Dalia Judovitz


On her book Drawing on Art: Duchamp and Company

Cover Interview of May 04, 2010

A close-up

The idea that the meaning of art may not be exhausted by its visual manifestations and the desire to look is examined as a response to the pressures of commodification implied in the emergence of public exhibition and market forces in the late 19th century.

I show that Duchamp’s readymades inaugurated the shift from the idea of capitalizing on the object’s visual appearance to exposing and playing on its modes of public presentation and display.

But what is art when “looks” no longer count?  I argue that rather than enacting the negation and ultimate abandonment of painting, as most critics have contended, the readymades demonstrate the impossibility of defining art.

Coupling the ideas of art and anti-art in a dynamic play, their back and forth movement will mark their impasse (or “draw”) with painting, alluding to its postponement as visual expression and its continued promise as a conceptual enterprise.

It is in terms of this dynamic play that the readymades will emerge as paradigmatic of Duchamp’s later works, ranging across experiments in optics (windows, glass, and mirrors), in film, chess, and installation works.  Conflating artistic and critical activities, these later works will conceptually question the meaning of art while outwitting the necessity for its physical manifestations.  They will continue to attest to the impossibility of defining art even as they irrevocably demonstrate the necessity of moving beyond its visual impulse.