Marcel Duchamp Redux at the Norton Simon
Post #1214 • July 23, 2008, 8:16 PM • 39 Comments
In 1963 the Norton Simon Museum, née the Pasadena Museum of Art, exhibited a retrospective of the works of Marcel Duchamp. The opening was attended by Warhol, Ed Ruscha, and Robert Irwin, and it left a mark on Southern Californian art that persists to this day. The museum is commemorating the show's 45th anniversary with a little roomful of objects acquired from the exhibition and elsewhere. L.H.O.O.Q. (translated and bowdlerized by the museum as "there is fire down below") is there, as is the bottle rack, along with other ersatz objects based on long-gone works made almost fifty years earlier in a protracted episode of pique. Aside from a small lead and glass construction, dependably Duchamp's most compensating medium, the objects reek of bourgeois, co-opted radicalism. A grouping of four wall-mounted turntables with painted disks indicates the artist's dotage. Citing these trivialities with antecedents ought to embarass their makers; that it doesn't speaks ill of their ambitions. After all, Duchamp cranked out replicas, Dalí-style, as needed. Probably no art deigned museum-worthy at the time of its manufacture had ever been more commercial. That they postdate early Warhols by a year or two is telling. One could look at them as even more fake, practically disappearing beyond the singularity of fakeness, imperceptible by mortals except via a pale halo of sissy humor.