Thursday, August 16, 2007

Dust Breeding

An eerie moody photograph by Man Ray.
Marcel Duchamp worked on the his Large Glass (more properly titled "The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even) from 1915 to 1923.
It was never finished.

Duchamp worked from meticulous notes that he began to accumulate in Munich in the summer of 1913.

Why did Duchamp, a French cubist have a studio in Berlin, a city that for all intents and purposes had no Cubist community?

He was in a bit of a self-imposed exile.
Duchamp's failed attempt to exhibit Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2 at the 1912 Independant Salon exhibition back in Paris had caused a bit of a behind-the-scenes ruckus--and Duchamp wanted to go to a place he didn't speak the language to collect his thoughts.

He chose Berlin and it was there that he began to put together his notes for the Glass.
When WWI ripped Europe apart. Due to a heart murmus, Duchamp was exempt from military service. Duchamp decided to visit America.
He began the Glass in New York in 1915.
He applied lead wires to the transparent glass in the geometric shaps and designs he desired.
The work went achingly slow.
For one part of his Glass--the seives-- Duchamp decided to use actual dust.
Below are the actual notes that Duchamp worked from:

To raise dust
On Dust-Glasses
for 4 months, 6 months. Which you
close up afterwards
hermetically. = Transparancy
- Differences to be worked out.

For the seives in the glass--allow dust to
fall on this part a dust of 3 or 4 months
wipe well around it in such a way that this dust
will be a kind of color (transparent pastel)


In order to accumulate the proper amount of dust, he placed the pane of glass horizontally on two saw horses and left it untouched in his New York studio for the bulk of 1920.
When Duchamp determined that enough dust had collected, his good pal, Man Ray, came over to his studio document the accumulation of dust on the surface of the Glass.

Within days, Duchamp carefully adhered the dust with varnish and cleared away all the rest of the dust. It turned out precisely as he anticipated: a kind of color (transparent pastel)

1 comment:

carol said...

Yay, Duchamp!! And Man Ray, too! I like this story because it shows Duchamp's patience with his artwork and how he planned things out. And even in planning it, he allowed for the element of chance in his artwork -- he could collect the dust, but he had no control over the dust itself. Very cool.