The Duchamp Effect – Seattle Art Museum

The readymade artworks are always fun to look at. On display at the Seattle Art Museum were a few iterations of Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain, which was a factory-made men’s urinal. In 1917 he submitted this piece to the first exhibition of the American Society of Independent Arts under the name of “R. Mutt”. The show committee were adamant that the Fountain was not art and refused to exhibit the piece in the show. This now famous piece, though, was responsible for the ongoing discourse on “what is art”?

There were two urinals exhibited at SAM. The one was made in 1984 by Robert Gober and looks like a regular urinal mounted on a wall. The other is bronze urinal by Sherrie Levine, made in 1996. This urinal is displayed in a glass case and bears the name Fountain II (Buddha). When one views the object from the front, the outline does rather resemble a golden buddha sitting on his throne. it is rather comical seeing a urinal encased in a glass presentation case.

Fountain II (Buddha) 1996, Bronze, Sherrie Levine, American
Fountain II (Buddha) 1996, Bronze, Sherrie Levine, American

One of Jim Dine’s pieces was also on exhibition. In the early 1960’s Jim Dine, along with Andy Warhol, Edward Ruscha and others were responsible for the emergence of the first “Pop Art” movement. Dine was known to paint his canvases and then attach various tools or objects of an autobiographical nature to them. I guess he raided his tool shed for Our Life Here (below).

Our Life Here 1972, Oil on canvas with objects, Jim Dine, American
Our Life Here 1972, Oil on canvas with objects, Jim Dine, American

Still in keeping with the toilet theme that ran through the readymades, I came across this lead toilet seat hanging from the ceiling. It was created by Buster Simpson, an American sculptor who resides in Seattle. Simpson is well known for his public art pieces. The piece, one can see, is extremely heavy and very weathered and had me hoping that the rope would hold up for the length of the exhibition.

Lead Toilet Seat Counterweight 1984, Cast Lead, Buster
Lead Toilet Seat Counterweight 1984, Cast Lead, Buster Simpson, American

Simpson’s piece was originally part of his Surveyor oevre and I do think that his pieces would have more impact if they were exhibited together with their other components as there probably is an underlying story that is lost when something is seen out of context. I won’t get all philosophical about this exhibition as I do find it light hearted and fun to look at. It’s almost like intermission at the movies.

Bibliography

Jim Dine [online]. Wikipedia. Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Dine [Accessed 16 January, 2016]

Marcel Duchamp [online]. Wikipedia. Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcel_Duchamp [Accessed 16 January, 2016]

Lawrimore, Scott (ed) (2013). Buster Simpson // Surveyor [online]. Available from: http://www.bustersimpson.net/surveyor/bustersimpson-surveyor-catalog.pdf [Accessed 16 January, 2016]

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