Monday, January 10, 2011


When I went to the MOMA in New York, I was excited to get to see Marcel

Duchamp’ s (1887-1968) first Readymade- class of objects he invented to challenge

assumptions about what constitutes a work of art.

Duchamp chose two mass-produced parts- a Metal bicycle wheel mounted on a

painted wooden kitchen stool, 51 x 25 x 16 1/2" (129.5 x 63.5 x 41.9 cm) and put them

together to create a type of non-functional machine. A “ Readymade” is what Duchamp

dubbed any object purchased "as a sculpture already made."

The Bicycle Wheel sculpture is composed of lines and shapes. The thin lines

which are inside the circular shape of the wheel, which has clear boundaries, are in two

separate planes. From the circular positive shapes which are the center of the wheel two

separate planes emerge, both meeting at the edge of the larger circle. There is a negative

shape that emerges within the wheel.

The geometric lines inside the wheel have hard straight edges and all are spaced

into the same angle and distance apart. Because the wheel is clearly mass-produced and

made by a machine, the texture of the metal is smooth and the visual texture is shiny and

even, reflecting light uniformly. The tire has a different rough texture. There is a pattern

which emerges in the design, because the treads are evenly spaced throughout.

The stool has more rounded corners and more of organic or biomorphic form. The

work uses only different intensities or saturations of black and white. This also lends to

an impersonal feel. The overall motif or thematic element that the piece embodies is to

challenge assumptions about what constitutes a piece of art.


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