Notes on the Indefinable

October 24, 2006

Wacky Cartoon Commentary on Nude No. 2

Filed under: Art History, Critcism, Non / Conceptual Art — Luke @ 11:18 am

A *big* thanks to Eric for these cartoons … originally published in the New York Evening Sun, they spoof Duchamp’s groundbreaking work that was at the time hanging at the Armory Show. Click ’em for larger versions.

Thanks, Eric!


October 19, 2006

Excerpt: Nude Descending a Staircase: A Performance Piece

Ok, so this is somewhat freaky and perhaps a little more “loose” than I ususally like my poetry / art, but there are some poignant moments in this piece that go a certain distance to getting the feeling of Duchamp’s “Nude” across to the reader.

Excerpt from: Nude Descending a Staircase: A Performance Piece by Sheri Tousey

Nude Descending a Staircase

An explosion in a shingle factory!

But where is the nude?

Random, intellectual whimsy.

Analytical Cubism is transformed into mental surgery.


Salon des Independents–Paris, 1912

Galerie Dalmau–Barcelona, 1912

Section d’Or Exhibition–Paris, 1912


Entire poem / performance available here.

October 18, 2006

Nude Descending into the History Books

Filed under: Art History, Critcism, Non / Conceptual Art, Painting — Luke @ 12:37 pm

duchamp_-_nude_descending_a_staircase.jpgMy final project is to take a look at works of art we now regard as seminal and explore the critical reaction of the time. Often it was negative, sometimes not … my hope is to get a better understanding about evolving definitions of art (my own included).

I’ll be gathering bits from ’round the Internet and posting them here (in addition to looking at actual books made of paper, ink, glue and all that other weird stuff).

According to Wikipedia:

Duchamp first submitted the work (Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2) to appear in a Cubist show at the Salon des Indépendants in Paris, but jurist Albert Gleizes asked Duchamp’s brothers, Jacques Villon and Raymond Duchamp-Villon, to have him voluntarily withdraw the painting, or paint over the title that he had painted on the work and rename it something else.

Of the incident Duchamp recalled,

“I said nothing to my brothers. But I went immediately to the show and took my painting home in a taxi. It was really a turning point in my life, I can assure you. I saw that I would not be very much interested in groups after that.”

September 20, 2006

Right Between The Eyes

Filed under: Critcism, Photography, Theory — Luke @ 10:35 am


Eddie Adams Photo(copy) with Grafitti. Under Clinton Ave. Bridge, Rochester, NY. September 17, 2006.

David Levi-Strauss’ presentation at George Eastman House this past Friday was unforgettable. After showing an intense documentary (Looking for an Icon) exploring the quandries of photojournalism and news images as cultural icons (including the one seen above), Levi-Strauss’ took our questions and spoke candidly on topics ranging from the ethical struggles of documentary photography to the future of images effects on society. I would *highly recommend* (demand?) that anyone who missed it either find a copy of this film, or check out his book Between the Eyes (available in the Research Center). The book is extremely well-written and full of compelling arguments on the thorny issues related to representing other people with images.

September 6, 2006

The Word and The Rock

Filed under: Critcism, Musings — Luke @ 11:19 am

The lawn of the Visual Studies Workshop is dark, save for the ceremonial torches around the sacred altar. The disciples sit quietly in anticipation of the reading from the sacred text and the re-initiation of the quest to understand the great word.

As the clock strikes midnight, the doors to 31 Prince Street are flung open and Sally Petty comes forth cradling the sacred text. Behind her, Chris Burnett follows, wearing a hooded robe of dark, rich cloth. The disciples rise as Burnett approaches the altar, and begins to read from our most sacred text:

Burnett: “I will now read the Word of Benjamin.”
Disciples (in unison): “Praise be to you, oh Walter Benjamin!”

And so begins another semester here at VSW and the resumption (or beginning) of the intense, deep, “no-stone-left-unturned” study of a single word: “art.” It seems as if we could almost reduce our time in graduate school to cocktail party-worthy chit-chat:

“So, you’re in grad school … what are you studying?”
“The definition of the word ‘art’.”
“Oh … ummm, what is the definition of the word ‘art’?”
“Well, we used to know, then shit got crazy … now we’re not too sure.”
“I see … well, good luck with all that.”

Not that I am as cynical as the above would belie. I love the wildly swinging pendulum of the definition of art. But I feel like the answer is way, way, way less important than the questions.

My own thoughts on art as a political vehicle/forum are mixed. While I’d love to see art influencing politics and really changing people’s minds, I don’t think I do. For the most part, I think art – specifically the kind of art that most students and friends of mine are creating – is speaking to a pretty narrow audience. That’s not to say we shouldn’t try to inspire awareness or new ways of thinking, but I’m not sure we can expect anyone to listen.

So the Sisyphean task begins anew. What is art? Who knows, but let’s all get a hand on this rock and get it up the hill, shall we?

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