The artist Francis Picabia — notorious dandy, bon vivant, painter, poet, filmmaker, and polemicist — has emerged as the Dadaist with postmodern appeal, and one of the most enigmatic forces behind the enigma that was Dada.
In this first book in English to focus on Picabia’s work in Paris during the Dada years, art historian and critic George Baker reimagines Dada through Picabia’s eyes. Such reimagining involves a new account of the readymade — Marcel Duchamp’s anti-art invention, which opened fine art to mass culture and the commodity. But in Picabia’s hands, Baker argues, the Dada readymade aimed to reinvent art rather than destroy it. Picabia’s readymade opened art not just to the commodity, but to the larger world from which the commodity stems: the fluid sea of capital and money that transforms all objects and experiences in its wake. The book thus tells the story of a set of newly transformed artistic practices, claiming them for art history — and naming them — for the first time: Dada Drawing, Dada Painting, Dada Photography, Dada Abstraction, Dada Cinema, Dada Montage. Along the way, Baker describes a series of nearly forgotten objects and events, from the almost lunatic range of the Paris Dada “manifestations” to Picabia’s polemical writings; from a lost work by Picabia in the form of a hole (called, suggestively, The Young Girl) to his “painting” Cacodylic Eye, covered in autographs by luminaries ranging from Ezra Pound to Fatty Arbuckle. Baker ends with readymades in prose: a vast interweaving of citations and quotations that converge to create a heated conversation among Picabia, Andre Breton, Tristan Tzara, James Joyce, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze, and others. Art history has never looked like this before. But then again, Dada has never looked like art history.
George Baker is Assistant Professor of Art History at the University of California, Los Angeles, and an editor at October magazine and October Books. He is the editor of James Coleman (MIT Press) and a frequent contributor to Artforum.
- The Artwork Caught by the Tail : Francis Picabia and Dada in Paris
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Experimental Painting Workshop
Published on the occasion of the exhibition JOHN NIXON: EPW at Castlemaine Art Museum 19 March-25 June, 2017. “This exhibition presents a recent selection from Nixon’s Experimental Painting Workshop (EPW), a project that began in London in 1978 and continues to this day. Rejecting narrative, realism and pictorialism which he sees as limitations on painting, Nixon’s EPW proposes an expanded, and expanding, definition via the principles of modernist non-objectivity, specifically, the monochrome, Minimalism and Constructivism, and dynamic approaches to their exhibition. In his employment of the ready-made object, made famous by Marcel Duchamp in the early 20th century, Nixon demonstrates an intuitive method of collecting, rationalizing and repurposing the everyday into otherwise abstract works. The en masse presentation of this exhibition is a hallmark of the EPW, offering both a spectacular experience of the whole, while also giving emphasis to individual works as evidence of the progression of Nixon’s thesis on the open-ended possibilities for painting.”
Designed by Yanni Florence and John Nixon.
Photography by Christo Crocker.
Text by Emma Busowsky Cox.
Published in an edition of 500 copies.
John Nixon (b. 1949, Sydney) is one of Australia’s foremost artists. Since his first solo exhibition in Melbourne in 1973, Nixon has mounted hundreds of exhibitions in Australia, New Zealand, Europe, and the United States, and his work is included in public and private collections worldwide.
- John Nixon - Experimental Painting Workshop (2017)
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Big Words (Not Mine) - Read the words 'public space'...
This monumental artists’ book returns Vito Acconci’s text, that inspired Nolan’s large scale installation of 282 painted hessian pennants ‘Big Words (Not Mine) Read the words “public space”…’, 2013, back to the codex form of the book. With Acconci’s text broken into strings of letters, the book interrogates the relationship between documentation and representation and explores Nolan’s continued interest in materials, process and seriality.
Design: Warren Taylor
Photography: Garry Sommerfeld
Published in an edition of 200 copies
- Rose Nolan - Big Words (Not Mine) - Read the words 'public space'...
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The Apparently Marginal Activities of Marcel Duchamp
by Elena Filipovic
This groundbreaking and richly illustrated book tells a new story of the twentieth century’s most influential artist, recounted not so much through his artwork as through his “non-art” work. Marcel Duchamp is largely understood in critical and popular discourse in terms of the objects he produced, whether readymade or meticulously fabricated. Elena Filipovic asks us instead to understand Duchamp’s art through activities not normally seen as artistic—from exhibition making and art dealing to administrating and publicizing. These were no occasional pursuits; Filipovic argues that for Duchamp, these fugitive tasks were a veritable lifework.
Drawing on many rarely seen images, Filipovic traces a variety of practices and projects undertaken by Duchamp from 1913 to 1969, from his invention of the readymade to the release of his last, posthumous work. She examines Duchamp’s note writing, archiving, and quasi-photographic activities, which resulted in the Box of 1914 and the Green Box; his art dealing, marketing, and curating that culminated in experimental exhibitions for the Surrealists and his miniature museum, The Boîte-en-valise; and his administrative efforts and clandestine maneuvering in order to posthumously embed his Étant donnés into a museum. Demonstrating how those activities reflect the artist’s questioning of reproduction and originality, as well as photography and the exhibition, Filipovic proposes that Duchamp’s “non-art” labor, and in particular his curatorial strategies, more than merely accompanied his more famous artworks; in a certain sense, they made them.
Through Duchamp’s elusive but vital activities he revised the idea of what a modern artist could be. With this fascinating book, Filipovic in turn revises the very idea of Duchamp.
About the Author
Elena Filipovic, an art historian, is Director and Chief Curator of the Kunsthalle Basel. Among her curatorial projects is the traveling retrospective “Marcel Duchamp: A Work That Is Not a Work ‘of Art’” (2008-2009).
“In the 1970s Lucy Lippard remarked that Duchamp was already too much written about. How, then, is one to contribute effectively to the Duchamp literature today, given that it has become all the more voluminous since? In The Apparently Marginal Activities of Marcel Duchamp Elena Filipovic finds a way, and does so with great intelligence. She claims, rightly, that the dominant readings of Duchamp have led to an occlusion of the ‘fugitive actions’ undertaken by Duchamp vis-à-vis the institution of art, and it is there that she locates her incisive study—specifically on ‘his role as administrator, archivist, art advisor, curator, publicist, reproduction maker, and salesman.’ Rather than see these activities as ancillary to his life as an artist, Filipovic locates them, brilliantly, at its center; they are indeed only ‘apparently marginal.’ This is just the book to reanimate discourse around Duchamp.”
—Hal Foster, Townsend Martin Class of 1917 Professor, Princeton University, author of Compulsive Beauty and Prosthetic Gods
“When an artist becomes a curator today, the exhibition is often treated like an extension of the artist’s medium. A century ago when Duchamp, having ceased to consider himself a professional artist, undertook to help out his friends by designing their exhibitions, did he think like a modernist fixated on medium specificity? This is the classic question that lies behind Elena Filipovic’s careful research in the archives. In light of her new syntheses, she rewrites the question to read: just how did Duchamp open up new possibilities for curators? The answer: the medium was not his message. Duchamp worked without professing, in a series of small, nonretinal steps; he avoided creating a single, prototypical model. He left behind a panorama of new ideas. Filipovic has collected them into a book that curators will come to regard as a resource.”
—Molly Nesbit, Professor of Art History, Vassar College, author of Their Common Sense
“In 1959, Marcel Duchamp referred to himself as ‘a non-artist.’ Exactly what he meant by this has never been fully explained until now, a lacuna in the vast literature on this artist that finally has been filled by Elena Filipovic’s marvelous new book, the first to deal with the various activities that preoccupied Duchamp when he wasn’t making art, particularly in the realm of curating (not only his own work, but that of his fellow artists in various exhibitions that he oversaw). Filipovic argues that these activities occur with such frequency and consistency in Duchamp’s life that they must be considered an integral component of his creative endeavors. The result is an entirely new way to look at the work of this important and highly influential artist.”
—Francis M. Naumann, author of The Recurrent, Haunting Ghost
“Yes, another Duchamp book. The one we least expected, but perhaps the one that we now need the most. Elena Filipovic’s brilliant book locates a ‘curatorial’ logic at the heart of Duchamp’s (deeply fascinating, often confusing, and impossibly disparate) activities. But more crucial even than its tracing of a long-ignored curatorial modernism, this book will in turn challenge what it might mean to curate today, at precisely the moment curators increasingly claim an artistic dimension for their own work.”
—George Baker, Professor of Art History, UCLA, author of The Artwork Caught by the Tail
- The Apparently Marginal Activities of Marcel Duchamp
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