Tag Archives: Marcel Duchamp

Thoughts From Stockholm Modern Art Museum. Part 3

This is part three of my thoughts about Stockholm Modern Art Museum. This will actually pretty understandable without reading part 1 and part 2.

When I finally felt that I had taken in all the little details of my favourite Picasso sketches and stared enough at my soul or at the upside-down wheel, I went up to the permanent exhibition. It was mostly Swedish artists and after Picasso and Duchamp, I couldn’t care too much about them, but I enjoyed the works from the second half of the 20th century. And then, passing almost absent-mindedly into yet another hall, my eyes caught ‘Andy Warhol’ on a sign next to the door. Oh, yeah, I thought.

It turns out that Warhol visited the museum in 1968 and they had a hilarious poster with an excerpt from what looks like an interview with Andy Warhol:

Do you think pop art is…

No.

What?

No.

Do you think pop art is…

No… No I don’t.

So, apparently, Andy Warhol’s pieces are also one of those that don’t have any idea behind them. At least, he himself claimed to want be more like a machine, and thus, made his art very impersonal. And that became an idea in and of itself, if that makes sense. I mean, you might not like this sort of art, but there’s no denying that Andy Warhol is a very important artist, people see all sorts of meanings in his works, even though he himself claimed not to want to think about them.

The museum actually owns one of his earliest prints of Marilyn Monroe, a huge black-and-white piece with 25 Marilyn heads. Apparently, Warhol started making those prints after her death, and he himself was fascinated by death and catastrophes (or so the informaion piece next to his paintings said). It would appear that his work wasn’t as impersonal as he wanted after all. I don’t have much to say about it, except, add yet another Duchamp quote (which is probably my favourite):

I force myself to contradict myself in order to avoid conforming to my own taste.

Wow, I didn’t expect to get so much out one museum, perhaps I shouldn’t be allowed to go see art on my own after all – I get to think about it too much, and we know how dangerous that is. Also, I seem to have a bit of a crush on Duchamp, erm, yeah,

Noodle.

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Thoughts From Stockholm Modern Art Museum. Part 2

This is the second part of my thoughts from the Modern Art Museum in Stockholm. The first part is here. This part probably won’t make much sense unless you read the first one.

My Art Academy friends always tell me how it’s all about ‘the concept’ of the artwork these days (i.e. they don’t only have to make an artwork but also explain the concept, the idea behind it), but until visiting the Picasso/Duchamp exhibition I never fully understood what that means. I love ‘art of ideas’! Even more so, because, again, it seems a lot like science to me.

However, one might argue, how can we know what was an artist’s original idea? If we don’t know the idea, there’s no point in the art. Maybe s/he didn’t think anything of it, at all. For instance, I rather think that it was the case with the bicycle wheel, which apparently was constructed as a distraction when Duchamp was upset after he was snubbed by a Cubist exhibition. But that doesn’t really matter, in my opinion. We can still look for meaning – that’s what humans do, don’t we? We can still see something that we wouldn’t see if we were just looking at a stool or a bicycle wheel. Maybe we can even (gasp!) see something inside ourselves.

Picasso, who apparently hated Duchamp’s un-art-like art, said that “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” In my opinion, Duchamp takes that pretty much literally: he takes everyday objects and ‘washes the dust away’, he makes us look at a snow shovel hanging on a wall, for example, and not think of the annoying chore (the title “In advance of a broken arm” can give a few fun ideas). However, I think, the problem might be that he, and modern art in general, sometimes makes us work a little hard, so to speak. He doesn’t present us with anything like a beautiful romantic landscape. Looking at a urinal on a pile of bricks and calling it ‘Fountain’, it may seem that a clean soul isn’t very pretty at all. But that’s how it is, isn’t it? It’s not all pretty inside each of us, and modern art makes us look at it. Or not. No one makes us look at art, and even much less actually see anything in it.

That being said, Picasso’s works don’t really hold up to the ideals of beauty either, do they? Weirdly distorted faces and body parts angling in weird directions, and, in later works, just piles of square shapes called ‘A Guitar Player’ or something. However, I find the process of the Cubist painting delightfully scientific. The idea being that in order to represent a three-dimensional shape on a two-dimensional canvas, you have to be turning your object full circle as you paint it. But we see what sort of weirdness comes out of this – this is also interesting from a science point of view, when we discuss how the object of our research is changed upon the act of measuring its properties. Maybe all we get is just weird distorted projections?

And here I’m going to insert another Duchamp quote that I picked up at the exhibition just because I like it so much:

If a shadow is a two-dimensional projection of a three-dimensional world, then the three-dimensional world as we know it is a projection of the four-dimensional universe.

I’m going to stop here, and save my thoughts on Andy Warhol and some other works from the permanent exhibition for part three,

Noodle.

Thoughts From Stockholm Modern Art Museum. Part 1

Last Sunday, I took a rather whimsical trip. I got on a train and travelled for two hours to Stockholm with only one destination in mind – the Modern Art Museum, which is hosting a Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp exhibition, He Was Wrong (what a delightfully ambiguous title, isn’t it?).

Now, you may not know this about me, but I love modern art. I don’t know exactly why, I just like staring at it. But this exhibition unexpectedly provided me with a bit of an insight into that, actually.

I must confess that I was slightly disappointed at first, seeing the proportions of the exhibition, which was comprised of two rather small chambers – one for Picasso and one for Duchamp. The reason for the smallness of the Duchamp section became clear to me when I read his quote on a wall: “I only made thirteen of them [readymades] during my life, so it’s not much of an occupation”. And I actually ended up spending two hours in those two small rooms, circling back to my favourite pieces multiple times, staring at them for ten minutes at a time, glad that I came alone, because I wouldn’t have felt well knowing that my companion was getting bored. So, there you go.

A cause of another slight rush of disappointment came when I noted that most (if not all) works of art in Duchamp’s room were labeled “replica”. However, the guide explained how most of Duchamp’s works had been either lost or destroyed, as apparently sometimes even the author himself didn’t consider them art. Also, Duchamp himself actually didn’t mind replicas of his works exhibited around the world.

Then I spent ten minutes staring at the replica of the very first readymade he ever constructed – an upside-down bicycle wheel mounted on a stool. It was fun – I had to keep restraining myself from turning the wheel (a small sign read “Please do not touch the artwork”) and it kept occurring to me that I wasn’t looking at a wheel or a stool – both of those things had lost their original functions.

At some point, I realised why I like it so much – because it’s almost like science. Or maybe not. Maybe it’s the other way around, and I like science so much because it’s almost like art. I doubt I’ll ever know. Anyway. A scientist analyses a little part of the world and then s/he can either record it or s/he can go a little further and try and find if s/he can use something already in existance to make something new. For instance, we can make tiny boxes out of DNA to put drugs into them and deliver to the parts of the body that are sick. DNA exists to help pass information about organism structure to new generations, but people take it and make it serve a new purpose. Similarly, an artist takes a wheel and a stool and by attaching the first onto the second he makes something new.

There will be people who will just walk by or even scorn that they had to pay to see something they could’ve made themselves. But the point is that they didn’t. The idea occurred to Duchamp. It doesn’t even matter that it’s only a replica. It’s still his idea. The execution isn’t that important to Duchamp (according to the guide). So, when we look at a weird bottle rack, we aren’t looking at a bottle rack (it’s not used to put bottles on it), we aren’t even looking at something Duchamp made (again, it was only a replica), we’re looking at an idea that occurred to Duchamp. I love it even more, now that I realise this.

I’ll spare your time and stop here. I’ll continue my thoughts from the Modern Art Museum next week, when I’ll already have left Sweden and will probably be swamped by mundane to-do lists as I try to catch up with the life I left at home three months ago,

Noodle.