Jonathan Griffin

Criticism and essays on art and culture

Tag: Marcel Duchamp

Man Ray’s LA

Gagosian Beverly Hills

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Man Ray, Igor Stravinsky with Juliet and Selma Browner, 1945, Vintage gelatin silver print, 9 15/16 × 7 3/4 inches © Man Ray Trust/ADAGP 2018

There he is, in the corner of the room: a dark, malevolent presence, glowering at the camera from under heavy lids, his crazily crooked nose and uneven eyes lending the photograph a quasi-Cubist appearance. It was an intense look that Man Ray often assumed in self-portraits. (An alternative guise was that of the debonair dandy, smoking in sharply tailored suits beside a sporty automobile.) Read the rest of this entry »

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‘Stories of Almost Everyone’

Hammer Museum, Los Angeles

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Kapwani Kiwanga, Flowers for Africa, 2014. Installation view, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. Photo: Joshua White.

In 1997, artist and scholar Rhonda Roland Shearer published a paper alleging that each and every one of Marcel Duchamp’s readymades was in fact meticulously handmade: in other words, a fake. Though the idea of Duchamp perpetrating such an elaborate (and quintessentially Duchampian) hoax is an appealing one, Shearer’s theory gained little traction within the academic community. (‘If she’s right,’ sniffed Arthur Danto, ‘I have no interest in Duchamp.’) It came to my mind, again, in ‘Stories of Almost Everyone’, organized by Hammer Museum curator Aram Moshayedi, which elaborates not so much on the subject of craft but of craftiness, and on the integral untrustworthiness of the readymade as an artistic form. Read the rest of this entry »

SPRAY

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John Knuth, Angeles Crest, 2015

Ultimately, it’s about God, or at least a whiff of the divine. And also about not getting shit on your hands.

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The Surrealist Bungalow: William N. Copley and the Copley Galleries (1948-49)

William N. Copley with his own paintings in Paris, 1951, two years after he closed the Copley Galleries and left Los Angeles. Photo: Mike De Dulmen. Courtesy the Estate of William N. Copley.

William N. Copley with his own paintings in Paris, 1951, two years after he closed the Copley Galleries and left Los Angeles. Photo: Mike De Dulmen. Courtesy the Estate of William N. Copley.

“No one in their right mind would have considered trying to open a Surrealist gallery in the California environment, which, of course, is what we decided to do late one whiskied evening,” wrote the artist and collector William N. Copley. “In the white haze of the morning after, we were both too proud to perish the thought.” 1 Read the rest of this entry »

Seeds of Destruction

A History of Iconoclasm in British Art

Dead Christ (1500–20) Courtesy: The Mercers' Company

Dead Christ (1500–20)
Courtesy: The Mercers’ Company

In 1957, the artist Gustav Metzger mounted an exhibition of damaged art in King’s Lynn. ‘Treasures from East Anglian Churches’ was a selection of sacred artefacts that had been attacked during the period of iconoclasm between the English Reformation in the 1530s and the Commonwealth of 1649–60 when Britain, under the Puritan Oliver Cromwell, was effectively a republic. Metzger already knew plenty about annihilation. Born to Jewish parents in Nuremburg, he was evacuated via Kindertransport to England in 1939 at the age of twelve, just as Nazi Germany was engaging in genocide against its own people. His parents disappeared soon after. In the 1950s he was involved in activism, first with the Committee for Nuclear Disarmament and then as a founder of the Committee of 100. Later he made art born of material violence; nylon panels that he corroded with acid, and liquid crystal projections that melted and reformed under the heat of the projectors. He called it Auto-Destructive Art.

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