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Admission (or, Marcel Duchamp) 1939 I wrote the following text in response to an announcement (a call for submissions) by the Coach House Press that they were planning Brushes with Greatness, an anthology of chance encounters with celebrities. My text was accepted, and the book was published in 1989, edited by Russell Banks, Michael Ondaatje and David Young. I had titled my contribution "Admission" and I prefer that, if, as here, it is published alone. The editors called it "Marcel Duchamp": each article's title was the name of the personality featured. It is a wonderful book with work by professional writers and all kinds of other people, some examples being "John Lennon" by Robert Fones, "Henry Miller" by Philip Willey, "T.S. Eliot" by William Kilbourn, "French L'Amour" by Fred Wah, "Glenn Gould" by three different authors, "Jayne Mansfield" by Jean-Paul Yirka, "Mohammed Ali" by Joyce Carol Gates. M.S. S tarting around 1948I became interested in Marcel Duchamp. I liked and studied Matisse, Mondrian and Klee just as much in my "formative" years and was following closely what was happening in American art. However, Duchamp's work, personality and life became an especially important inspiration. My admiration deepened as I saw and read more and more. It seemed that there wasn't as much information available on his work as on that of certain other artists. He was a special case. Of course he was famous in a rather underground way during the early fifties, but though he was often mentioned in the pantheon with Picasso, Matisse, Mondrian,Miro, his name was usually after theirs and others. He wasn't ever regarded as du champ (unlike Picasso) but was 'unique," an odd inventor of his own area ofart. Though he'd been associated with Dada he was different enough from the others to seem to be a movement of one.The work of the artists mentioned above (especially Matisse and Picasso) with its sensuousness and expression reinforced the unique coolness of Duchamp's contribution. But he made it evident that in some ways he had clarified his course "against" theirs. Duchamp's aristocratic, hands-clean aloofness was intriguing. His seeming freedom from the excessive demands for ego gratification which appeared to be an aspect of the character of many artists (exemplified by his non-involvementwith the artmarketplace and its publicity machine) was inspiring. Though Picasso, for example, couldn't exactly be called a "commercial"artist, he certainly did produce a great deal and exhibit constantly - enough for it to appear a "product." Duchamp made little, had very few exhibitions, and the "ready-mades" critiqued the hand-making of original works for sale. Much of his work, but in particular the Large Glass, had the 286 S Admission (or, Marcel Duchamp) 287 capacity to arouse a desire to penetrate its secrets. In this sense the viewer of his work resembles the ''outsider'' viewer of the arcane texts of secret societies, of alchemists, or the artifacts of a non-Western culture. He made private languages that continue to invitetranslation. Abstract Expressionism, house-painterly work that was in many ways antithetical to Duchamp's, took the stage. But soon his work moved a little more into the spotlight, something that disappointed me (!) when in 1958-1960 the work of the younger new American painters Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns started to attract critical attention. He was decidedly an influence on them. John Cage, who had a marginal and legendary reputation similarto that of Duchamp, in my view, in the fifties also seemed to be becoming more appreciated, more generally accepted. Some of the thinking involved with my Walking Woman Works (1961-1967) had to do with putting art elsewhere, in contexts other than art contexts (galleries, etc.). I reversed the order of an aspect of Duchamp's work. Rather than choosing and taking a "ready-made" from the "world" and putting it in an art context, I made a "sign" from within the art context and put it in the world. I did make lots of gallery work, but what was specifically related to Duchamp was what I called "Lost Works" which existed anywhere but in a gallery (on the street, in stores, in the subway) or in a gallery where I was not exhibiting: in hidden or normally unused places, for example, "Lost Work" stuck under a bench, a chair, a table of the Green Gallery in 1965. Or as fortuitous -looking ephemera (Museum of Modern Art, New...


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MARC Record
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