Thursday, March 25, 2010

Well Beyond Dada

One of the Marcel Duchamp mysteries that had occurred to me as I've viewed reissues of his works in museums throughout the world is this: How in the 1960s did he manage to find not one but quite a few urinals of the exact sort that he originally signed R.Mutt for the famous non-judged art show in 1917? The original work, titled "fountain" was rejected and then lost or smashed -- no one knows what actually happened to it. A photograph survived.

I speculated that the chosen object that he elevated to art status was so common that they could still somehow be found in men's rooms of antique vintage. But it seemed ridiculous, even in the light of Duchamp's statement that plumbing was one of America's contributions to the world of art (or something like that).

This article -- illustrated by the photo at right of the original and a reproduction -- has the answer:
“Fountain” was not a coveted art object until well after the second world war, when Duchamp became a cult figure among Pop artists. In response to the art world's desire to see his legendary lavatory, Duchamp authorised curators to purchase urinals in his name in 1950, 1953 and 1963. ... Then in 1964, in association with Arturo Schwarz, a Milan art dealer, historian and collector, the artist made the momentous decision to issue 12 replicas (an edition of eight with four proofs) of his most important ready-mades, including the urinal. ... One of the many ironies of the Schwarz urinals is that they are carefully crafted earthenware sculptures modelled on the Stieglitz photo of the “original”.
The article continues with a discussion of the locations and the mysterious appearances of other signed and unsigned urinal replicas that may or may not be authentic Duchamp remade readymades. Needless to say the concept of authenticity is elusive in this discussion. No surprise: Andy Warhol played a role. All the usual dada antics resurface as I love them to do. The article concludes:
Duchamp's relationship to commerce was not naive. Although he preferred to give away his work rather than sell it, he made a living as an art dealer for many years. Duchamp was also an able chess player who could think a good few moves ahead. One wonders whether the Dada master, who challenged the notion of the authentic artwork, might not be amused by the way these questionable “Fountains” muddy the waters of his current market. “My production,” he once said, “has no right to be speculated upon.”
Duchamp set up the art world and keeps playing tricks long after his death. What a pleasure for a lover of dada. Almost better than his most famous remade readymade, Mona Lisa with a drawn-on mustache. For more see Marcel Duchamp is Relevant.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Utagawa Kuniyoshi

In the museum in Toronto yesterday, I saw a fascinating work (left). It depicted a face by using bodies and depicted hands by using legs and feet. Obviously, this reminded me of Arcimboldo, who composed faces of many different things -- fruit, books, animals... The image was part of a depiction of the earthquake in Tokyo in 1855. The work, according to the label, is from an album of prints made by anonymous artists just after the quake, and depicts a carpenter with the tools of his trade shown on his kimono; in his hand is gold, suggesting that he was profiteering (I think). The image composed of faces is said to be directly influenced by by Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861).

I found the original image of a man composed of human forms in an article about Kuniyoshi, "one of the great masters of the 'floating world,' or Ukiyo-e, school of Japanese art." The author says: "One of the most intriguing aspects of Kuniyoshi’s creative personality was his openness to ideas from the West. ... 'He Looks Fierce But He’s a Really Great Guy' [here, right] shows a grotesque human face formed from an assemblage of naked male bodies, which is uncannily close to the works of the sixteenth-century Italian artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo. There is no actual proof that Kuniyoshi knew Arcimboldo’s work."

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Why I hate New York

I never go to New York. Since my last time in NY I've been to San Francisco, LA, Washington D.C., Sydney, Wellington, Tokyo, Paris, London, Berlin, Tel Aviv, Venice, Hong Kong, Toronto, and a lot of other cities as well as other types of travel. But I feel like they always mistreat me in New York. Frank Bruni's articles about bad actors in the restaurant business often confirmed my aversion. Here's today's New York cheaters story from the New York Times:
New York Cabs Gouged Riders Out of Millions
Thousands of taxi drivers overcharged riders more than $8 million by switching the meter to double the rate, according to the Taxi and Limousine Commission. About 3,000 New York City taxi drivers routinely overcharged riders over two years by surreptitiously fixing their meters to charge rates that would normally apply only to trips outside the five boroughs, according to the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Zombie Vultures ate my T-Top Part II

As I mentioned here, the big risk from vultures in the Everglades is that they love to strip out gaskets from cars.

Despite their evil ways, Len took this flattering portrait of one of the vultures:

The National Park Service has tried to deter the vultures by hanging a vulture corpse high above the parking lot. The vultures don't seem to learn from this example. If it would work to actually shoot some of them in the act, they will never know -- vultures are a protected species. The one depicted at left died a natural death, or so says the Park Service sign.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Best Birds

Most of the photos posted during our trip to Florida were the ones I took with my compact camera. Here are some favorites Len took with his SLR.

The anhinga is also called a "snake bird" -- see why?

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

The Morikami Gardens

Here are Jean and Jack, who walked with us through the beautiful Morikami Gardens near Del Ray, Florida today. Mr. Morikami was part of an agricultural settlement near here in the first quarter of the 20th century. After the end of the settlement (and its unconscionable confiscation in World War II) he remained in the area and acquired a large tract of land, which he donated to the state for a park and Japanese garden.

Other contributors have allowed development of a cultural museum, a large park building including a great restaurant and gallery, and virtually every type of historic Japanese garden. All the paths wind around a large natural pond, with some artificial streams and waterfalls. Fortunately from time to time the sun shone on us as we walked along these paths.

A Deer Scarer -- this long tube fills with water, over balances, hits the lower stone with a large noise (to scare the deer) and then tips up and fills again.

A classic stone garden is among the very beautiful and numerous gardens here. The garden does not include labels to tell the visitors the names of the plants. The idea of a Japanese garden is the whole, not the individual parts. I appreciate this philosophy!

Surrounding the museum building are a large number of Bonsai and other dwarfed trees and plants. I was especially fond of this one, because it was in bloom. Many are twisted and formed quite beautifully. They compliment the impressively formed trees in the full-sized gardens, which are often staked with horizontal round staves of smooth wood to retain a desired shape.

The museum displays change from time to time. Today there were several rooms from a typical Japanese house, such as this kitchen. Note that visitors are told to open the refrigerator and cupboard doors to see (behind plastic shields) the contents that might be present in a Japanese house. There were also other rooms: even a non-working example of an electric toilet.

Wakodahatchee Wetlands

This morning we took a beautiful walk on the mile or so of boardwalk at Wakodahatchee Wetlands between Del Ray and Boynton Beach where we're staying. The Palm Beach County water company recycles water through this artificial wetlands, where we saw a large softshell turtle, teal, moorhens, ibises, herons, alligators, a little palm warbler, a wood stork, and lots of other creatures. Unfortunately, it's kind of cold here, but still warmer than the Michigan high temps.