), composed of Duchamp’s monogram in a circle of infinite repetition, wryly comments on his program of artistic self-promotion and his obsession with identity and its ambiguities.
Portrait of Marcel Duchamp and Rrose Selavy (1923) was Photographed in the Jewish Museum in Manhattan.
Why Not Sneeze, Rose Sélavy? is a 1921Readymade sculpture by Marcel Duchamp. Duchamp considered this to be an “Assisted Readymade” because the original object, the Birdcage, was altered by the artist with the addition of the other objects. These consist of 152 white cubes (made of marble but resembling sugar cubes), a mercury thermometer, a piece of cuttlebone, and a tiny porcelain dish.
The birdcage is made of painted metal and contains several wooden perches. Rrose Sélavy, or Rose Sélavy, was one of the pseudonyms used by artist for the creation of other works, such as This One.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art displays the original as part of the Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection. Several replicas made by Duchamp exist (this is one, from 1964, of those) but only in the original are the cubes stamped “Made in France.”
Man Ray (1890 – 1976) worked in a wide variety of media, including photography, painting, and sculpture, often blurring the boundaries between these practices. Obstruction, an assemblage of 63 wooden coat hangers, is an example of the type of artwork Dada artist Marcel Duchamp called a Ready-Made, a term that suggests Man Ray’s appropriation and manipulation of pre-existing, common objects. The sculpture playfully mimics a chandelier, but, as the hangers seemingly divide and multiply, Obstruction quickly evolves into a dense tangle of overlapping forms. Cast shadows serve as distorted, immaterial extensions of its physical presence. Man Ray first created Obstruction in 1920, but the present work belongs to an addition of 15 reproductions that he created in 1961 for an important exhibition of kinetic art.
Photographed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
Inscribed on a strip of metal glued across the approximate center of this work are the words of its title, suggesting that viewers look through the lens that Duchamp mounted between two panes of glass and haloed in concentric circles. The title of this work, which Duchamp said he “intended to sound like an oculist’s prescription,” tells the viewer exactly how to look at it. But peering through the convex lens embedded in the work’s glass “for almost an hour” would have a hallucinatory effect, the view being dwarfed, flipped, and otherwise distorted.
Meanwhile, the viewer who is patiently following the title’s instruction is put on display for anyone else walking by. Duchamp called To Be Looked At . . . his “small glass,” to distinguish it from his famous Large Glass of 1915–23. He made this work while living in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he had fled earlier in 1918 to escape the oppressive atmosphere of the United States during World War I. When he shipped it back to New York, the glass cracked in transit, an effect that delighted the artist.
In the tradition of Marcel Duchamp’s Ready-Mades, this 3D printed Pez dispenser by British artist Tom Burtonwood (in the likeness of Duchamp’s Fountain sculpture) combines high and low, pop and populous, and art and kitsch.
Available in the gift shop at the New Museum of Contemporary Art for $70, discounted to $59.50 for Members!