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Marcel Duchamp and Dadaism Essay

The art of Dadaism had its roots as an anti-art movement. The period of time in Art History Dadaism represents was approximately period of time from 1916 to 1924. Dadaism rejected the way art was appreciated and the way art was generally being defined in contemporary art scenes at that time (Tomkins, 1985). Dadism art movement was a response to World War I and was founded in Zurich, Switzerland. There weren’t any unifying aesthetic characteristics in Dada art; however, the Dadaists did share an extremely skeptical attitude towards what were at the time, the expectations of artists and writers.

The word “Dadaism” was chosen for its naive sound (Gale, 1997). After originating in Zurich, the Dadaism art movement continued to spread to places like Berlin, Cologne, Hanover, Paris, Russia and New York City (Gale, 1997). Many of the original Dadaist would gather at a nightclub in Zurich, Switzerland called Hugo Ball’s Cabaret Voltaire, to express their ideas (Tomkins, 1985). As far as the United States, the central locations for Dada art were Alfred Steiglitz’s gallery “291,” a studio at 291 Fifth Avenue, along with the studio of the Walter Arensbergs, a Harvard-educated U. S.

resident and art collector (Tomkins, 1985). Because Switzerland was neutral to both WWI and WWII, objectors to the war, those avoiding military service and those who just wanted to find a place for free expression gravitated to Switzerland. Integral to the Dada movement was the attempt not to categorize the art work using any association with any reference to analyzing the art intellectually. Dada was also a reaction the bourgeois Victoria values of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Dadaism was considered “absurb and playful” but at the same time it was considered to be “intuitive and cryptic” (Art, 2006).

The methods used in producing this Dada art were not conventional and they used what they referred to at the time as “the chance technique and found objects” (Art, 2006). The Dadaists were trying to make their statement on the “social values and cultural trends of a contemporary world facing a devastating period of war” (Art, 2006). One of the artists associated with Dada and Surrealism was French artist Marcel Duchamp. However, according to some of my various readings, Duchamp’s actual participation in Surrealism was mostly behind the scenes.

Most readings on Duchamp states that once he became involved in New York Dada, he seldom ever participated in Paris Dada. One of the reasons Marcel Duchamp is viewed as an enigma is that he is regarded as having produced one of the most diverse collections of masterpieces in the shortest amount of time. Some of the work Duchamp is most noted for are his oil on canvas “Nude Descending a Staircase,” “The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors,” and his “ready-mades” which include the “Bicycle Wheel” and the porcelain urinal “Fountain” (Tomkins, 1985).

In one source it was noted about Duchamp’s short creative period, “Duchamp was content to let others develop the themes he had originated; his pervasive influence was crucial to the development of surrealism, Dada and pop art” (Marcel, 2007). Upon viewing Duchamp’s various art pieces in the research I did for this paper, my personal thoughts are that Duchamp could have even felt that he was even using his Dadaism art in making fun of those who admired it, purchased prints of it and highly regarded it in any way.

For example, in claiming a ready-made porcelain urinal and attaching a ready-made bicycle wheel to a ready-made stool, lacked pretty much any originality and even if it Dada was considered anti-art, he could have been fooling his audience. In one of my readings it noted that he was extremely surprised that he already had a large “fan base” in the United States upon arriving here. It could be that he thought he was “fooling” less people than he realized with some of the pieces he chose to present as “his” art.

In one of the readings it stated that Duchamp “retained a sharp sense of humor in all circumstances—even to his death. Through humor, Duchamp abolished the difference between that which possesses and aesthetic quality and that which doesn’t” (Kuenzli). So it could be said that possibly Duchamp was just testing “us” to see at what if we got his Dadaism joke. While the Dadaist movement eventually declined in its popularity in the 1920’s, many artists who were before practicing Dadaism began practicing Surrealism. There was noted a Dadaism revival which occurred in New York in the mid 1950’s.

Many feel this reaffirmed that Dada art was an important artistic movement in the world of arts. References “Art History: Dadaism. ” World Wide. 2006. World Wide Arts Resources. 14 May 2007 <http://wwar. com/masters/movements/dadaism. html>. Gale, Matthew. Dada & Surrealism. Art & ideas. London: Phaidon, 1997. Kuenzli, Rudolf. Marcel Duchamp: Artist of the Century. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1989. Masheck, Joseph. Marcel Duchamp in Perspective. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1975. Tomkins, Calvin. The World of Marcel Duchamp. Amsterdam: Time-Life,1985.


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