Monday, December 7, 2009

Marcel Duchamp ~ Boite-en-valise (the red box), series F, Rrose Selavy but no Chess

The image above is the expanded view of what I had seen yesterday of Marcel Duchamp's Boite-en-valise (the red box), series F, 1960 at the Portland Art Museum. PAM has consolidated the box so that it looks more like the image on the left. After writing the post on Saturday about Duchamp's affection for chess (Saturday seems like such a short time ago), I decided to go venture down to PAM and see if I could see any chess images in the Boite. Alas, that wasn't to be. There are any number of images - just about what you see on the left but not all of what is shown above. Not one of them has a chess theme. However, there is at least one piece of art not represented in either of these images. On the left hand hinged cover and on the side we can't see is Duchamp's Nude Descending the Staircase. The original of that piece was shown here at the Portland Art Museum back in 1913 just after it was exhibited in the Armory Show. You can read more about that here at Fifty Two Pieces, just click this link. Back to the Boite. What I did discover that intrigued me were the two pieces by Rrose Selavy. Rose, as you'll recall from earlier posts at Fifty Two Pieces was Marcel Duchamp's feminine alter ego. His other self was birthed in 1921 and soon started to create art work of her own.

First up is Why Not Sneeze Rrose Selavy? This piece either carries the attribution Rrose Selavy or Marcel Duchamp, depending upon which book, website, museum is being quoted. In either case, Duchamp or Selavy created this Readymade of 152 marble cubes in the form of sugar cubes with thermometer and cuttlefishbone in a birdcage. Unless you're at the museum you'll probably not see the tiny three dimensional cut-out of this piece. It sits almost like a small crown inside the red Boite itself. Click on the enlarged expanded version of the Boite above and you might make it out. It's mostly grays and not the wonderful representation to the left.

Selavy was also represented with the piece La Bagarre d'Austerlitz, The best view of this is to look at the expanded version, second row from the bottom, far right hand image. Hmmph, Voice from the Couch is saying. How can anyone possibly see that? He's right. You'll all need to visit the Portland Art Museum or the closest museum that has a Boite on display and examine it closely. Each series is substantially the same, but the contents of the series vary from series to series. The Portland Art Museum has Series F.

Rrose Selavy, Duchamp's alter ego, kept him busy from the moment she was created in 1921. If she wasn't busy making art, she was having her photo taken or image painted. Duchamp spent a great deal of time preparing himself for these photo shoots as well as any time he ventured out into the world as Rrose. Man Ray took a number of portraits of Duchamp and of Rrose Selavy. Here's one of Rrose and then a portrait done by Carlo Mariani in 1990 from Ray's image. Duchamp would certainly love the visuals here. Mariani portrays Duchamp as the feminine Selavy but retains more of his masculine features. And then Mariani put in the additional tweak of Duchamp/Selavy in a da Vinci Mona Lisa pose with the added starter of the mustache and goatee from L.H.O.O.Q. (also in PAM's Boite).

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