October 3, 2013

Children Of Duchamp, By Nobutaka Aozaki


It's been a hundred years since Marcel Duchamp introduced the Readymade to an unprepared art world, which is still dealing with it.

Since he just graduated from Hunter College's MFA program, I'm going to guess that Nobutaka Aozaki's awesome Children of Duchamp project was inspired by the influential art historian Arthur C. Danto. [It's not on his CV, but the photo looks like Hunter's studio, so I'll guess this was 2011 and hasn't been exhibited publicly.]


Aozaki made toy and kid-size variations of Duchamp's Bicycle Wheel using dolls and kid's furniture. The Playmobil Bicycle Wheel is obviously the greatest. But the Ikea Mammut stool ones, plus that Muji cardboard stool with the pushbike wheel, are definite standouts.

It's interesting that those two work best as sculptures, because both those stools kind of suck at their main job; the Mammut tips over and slides out from under you, and the Muji chair breaks in five seconds. The line between art and life is pretty thin for these Duchampian children.

But back to Danto. In a 2000 essay titled, "A Defense of Contemporary Art," Danto wrote,

The artists of the Fifties and Sixties were also prophets, reconciling men and women to the lives they already led and to the world in which they lived it. Perhaps all this was the artistic expression of the massive embrace of ordinary life after the massive dislocations of the Second World War. What could be more meaningful than building materials, canned goods, children's toys - or for the matter sparkling kitchens and bathrooms - the consumer goods against which the next generation was to turn with such vehemence?
And he ended by commenting on the relentlessly upbeat work at Greater NY at PS1, a survey of emerging artists in the city,
I was overwhelmed, as an art critic, by the degree to which contemporary artists have transformed themselves into visual thinkers, the meaning of whose works is so distant from what meets the eye that one is able to connect with them only through some fairly elaborate exercises in interpretation. In this they too are the children of Duchamp, who showed them how to do philosophy by making art. As someone close to the scene, I am sometimes astonished by the goodness of artists in their dedication to the highest of moral principles and their unfailing respect for the human mind. The Muses should be proud.
Another of Aozaki's projects is to buy the same can of corn in multiple grocery stores, so all he needs is a building materials sculpture, and he can check Danto off his list. Meanwhile, the kid and I are going to start chopping up some Ikea furniture.

Children of Duchamp [nobutakaaozaki.com via spoon-tamago]
Marcel Duchamp and the End of Taste: A Defense of Contemporary Art (Dec. 2000) [toutfait.com]

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