One of the most iconic paintings that marked the transition from 19th century abstraction to industrial modernity was surely Marcel Duchamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2” (1912). So much so, in fact, that not only has it influenced a host of work over the last century in virtually every medium, but it has also been the inspiration for Francis Naumann Gallery’s latest exhibition, “Nude Descending A Staircase: An Homage.” The exhibit itself is incredibly captivating––with everything from delicately sketched out imitations to comical parodies, there is a painting for every type of art lover.
I find multi-media/multi-artist exhibits more intriguing because the range of artwork typically varies far more than in an exhibition of a single artist. Naumann’s homage to Duchamp displays a lively mix of starkly different reinterpretations and continuations of Duchamp’s original masterpiece along with a few original drawings from Duchamp himself. Highlights included:
– Billy Copley: his reinterpretation into “Dude Descending a Staircase” is a wonderfully humorous way of bringing Duchamp’s painting into the modern day; with bright and vivid colors, Copley portrays an endless display of fleshly, oblong patterns that are indecipherable from male genitalia to feet. Regardless, the painting retains the essence of Duchamp’s by instilling the same central idea of an ambiguousness surrounding the motion of the human body.
Work by Carlo Maria Mariani. Photo: Eric Rydin
– Kathleen Gilje: like Copley, Gilje also plays with the idea of sexuality in her painting but far more explicitly; she inserts a very literal nude descending a very literal staircase, but decides to use androgynous model Adrej Pejic as the focal point of her piece. This entirely redefines the concept of nude from both Duchamp’s original painting as well as with modern ideas of sexuality.
– Pamela Joseph: her painting cleverly approaches Duchamp’s work with the modern sensitivity of censorship within the world of art; by recreating the painting nearly stroke for stroke, then emblazoning it with a blocky, pixilated mass that covers the figure’s torso, she purposefully makes a comment on the necessity of censoring art. With a figure that is itself already quite ambiguous, she ironically sensors her own abstract nude.
Work by Pamela Joseph. Photo: Eric Rydin
– Brice Brown: juxtaposing Pamela Joseph’s idea of censorship, Brown’s sculpture of leaves descending a staircase shows just the “censorship bar” from the Adam and Eve era while containing no subject or nudity itself; a witty, minimalist reinterpretation of Duchamp’s original painting.
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