Showing posts with label Boite-en-valise (the red box). Show all posts
Showing posts with label Boite-en-valise (the red box). Show all posts

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Marcel Duchamp ~ Boite-en-valise (the red box), series F, 1960


Voice from the couch, "I went down to the Portland Art Museum and saw the Duchamp."
Me, "What did you think?"
Voice from the couch, "Liked it. I could actually see the images. The computer screen just didn't do it for me."
Me, "True."
Voice from the couch, "We saw one of those pieces at MoMA last year. The color chart one, upper right hand corner"
Me, "Color Chart? I guess I'll have to go back to the museum. I can't see it."

Back to the museum I went and found the Tu m' originally created in 1918 and now packaged in its reproduced form in the Boite-en-valise. Check out the upper right hand corner the next time you're at the museum. Or visit the Museum of Modern Art website and you'll find the video below. Watch it here (you'll hear one of MoMA's curators) or watch it there (and see many other videos).

Voice from the couch, "Be sure to tell them the size of the original." Good point. The original of Tu m' is 27 1/2 x 119 5/16 in. Quick math puts it at about 3 ft by 10 ft. When we saw this at MoMA, the bicycle wheel and the hat rack loomed above us with the color swatches projecting surreally from the canvas. And how could we forget the bottle brush, three safety pins, and one bolt.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Marcel Duchamp ~ Boite-en-valise (the red box), series F - Coffee Mill and Maria Martins


While "unpacking" Marcel Duchamp's Boite-en-valise (the red box), series F, 1960 (figuratively, of course) I read about his original journey out of France with all of the copies of his work that would later go into the various issues of the Boite – the original limited edition, and the subsequent Series. The Portland Art Museum's is labelled as part of Series F. The internet and legend has it that Duchamp had decided to return from France to the United States because of the advancing Germans in 1941. Duchamp is said to have posed as a cheese merchant and claimed the reproductions in his suitcase to be cheese, in order to smuggle his works through German checkpoints. If you look at Duchamp's life and work from the metaphor of chess that he loved so much, the whole idea of the Boites is like a series of chess moves – idea to have a miniature museum of his work, create reproductions, make announcement of the deluxe edition in 1940, decide to leave Europe, plan and execute removal of the "museum pieces", produce first edition and then subsequent ones with additional reproductions. It's quite a story and the best account I've found so far can be found by clicking here. It's a great read and you'll find out that Series F was put together by none other than Duchamp's stepdaughter, Jacqueline Monnier in Paris. So this piece is quite the world traveler.


You may wonder what this has to do with today's lead image of Duchamp's Coffee Mill (1911). I became fascinated with it when I saw it in the Boite (expanded version) and its relationship to Maria Martins. It turns out that at one point Maria Martins owned the original of this painting as part of her art collection. Martins was a world-renowned sculptor who during the forties was having an affair with Marcel Duchamp. They were artistic soul mates as well as lovers at the same time as she was married to the Brazilian Ambassador to this country. At some point their affair ended. They continued to correspond as artists and friends. That relationship was so strong that Duchamp made it a point that important pieces of his work were hers. The Coffee Mill was one of those pieces. Originally Duchamp painted it for his brother Raymond Duchamp-Villon to hang in his kitchen. The Coffee Mill in the Boite is a pochoir reproduction that Duchamp favored for its accuracy. Perhaps one day, the display at the Portland Art Museum will change and the Coffee Mill will be shown so we won't have to just view it as a speck in the expanded version above. You could of course travel to the Tate in London to see the original that once hung in Raymond's kitchen and was owned by Maria Martins (photo on left). To view the Portland Art Museum's display as you'd see it today click here.

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).

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Chess and Conversation

My dad taught all of his children to play Chess when we were very young. We played each other and we played him, many, many times. He rarely went out, but when he did it was over to Dubersich's house for a game of Chess. One game took hours as they were rightly matched.
I know how to play Chess, but I never do. My last wonderful Chess moment happened five or six years ago when I challenged a good friend's beau to a match. This is the kind of guy that whips out a complete New York Times crossword in fifteen minutes, the kinda guy who can spend twenty minutes silently petting the cat and half an hour at a garage sale looking at records, but can't handle five minutes of small talk, and doesn't think he should have to. I didn't think I stood a chance against him but knew I had to win. He didn't know I had it in me, which worked to my advantage, I kicked his ass. It felt sweet like victory should.
Chess is not an easy game to play or win which is why everyone should know the game, it's a lot like life.
Duchamps suitcases are a lot like life too. Boxes full of compartments like little houses full of rooms, each one stuffed with reproductions of other things, toilets, art, vases all in miniature. The boxes are carefully constructed, like little houses, one after the other.
I can imagine Duchamp and his wife, the two of them cutting out the pieces. Maybe they went back and forth in conversation the way players at chess go back and forth taking turns harrassing the other with a move well played, like words well spoken. In Chess it is discouraging to your opponent both your good strategy and your thoughtless move. As in conversation, where both parties rely on thoughtful participation, if one strays down a random course unrelating she may leave the build up of the topic and the conversation will likely end. In Chess if you don't pay attention or think you have something completely different in mind, you may fall to your death in one false move.
In both cases unless the other player is made to follow his opponent's idea or is able to pull him back to his own course, the game will end. The better conversation and the better Chess game are almost always those that last longer. In either case, to make this work, each participant must always be thinking simultaneously about what is happening at that very moment and the thing which he is surely missing and attempt to find it before it finds him. And a good player understands where it is she is going without knowing all the moves that will get her there until she has to make them. She must make them at just the right moment.
The longer the conversation, the longer the Chess game, the longer the trip. We all agree we would like to have the longest trip here as possible, as long as it's a good one. Duchamp clearly agrees, as each valise takes a while to unpack.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Marcel Duchamp ~ Boite-en-valise (the red box), series F, seeking chess & John Cage


Marcel Duchamp has made previous appearances here at Fifty Two Pieces. Several weeks ago, I posted two of Florine Stettheimer's portraits of Duchamp. One included reference to his penchant for chess and the other what I see as a saint-like portrayal. It turns out in reading up on Duchamp this week that his brother taught him to play the game when he was eleven and living in France. Chess continued to be part of the rest of his life – so much so that in 1923 he reportedly gave up art to become a chess master and win the French Chess Championship - he did win a number of tournaments, just not that one. Although he didn't stop making art, chess did dominate his life between the years of 1923 and 1933. In an effort to bring about wider appreciation of the game, he curated a number of art shows dedicated to chess, included chess in his art and even made a chess board.

It's been said there are no coincidences in life. Recently I listened to an NPR podcast of Terry Gross interviewing John Cage. Who does Cage mention during the course of 20 minutes – none other than Marcel Duchamp. Cage and Duchamp were friends and chess was a focus of many of their visits. Many times Cage only played with Duchamp's wife Teeny because he, Cage, played so poorly. Cage recounts that sometimes Duchamp would nap while watching the two play. Other times he would be exasperated with Cage and his game. When Duchamp did agree to play, he would spot Cage a Knight (nice). In any case, Duchamp agreed to meet Cage for a performance of Reunion in Toronto in 1968. The two men played chess on a glass board with special sound hookups. The idea of the composition was to "bring together many sound systems, each activated by a different composer, like a coming together of people (Reunion)." Performed once, it was photographed by Shigeko Kubota who later issued a video with sound and her photographs of the event.


Since chess was such a major portion of Duchamp's life, I'm heading to the museum to see if there are any chess images visible in the Boite-en-valise as it's currently displayed at the Portland Art Museum.


And to end this post, here's my current favorite image of Duchamp.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Marcel Duchamp ~ Boite-en-valise (the red box), series F, 1960/a video and another view

PAM's Boite -en-valise, Expanded View

Marcel Duchamp's Boite-en-valise seems quite full. And it turns out from this
image of the Portland Art Museum's Boite (shown to the left and above) there's even more in that box. The National Museum of Scotland owns one of the "original" valise versions bound in leather. Here is what their web site says about Marcel's creation. All of them are said to be substantially the same ...
This leather case contains sixty-nine miniature reproductions of Duchamp's works. This is number two of twenty-four de-luxe versions of the case. Each of these features a different, hand-coloured 'original' fixed to the inside of the lid. The box 'unpacks' in such a way that some sections slide out, with other folders and black-mounted prints inside. For Duchamp there was no clear distinction between the original and the reproduction, a concept cleverly embodied in this piece. The case is also reminiscent of a travelling salesman's display case, containing a selection of Duchamp's pre-1935 work like a portable museum, made for his move to New York in 1942.

And here's a link to the Smarthistory Duchamp video made here at the Portland Art Museum. You'll hear Chief Curator Bruce Guenther and Smarthistory's Dr. Beth Harris discuss Duchamp and his work. Click here - it's about four minutes long.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Marcel Duchamp ~ Boite-en-valise (the red box), series F, 1960


Two weeks ago when Fifty Two Pieces featured Florine Stettheimer, we posted several of her portraits of Marcel Duchamp. So Duchamp has been on our minds. The Portland Art Museum has one of his works, the Boite-en-valise (the red box), series F, 1960. There's quite a bit going on with this piece, a little of this, a little of that. Some have characterized these pieces as Duchamp's portfolio in a suitcase or box. Stay with us this week and see more of this work, some videos, perhaps a poem or two. We never know at the beginning of the week what will take place. For those of you who want to see this piece in person, it's at the top of the stairs on the second floor of the CMCA at the Portland Art Museum.