- Remaking the Readymade: Duchamp, Man Ray, and the Conundrum of the ReplicaBy Adina Kamien-Kazhdan
- Pictorial Normalism: On Marcel Duchamp's Passage from Painting to the ReadymadeBy Thierry de Duve, trans. by Dana Polan
- Marcel Duchamps' Fountain: One Hundred Years LaterOur PickBy Robert Kilroy
- Marcel Duchamp: Artist of the CenturyBy R Kuenzli
- Self PortraitOur PickBy Man Ray
- Mark DionOur PickBy John Berger and Norman Bryson
The Important Artists and Works of Readymade and The Found Object
This work, described by Duchamp as a "pleasant gadget," combined a stool with a wheel, which was intermittently turned so that it would revolve for viewers. Duchamp termed this an "assisted readymade" as it was based on the combination of two different objects.
The arrangement of these two objects is visually striking, even comical. As Duchamp experienced himself, there is also something very pleasing in how tactical this work appears, as if it invites the viewer to spin the wheel themselves. The work fuses together two different useful objects, but in doing so, renders them both stripped of their original function. We can no longer ride the bike or sit on the stool so the objects are totally reimagined. Instead, they become objects for us to contemplate, to look at, to treat as we would anything else in a gallery space. By juxtaposing two different objects, Duchamp creates a new thing, which is neither one nor the other.
The Fountain is one of the best-known works of the 20th century and continues to be considered the most influential piece of modern art. Though its composition is simple - a porcelain urinal lay on its side and inscribed with the words "R. Mutt" and date - its impact on the art world cannot be understated.
With this piece, Duchamp could be saying any number of things, but most importantly, he seems to decimate the cultural reverence there is for art objects by making one of the most ubiquitous and lowly objects into one of admiration. By unifying the sacred and the profane, Duchamp rethinks the innate demands of art by asking us to laugh or feel puzzled by the object, rather than respecting it. Duchamp shows that even an ordinary toilet can become worth an incredible amount of money simply because an artist has selected it.
Duchamp also makes a joke about the good aesthetic "taste" of the artist by picking an object that most people would simply mock. He seems to challenge his audience, asking them: could you display this in your home? Clearly, one might never think it is in good taste to display a toilet, but by abstracting it from its use, Duchamp asks his audience to recontextualize the work, so it is no longer defined by its use, but instead by its lack of purpose. If we do this, then the object no longer becomes distasteful, but merely another object. By using indifference in selecting his objects, and transforming them into something other, Duchamp wanted to avoid making art into a purely aesthetic ideal that appealed only to the eye.
Though Duchamp is famous for his creation of the readymade, he actually only created thirteen such works of his own. Aside from The Fountain, this included Bicycle Wheel and Bottle Rack (1914), Prelude to a Broken Arm (1915), Pulled at 4 Pins (1915), Comb (1915), Traveller's Folding Item (1916), Trap (1917), 50cc of Paris Air (1919), Fresh Window (1920), Brawl at Austerlitz (1921), Belle Haleine, Eau de Voilette (1921), and Why Not Sneeze, Rose Selavy (1921).
This work was created in collaboration by The Baroness and painter and photographer Morton Schamberg. The piece was originally solely attributed to Schamberg, but recent scholarship has found that it is likely to have been a combined effort. The piece is a section of cast-iron plumbing that has been turned upside down and mounted to a wooden base.
God is considered the sister piece to Duchamp's The Fountain in both the use of banal plumbing parts and its re-contextualized orientation. Because The Baroness and Duchamp were dear friends, even living for a time in the same apartment building, and because God was made in the same year as The Fountain, there has been much speculation about which piece was actually created first. Like The Fountain, God takes an overlooked item and repositions it in a new setting, questioning the inherent value in any piece of art. However, Freytag-Loringhoven places a different emphasis on this piece through its title. By naming this phallic-shaped piece God, she appears to make fun of the traditional idea of God as an authoritative figure. In joining together the high and the low, she questions the arbitrary boundary between the two, and the societal structures that keep them in place.
This piece also asks interesting questions about authorship, particularly in the fact that it has been misattributed in the past. By a woman artist naming a lowly object God, she gives herself a new power to name and to create, a power that is affiliated with God himself (notice God is traditionally considered male). Freytag-Loringhoven's playful and yet powerful work seeks to question the possibility of women to assert their own independence by challenging dominating power structures.