Saturday, May 29, 2010

Marcel Duchamp and Me

It seems that I keep crossing paths with the avant garde artist Marcel Duchamp. Well, not crossing paths really, since he died in 1968. I guess you could say I keep stumbling over him, but that wouldn't be accurate either, as I'm sure he received a decent burial, and even if he didn't, there wouldn't be much left to stumble over now. But his name comes up occasionally when I am reading about other subjects. Most recently this occurred while I was reading an article in Smithsonian Magazine by Owen Edwards titled, "Sign of the Times: Bob Dylan." The article discusses the iconic poster created by Milton Glaser in 1966 which was included in Bob Dylan's first greatest hits album.

It turns out that Glaser took inspiration from a self-portrait created by Marcel Duchamp in 1957.

In the process of looking for a copy of Duchamp's work, I happened upon a double-exposure portrait of the artist made by Victor Obsatz in 1959.

Obsatz could not claim the multiple-exposure portrait as an original idea, as evidenced by a self-portrait made by the Italian futurist photographer and film maker, Anton Bragaglia, in 1913.

And so now, alas, I cannot claim that the multiple-exposure self-portrait I first inflicted on the world on August 24, 2009 was an original idea. I was at the time totally ignorant of the earlier efforts of Obsatz and Bragaglia, but that's no excuse.

Likewise, the self-portrait below, released on an unsuspecting public on January 3, 2010, isn't nearly as clever and original as I thought it was at the time.

Witness the photo below, "Photodynamic Portrait of a Woman,"circa 1924, by Anton Bragaglia's brother Arturo.

Once again the wisdom of Ecclesiastes rings true: "There is no new thing under the sun."


Anonymous said...

Did you ever come by and see my "sneeze" photograph? It is of me. Anyway, it is clever like your self-portrait is.

Go here

Anonymous said...
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Steve Borichevsky said...

Art, being born or the spirit, follows the laws of the spirit. Thus, one should not be surprised to learn that our Doppelgänger has preceded us, stealing our thunder.

I enjoyed this post.

Owlfarmer said...

I got lost in your blog (again) after not having visited for a very long time, and wound up here. The coincidences are rife, but I love best the fact that I was just talking about Duchamp in class this week. As usual with this lot, they couldn't get over the Fountain (one guy kept calling it a toilet and I kept correcting him and the class kept laughing more and more enthusiastically).

I hadn't known about the connection between the Glaser poster and the Duchamp self-portrait (I have the Dylan poster; it came in the Blond on Blond album, which I also still have)--and I finally get to know about your avatar. You do good work; I'm going to have to recommend the blog to some of my better students. Altogether a good day.

I do, by the way, appreciate your comments on Farm essays, even though I'm usually too busy fighting the above-mentioned battles to respond.

PS: there's a nice interview bit with Duchamp on Robert Hughes's old series The Shock of the New ("The Mechanical Paradise"). I just watched that yesterday for the first time in 20 years.

David C. said...

Thanks for your comment. I know how it is--trying to follow too many blogs and losing touch. I hope you will share Lugubrious Drollery with some of your students. I recently met with a group of freshman comp students from Notre Dame at a photography exhibit I had on display at a local gallery. This was on a Saturday morning, and most had the look of teenagers who had stayed out too late the night before, but a couple showed the spark of curiosity that makes you want to keep teaching. Please stay in touch.

Anonymous said...

Marcel Duchamp associated with DADA and Surrealism mostly. No avant-garde


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