Michael Taylor Discusses Duchamp’s Effect on the Avant-Garde at the Clark August 9

For Immediate Release

July 21, 2009

During the lecture “Blind Man’s Bluff: Marcel Duchamp, Alfred Stieglitz, and the Fountain Scandal Revisited,” Michael Taylor explores the profound impact Marcel Duchamp’s “readymade” sculpture Fountain had on several members of the emerging American avant-garde in the early twentieth century. A former Clark Fellow, Taylor is the Muriel and Philip Berman Curator of Modern Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The lecture, held at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute on Sunday, August 9, at 3 pm, is free.

Fountain—the infamous unaltered white porcelain urinal signed with the pseudonym “R. Mutt”—was deliberately shocking, and the scandal that erupted around its display created a stir among artists such as Alfred Stieglitz, Arthur Dove, and Georgia O’Keeffe, whose work Taylor discusses in relation to Duchamp’s iconoclastic ideas.

Duchamp’s readymades are ordinary manufactured objects that he transformed into art simply by selecting, modifying, and signing them. His creations became vessels for irony, humor, and ambiguity. When Duchamp submitted the unaltered white porcelain urinal to the first exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists in New York in 1917, he knowingly created a scandal designed to flush out the hypocrisy of the Society’s professed liberal idealism. Fountain thus needs to be distinguished from the other commonplace objects that Duchamp designated as readymades during this period, which included a snow shovel, a typewriter cover, and a metal dog comb, which Taylor argues constituted a personal experiment with taste. The urinal, explicitly chose for its Dadaist shock value, was intended for public rather than private consumption.

Taylor studied at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, where he wrote a master’s thesis on Richard Hamilton and a doctoral dissertation on Marcel Duchamp’s readymades, and has published widely on Duchamp, Dada, and Surrealism. His most recent exhibitions include Thomas Chimes: Adventures in ‘Pataphysics’ (2007), Salvador Dalì: The Centennial Retrospective (2005), and Giorgio de Chirico and the Myth of Ariadne (2002). In 2009 Taylor co-curated the Bruce Nauman exhibition at the American Pavilion for the 53rd Venice Biennale.

On view exclusively this summer at the Clark is Dove/O’Keeffe: Circles of Influence. Georgia O’Keeffe burst onto the New York art scene in 1916 and captured the imagination of people around the world, not only with incredible artistic talent, but through her bohemian spirit as well. Experience this distinctly American artist’s early works with those of modernist Arthur Dove, whom she credited as having the most significant role in the formation of her abstract works. Also on view is Through the Seasons: Japanese Art in Nature featuring traditional screens and scrolls and contemporary ceramics, emphasizing the inspirational role of nature in Japanese art.

The Clark is located at 225 South Street in Williamstown. The galleries are open daily, 10 am to 5 pm (closed Mondays, September through June). Admission June 1 through October 31 is $12.50 for adults, free for children 18 and younger, members, and students with valid ID. Admission is free November 1 through May 31. For more information, call 413-458-2303 or visit clarkart.edu.

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