Marcel Duchamp Inaugurating the Arts and Crap Movement

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Ron Bass

Nov 14, 2009, 2:45:10 PM11/14/09
to The View From Outside Discussion
An amped-up gallerist is describing the central panel of the above-
named painting. I haven't yet learned which fictional character is
responsible for painting it. As you can see the desription is a work
in progress....

“This painting is in the form of a four-gated Tibetan mandala. In
Tibetan Buddhism the viewer is expected to meditate upon the mandala
in order to attain a special level of consciousness. The title of the
painting – Marcel Duchamp Inaugurating the Arts and Crap Movement –
derives from the action depicted in the central panel. On the left,
with his back facing the viewer, a man dressed in an expensively
tailored blue suit is in the process of starting to move away from a
urinal after presumably finishing up what he was doing there. On the
outside of the top front portion of the porcelain rim of the urinal,
directly facing the viewer, is an industrial logo in a slightly gothic
typeface that reads: Readymade. We assume this man is Marcel Duchamp.
What was he doing? Was he pissing into the urinal or was he just
installing it? Given the title of the painting what constitutes
“inauguration?” Standing right next to him but facing the viewer is a
dead pan Andy Warhol, who is holding a Polaroid camera in his right
hand and his penis with his left hand. The penis is outside the fly of
his dress whites and discharging a copious stream of urine onto the
ground. The stream bounces off a small jagged boulder and flies upward
in two subsidiary streams. One stream, while still arcing upward,
diverges into three smaller streams and splashes into the eyes of
three Pop Art collectors (Robert Scull, Henry Kravis, and Michael
Ovitz) in the near right foreground. They are waving their arms
around, as they appear to be shouting hosannas over their baptism with
Andy’s holy water. Is the viewer being asked to draw comparisons
between the Three Pop-Art Collectors and the Three Wise Men? The other
stream, on its downward arc, collects in a water glass containing a
crucifix held aloft by a kneeling Andres Serrano, who is dressed in
swaddling clothes and positioned in the farther-right foreground. Is
his appearance meant to represent a fetishistic recreation of the Baby
Jesus? Before we move on to a discussion of the scenes painted in the
four gates let us for a moment consider the setting. The viewer almost
can’t help absorbing the light cascading from Andy’s golden stream,
which appears to be a dramaturgical feint borrowed from Titian’s
Christ Crowned With Thorns. Looking around the room and finding no
alternative light source, one has to accept as fact that Andy’s stream
lights the entire scene. The large square white floor tiles suggest a
men’s locker room. The ritualized piss play evokes associations with
gay S&M clubs. Keep in mind that at the outset of their careers the
major Pop Art stars -- Warhol, Jasper Johns, and Robert Rauschenberg
-- were younger gay male artists whose rise to prominence rapidly
eclipsed and stole the thunder from the older generation of macho,
largely heterosexual Abstract Expressionist painters. The Three Pop
Art Collectors are portrayed here as willing participants in this gay
bacchanal. Now notice how Marcel Duchamp, situated in the top left
portion of the painting, seems to inhabit an entirely different
milieu, one that almost screams Neue Sachlichkeit (or New Objectivity)


Nov 14, 2009, 2:58:00 PM11/14/09
to The View From Outside Discussion
I really should have swallowed what was in my mouth before I read
this. Hahaha. I definitely love the additions you've made to this.
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