Dalia Judovitz


On her book Drawing on Art: Duchamp and Company

Cover Interview of May 04, 2010

In a nutshell

The book’s title Drawing on art: Duchamp and Company refers to Marcel Duchamp’s literal defacement of the Mona Lisa image—and also to its figurative meaning, the treatment of art as an idea from which to draw inspiration.

This study shows how the idea of art became the critical fuel and springboard for new endeavors that challenge the meaning of art and of authorship.  The deactivation of art’s visual mandate that emerged from the critique of the commodity and market forces, inaugurated by the readymades, opened up the possibility of questioning art’s premises and its social and cultural manifestations.

I argue that rather than negating or abandoning art, the readymades demonstrate the impossibility of defining it in the first place.  They transform art into a resource for critical debate.  To draw on art is to also to draw on other artists, which brings questions of creativity and artistic influence into play.  The idea that the onlooker also “makes” the work of art activates the productive potential of the spectator’s consumption.

In addition to some analyses of Duchamp’s own works, the book provides detailed interpretations of works by other figures: those who proved influential on Duchamp’s thought and collaborated with him during the Dada and Surrealist period (notably Francis Picabia, Man Ray, and Salvador Dali), and those who later appropriated and redeployed these gestures by playing out their conceptual implications (Enrico Baj, Gordon Matta-Clark and Richard Wilson).

I suggest that all artistic production may be appropriative insofar as artists, in attempting to produce new works, necessarily draw on other works and other artists.