The legacy of Duchamp’s Readymade, selections from the Vanmoerkerke Collection curated by Jason Ysenburg
POP ART, A TRULY AMERICAN VISUAL VERNACULAR, REFLECTS WARHOL AND LICHTENSTEIN’S INITIAL TRAINING AS COMMERCIAL ARTISTS AND ULTIMATE ACERBIC COMMENTARY ON OUR SOCIETY, ITS VALUES, FLAWS AND TRIUMPHS, GREATLY INFLUENCED AN IMPORTANT ASPECT OF THE ART OF THE SEVENTIES. ED RUSCHA, BARBARA KRUGER AND JENNY HOLZER, A FEW OF THE CONCEPTUALLY BASED LUMINARIES OF THE POST-POP GENERATION, EXPANDED POP’S IMAGES AND ICONS BY INCORPORATING WORDS AND PHRASES INTO THEIR WORK. THE VANMOERKERKE COLLECTION IS A STRONGHOLD OF WORKS BY WORD AND LANGUAGE ARTISTS, INCLUDING NOT ONLY KRUGER AND RUSCHA BUT ALSO ON KAWARA AND CHRISTOPHER WOOL. THE COLLECTION HAS EVOLVED OVER THE LAST FIFTEEN YEARS, ITS FOUNDER, MARK VANMOERKERKE, INSPIRED BY AN EARLIER GENERATION OF BELGIAN PRIVATE COLLECTORS WHO ROSE TO PROMINENCE AS BELGIUM’S ECONOMY INDUSTRIALIZED IN THE 1960s.
HOUSED IN A BEAUTIFUL BUILDING FROM 1942, IN A RESIDENTIAL NEIGHBORHOOD OF OSTEND, BELGIUM, MARK VANMOERKERKE CONTINUALLY REFINES AND ADDS TO HIS COLLECTION OF POST-CONCEPTUAL WORKS. PRIMARILY EUROPEAN AND NORTH AMERICAN ARTISTS, A CORE BODY OF WORKS REPRESENT MAJOR ARTISTS AS WELL AS YOUNG OR NEWLY EMERGING ARTISTS WHILE ALWAYS MAINTAINING A VERY HIGH CRITICAL STANDARD. http://www.artcollection.be/
JASON YSENBURG, DIRECTOR OF GAGOSIAN GALLERY, AND GUEST CURATOR OF THE CURRENT EXHIBITION AT THE VANMOERKERKE COLLECTION, SHARES HIS ASTUTE AND IDIOSYNCRATIC SELECTION FROM THE COLLECTION IN TODAY’S LRFA BLOG. JASON HAD A WEALTH OF MATERIAL FROM WHICH TO CHOOSE AND IT IS A REFLECTION OF HIS DEPTH OF KNOWLEDGE OF CONTEMPORARY ART, PHOTOGRAPHY IN PARTICULAR, THAT IS THE INSPIRATION BOTH FOR HIS PERCEPTIVE CHOICES AND ANALYSIS OF THE WORKS IN HIS ACCOMPANYING ESSAY, “THINGS I CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT”. http://www.artcollection.be/shows?show=593
Building One: The Seduction of Excess, continued…
Words and Pictures
Longo does, however, leave one thing out of his piece: words. From Barbara Kruger’s perspective, that may not amount to much at all, if indeed “A Picture is worth more than a thousand words”. Her often used palate of black, white, and red, alongside a retro found image evocative of commercial advertising posters, almost goes overboard illustrating the point of this rephrased cliché.
The massive display of Alighiero Boetti tapestries goes a step further. For Boetti, words are not just secondary to images; words practically disappear and become meaningless, consumed by the bold colour blocking that tends to turn each letter into an abstract part of a pattern. Most excessively, Philippe Parreno’s “speech bubble” balloons empty out all actual speech from the bubble. The viewer is simply mesmerized by the shiny gold material.
Works of art and commodities
Significantly, Parreno’s gold balloons wouldn’t be the same, in say, blue. The gold bespeaks a certain luxury and appropriates Andy Warhol’s floating silver pillows, upping the ante in the precious metal sweepstakes. In the process, Parreno’s piece becomes a riff on the commodification art. Warhol understood the role of art in the market place all too well, and Parreno follows in his footsteps.
The same could be said of Andreas Gursky. His work here addresses the duel role of art as a luxury commodity and art as the representation of luxury commodities. We desire the beautiful objects Gursky photographs in the Prada stores, and then we desire his photographic representation of those same objects. Desire and commodification multiplied.
Jeff Koons takes the commodification of art to a self-conscious extreme with his reproduction of a Hennessey advertisement, turning the advertisement itself into an art object. “Hennessey, The Civilized Way to Lay Down the Law” is a clear effort to show that luxury is a brand, albeit one embedded in the cultural laws of race, gender, sexuality, and class. Koon’s piece strips away all pretensions from art as somehow excluded from the luxury brand market. Just as LVMH uses an appeal to civility, exclusivity, and luxury branding to sell a mass market cognac, the art object has entered into a luxury market place that will even pay a premium price for a re- contextualized advertisement, irony included at no extra charge.
If we find the excessive commodification of art something of a sin, Elmgreen and Dragset’s “The Unholy Trinity” provides separate confessionals for artist, gallerist, and collector, each of whom plays a different but mutually dependent role. But of course, the notion of confession is merely an illusion: there is no one behind the curtain to confess to. The viewer is merely imaging that the participants in the market place would like to rid themselves of their consumerist sins. Art will potentially continue to be fetishized, ordered, and displayed in the capitalist market place, whether anyone confesses or not.
And yet the work of art is not a mere capitulation to capitalist commodification. This installation repeatedly questions whether collecting is the celebration or the critique of the commodification of the work of art
Formal originality and appropriations
While Steinbach and Bickerton appropriate Duchamp’s notion of the Readymade for their own purposes, Louise Lawler goes a step further and makes Duchamp’s Readymade the very subject of her photograph. While On Kawara incessantly frames temporal moments, Lawler frames On Kawara’s temporal framing.
Lawler’s project is not Sherrie Levine’s or even Richard Prince’s, where the appropriation of the work of art is a rather straightforward reproduction of the image. They simply challenge the way in which we privilege the uniqueness of the art object and hold onto notions of attribution. Lawler’s more complex mode of appropriation both captures works of art in context and submits them to formal framing. On the one hand, we may see the “original” art object in its specific context and interpret it as such. This can even include a reminder of the commodification of art, in the case of photographing Duchamp’s shovel in the Phillips auction gallery. On the other hand, there is an abstract beauty in the composition of her photographs, where the art object becomes part of the abstracted formalism of Lawler’s composition.
Lawler also provides us with an appropriate transition to Building 2. Her work, shown in the context of “Things I Can’t Live Without” most directly breaks down the opposition between Maximalism and Minimalism. She confronts the neat division between the two desires that drive collecting by confusing our interest in the excessive serial re-contextualization of works of art with the careful edit that frames the “original’ work of art into another, singular piece.
IN OUR NEXT BLOG, ON TO BUILDING 2: MINIMALISM.
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FIRE AWAY – AND HAPPY THANKSGIVING!