Re-launching the Ready-mades

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2013 marks the 100th anniversary of the debut of Marcel Duchamp’s art-world shaking piece Bicycle Wheel. By mounting a bicycle wheel on an old wooden stool and declaring it “art,” Duchamp effectively set the 20th Century art world in motion.  To celebrate the act that launched a million artists, Pavel Zoubok Gallery has mounted an ambitious and satisfying exhibition entitled “L’Objet Trouve’: Readymade, Rectified & Reassembled”. Assembling an impressive blue-chip roster of artists, the show examines, in an idiosyncratic way, the use of found objects in artworks throughout the past 100 years. Certainly a big topic for one show to get its arms around, and Zoubok has done it with grace and intelligence.

Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, Richard Pettibone, Robert Rauschenberg, Joan Mitchell, Sherrie Levine, to name a few, have contributed meaningful works to this show. The exhibition provokes numerous questions about the appropriation and re-use of found objects. Andras Borocz uses materials in a way that completely transcends their original purpose, laminating pencils into a large block and then carving them into a sinuous pair of legs. At the same time Ray Johnson, with his sly piece entitled Barnet Newman Belt Club (which consists solely of a belt hanging on the wall) is working within the original Duchampean definition of the readymade: If I say it is art, then it is art. This thoughtfully crafted show embraces both approaches to materials.

My favorite piece in the show is by an artist with whom I was not familiar- Rich Remsberg’s found-object, Solar System. Starting in an upper corner of the gallery and traversing in a gentle downward diagonal, we see the Sun; a record from Sun Records in Memphis, Mercury, a 1950’s machine handle, a Venus brand toilet tank ball can, an Earth tin of bicycle patches, a Mars lock, a Saturn radio, Jupiter brand rope reel, a Neptune meter cover, a Uranus watch and finally an empty bottle of Pluto soda. The sum is greater than its parts and this particular model of the solar system is funnier and more poetic than anything you made in elementary school. The objects are what they are, and at the same time by repurposing and ordering them in this way, they become so much more.

In addition to the thoughtful selection of the work, the installation of this exhibition is exemplary. This is the second exhibition that I have seen at this gallery in which the design of the exhibition itself becomes an integral and important part of the show. The way that Zoubok has installed the art, using color and shape to define the way the eye moves through the exhibition works to illuminate the connections between art and artists. Zoubok’s choices reinforce in a direct way the underlying logic that organizes this show.

This rare exhibition is an opportunity to see over 30 artists working with and around found objects, either transforming them physically or by declaration into something new.

“L’Objet Trouve’: Readymade, Rectified & Reassembled” thru Dec. 21. At Pavel Zoubok Gallery,  531 West 26th Street, 2nd floor  


On a swing uptown I went to the Art Spiegelman retrospective at The Jewish Museum.  I have no patience to shuffle along with a crowd and read graphic novels on the walls of a museum, so I focused on the preparatory drawings that Spiegelman makes before the work is codified into a comic strip or novel. Stunning, vigorous and full of life these studies are the jewels of this show.  Spiegelman is best known for his Pulitzer Prize winning graphic novel; Maus, New Yorker magazine covers and subversive comic strips, and these are wonderful.  But for me, the revelatory part of the exhibition is the opportunity to see Spiegelman’s work when he is simply drawing – the flourish of the pencil, messy erasures, the marks of an artist working ideas out on paper, this is what makes this exhibition soar.

Art Speigelman- Breakdowns

“Art Spiegelman’s Co-Mix: A Retrospective” at The Jewish Museum 1109 Fifth Avenue at 92nd Street thru March 23, 2014 


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