Here’s a segment from Robert Hughes The Shock of the New (1982) that deals with Marcel Duchamp (using some clips from the BBC interview with Duchamp I posted earlier). Part way through, Hughes does a fascinating analysis of Duchamp’s “The Large Glass” or what he called “The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even.”
Hughes sees the work as a kind of allegory of the psychosexual two-world concept that has haunted the history of Western philosophy. The bride is in the top pane, beautiful and inaccessible (like God, Truth and Quixote’s Dulcinea); the bachelors are in the bottom pane, mechanically grinding out their sperm-like product which, yet, can never reach the bride in the top pane. Bottom pane=existence; top pane=Being. At least, this is what Hughes seems to be saying.
My recent Duchamp obsession derives from discussions between Stephen May and Paul Forte, both of whom contributed essays on art to NC in the last two issues. Duchamp is at the heart of their debate, it seems. And the debate speaks to many currents in art theory and history over the last century or so (it is a century since Duchamp started painting).
Here are the relevant posts collected.
- Beauty & the Brothel of Illustration: An Impractical Guide to Making Art | Essay & Paintings — Stephen May
- Visual Thinking and Cognitive Exploration: Essay & Images — Paul Forte
- Marcel Duchamp Interview at UBUWEB
- The BBC Interview with Marcel Duchamp