Duchamp: Love and Death, Even

Juan A. Ramirez, Author, Juan Antonio Ramc-Rez, Author, Alexander R. Tulloch, Translator Reaktion Books $45 (304p) ISBN 978-1-86189-027-6
A virtual Duchamp industry has arisen over the last decade or so, as the chameleonlike art provocateur has been canonized as a primal postmodern. While there are plenty of explications of his oeuvre available (Thierry De Duve's philosophical explorations being among the best), this sumptuous, illustration- packed study is one of the most systematic and clear, if not the most comprehensive. Ram rez, a professor of art history at the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, devotes nearly the entire book to what he sees as Duchamp's major works: The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (hence the book's subtitle) and Etant Donn es (a work Duchamp spent the last 30 years of his career planning and assembling), carefully analyzing each component of their complicated ""mechanisms."" He finds a plethora of sources in popular material and print culture for them both--the first, a sort of flattened mobile structure captured between two panes of (now cracked) glass; the second, a notorious macabre peep show-like installation. These sources are reproduced on nearly every page, along with details of the works themselves. Ram rez's tight focus will not suit readers seeking an overview of the career or life, and his somewhat clinical presentation will turn off others. But those looking for a way into the intricacies of two arguable masterpieces of 20th-century art will find few better avenues than this meticulous and devoted study. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 11/30/1998
Release date: 12/01/1998
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