Duchamp's Time Machine
Last night, at the opening of a group show at Hauser & Wirth gallery on New York's Upper East Side, I came across something I rarely see: A successful new riff on Duchamp. A young Brooklyn artist named Marc Ganzglass was showing a recent piece called "Turenne Railing". It counts as a readymade, of sorts, because like Duchamp's famous urinal it transplants a functional object into the art world. In this case, however, Ganzglass took a 17th-century forged-iron railing he'd photographed in Paris, and remade it himself, by hand, to include in this show. (Ganzglass is 39 and relatively slight, and doesn't look like the trained blacksmith he is. He's also way smarter and more verbal than your comic-strip hammer-head.) I think of this piece as a new Duchampian sub-species you might call a "hand-made readymade". Instead of being about inserting the industrial into the old-fashioned world of hand-crafted art, it inserts old-fashioned craft and hard labor into today's industrialized art scene. But then, in talking with Ganzglass (and talking, and talking) I realized that Duchamp was sometimes up to something similar, as when he had his own urinal hand-copied in the sixties. Duchamp's work is never the one-liner it's made out to be, and Ganzglass adds new lines of his own.
Matthew Day Jackson, the talented young artist who curated the show, says in his statement that art has to be "destroyed and rebuilt without referring to an operating manual." I'm not sure that's right. I think that, like Ganzglass, you mostly rewrite the same one.
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