Watch Marcel Duchamp’s Hypnotic Rotoreliefs: Spinning Discs Creating Optical Illusions on a Turntable (1935)

In the Large Sutra on Perfect Wisdom, we are told that each one of us must strive to reach the blessed state of Bodhisattva, knowing full well that Bodhisattva is a nonentity, an empty name. That is what Duchamp calls the beauty of indifference—in other words, freedom.

—Octavio Paz, Marcel Duchamp: Appearance Stripped Bare

What are we to do with Marcel Duchamp? Most of us who know the name put it in a box called modern art, with memories of Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 2), The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, a creative chess obsession, a drag alter ego, or the "Readymade" urinal Duchamp signed “R. Mutt” and called Fountain.

What were all of these productions—however dubiously original—other than the founding moves of Conceptual art to come, the primary visual discourse of the past several decades?  To study Duchamp is to study the way so much contemporary culture works. Yet we take a particularly myopic view if we relegate him and his successors to a place we can wall in with the word “art.”

Duchamp’s own goal, he said, was to achieve a kind of holism—to find the empty center of the creative act, to “put art back in the service of the mind.” His work, wrote Chilean poet Octavo Paz, “is a philosophical, or rather, dialectical game more than an artistic operation… suspended by irony, in a state of perpetual oscillation.” That was no more literally the case than in the optical discs he called Rotoreliefs.




“A set of 6 double sided discs,” notes the Guggenheim, “meant to be spun on a turntable at 40–60 rpm,” they represent “Duchamp’s interest in optical illusions and mechanical art.” They also represented an interest in commerce. He made the discs in 1935 and debuted them at the Concourse Lépine, “a French fair for inventors promoting their latest gadget," writes Hyperallergic's Claire Voon. "In between a stand of instant vegetable choppers and another of trash compactors,” he hawked his wares. He sold “only two to friends and a single disc to a fairgoer.”

Duchamp made 500 sets of the paperboard lithographs. “They were well received and praised by the scientific community,” says Akemi May, assistant curator at the Carnegie Museum of Art. “Duchamp’s ultimate goal with these optical experiments was depth perception and the illusion of 3D.” Some of the designs “incorporate recognizable features, like a Japanese koi fish and a hot air balloon.” Duchamp himself called them a “play toy.” It’s not clear whether he thought of the Rotoreliefs as art objects at all.

He had, however, been working in this vein for some time. “Prior to creating these colorful sets,” writes Voon, “the artist had made his first optical, kinetic machine, ‘Rotary Glass Plates (Precision Optics),’ in 1920.” This experiment and others would lead to a film collaboration with Man Ray, “Anemic Cinema” (above with added music), a work that seeks, as we noted in an earlier post, what Jasper Johns called the “field where language, thought, and vision act on one another.”

Duchamp’s hypnotic spinning discs became iconic symbols of the mind’s turnings, appearing in films like Jean Cocteau’s 1930 Blood of a Poet and Hans Richter’s Dreams that Money Can Buy in 1947. In the cinema his off-kilter experiments serve a recognizable artistic purpose. But what are we to do with the Rotoreliefs? They are highly accomplished objects, like all his work except the Readymades.

Yet like the Readymades, they “are not anti-art,” writes Paz, “but an-artistic. Neither art nor anti-art, but something in between, indifferent, existing in a void,” a disorienting impersonal state arrived at through “an art of interior liberation.” See many more Rotoreliefs, all courtesy of the Carnegie Museum of Art, at Hyperallergic.

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When Salvador Dali Met Sigmund Freud, and Changed Freud’s Mind About Surrealism (1938)

The close associations between Surrealism and Freudian psychoanalysis were liberally encouraged by the most famous proponent of the movement, Salvador Dalí, who considered himself a devoted follower of Freud. We don't have to wonder what the founder of psychoanalysis would have thought of his self-appointed protégé.

We have them recording, in their own words, their impressions of their one and only meeting—which took place in July of 1938, at Freud’s home in London. Freud was 81, Dali 34. We also have sketches Dali made of Freud while the two sat together. Their memories of events, shall we say, differ considerably, or at least they seemed totally bewildered by each other. (Freud pronounced Dali a "fanatic.")




In any case, There's absolutely no way the encounter could have lived up to Dali’s expectations, as the Freud Museum London notes:

[Dalí] had already travelled to Vienna several times but failed to make an introduction. Instead, he wrote in his autobiography, he spent his time having “long and exhaustive imaginary conversations” with his hero, at one point fantasizing that he “came home with me and stayed all night clinging to the curtains of my room in the Hotel Sacher.”

Freud was certainly not going to indulge Dalí’s peculiar fantasies, but what the artist really wanted was validation of his work—and maybe his very being. “Dali had spent his teens and early twenties reading Freud’s works on the unconscious,” writes Paul Gallagher at Dangerous Minds, “on sexuality and The Interpretation of Dreams.” He was obsessed. Finally meeting Freud in '38, he must have felt “like a believer might feel when coming face-to-face with God.”

He brought with him his latest painting The Metamorphosis of Narcissus, and an article he had published on paranoia. This, especially, Dali hoped would gain the respect of the elderly Freud.

Trying to interest him, I explained that it was not a surrealist diversion, but was really an ambitiously scientific article, and I repeated the title, pointing to it at the same time with my finger. Before his imperturbable indifference, my voice became involuntarily sharper and more insistent.

On being shown the painting, Freud supposedly said, “in classic paintings I look for the unconscious, but in your paintings I look for the conscious.” The comment stung, though Dali wasn’t entirely sure what it meant. But he took it as further evidence that the meeting was a bust. Sketching Freud in the drawing below, he wrote, “Freud’s cranium is a snail! His brain is in the form of a spiral—to be extracted with a needle!”

One might see why Freud was suspicious of Surrealists, “who have apparently chosen me as their patron saint,” he wrote to Stefan Zweig, the mutual friend who introduced him to Dali. In 1921, poet and Surrealist manifesto writer André Breton “had shown up uninvited on [Freud’s] doorstep.” Unhappy with his reception, Breton published a “bitter attack,” calling Freud an “old man without elegance” and later accused Freud of plagiarizing him.

Despite the memory of this nastiness, and Freud’s general distaste for modern art, he couldn't help but be impressed with Dali. “Until then,” he wrote to Zweig, “I was inclined to look upon the surrealists… as absolute (let us say 95 percent, like alcohol), cranks. That young Spaniard, however, with his candid and fanatical eyes, and his undeniable technical mastery, has made me reconsider my opinion.”

via Dangerous Minds

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

A Medical Student Creates Intricate Anatomical Embroideries of the Brain, Heart, Lungs & More

My first thought upon seeing the delicate, anatomy-based work of the 23-year-old embroidery artist and medical student Emmi Khan was that the Girl Scouts must have expanded the categories of skills eligible for merit badges.

(If memory serves, there was one for embroidery, but it certainly didn’t look like a cross-sectioned brain, or a sinus cavity.)

Closer inspection revealed that the circular views of Khan’s embroideries are not quite as tiny as the round badges stitched to high achieving Girl Scouts’ sashes, but rather still framed in the wooden hoops that are an essential tool of this artist’s trade.

Methods both scientific and artistic are a source of fascination for Khan, who began taking needlework inspiration from anatomy as an undergrad studying biomedical sciences. As she writes on her Moleculart website:

Science has particular methods: it is fundamentally objective, controlled, empirical. Similarly, art has particular methods: there is an emphasis on subjectivity and exploration, but there is also an element of regulation regarding how art is created... e.g. what type of needle to use to embroider or how to prime a canvas.

The procedures and techniques adopted by scientists and artists may be very different. Ultimately, however, they both have a common aim. Artists and scientists both want to 1) make sense of the vastness around them in new ways, and 2) present and communicate it to others through their own vision. 

A glimpse at the flowers, intricate stitches, and other dainties that populate her Pinterest boards offers a further peek into Khan’s methods, and might prompt some readers to pick up a needle themselves, even those with no immediate plans to embroider a karyotype or The Circle of Willis, the circular anastomosis of arteries at the base of the brain.

The Cardiff-based medical student delights in embellishing her threaded observations of internal organs with the occasional decorative element—sunflowers, posies, and the like…

She makes herself available on social media to answer questions on subjects ranging from embroidery tips to her relationship to science as a devout Muslim, and to share works in progress, like a set of lungs that embody the Four Seasons, commissioned by a customer in the States.

To see more of Emmi Khan’s work, including a downloadable anatomical floral heart embroidery pattern, visit Molecularther Instagram page, or her Etsy shop.

via Colossal

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, February 3 when her monthly book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain celebrates New York: The Nation’s Metropolis (1921). Follow her @AyunHalliday.

How to Draw Like an Architect: An Introduction in Six Videos

That we pass through life without really perceiving our surroundings has long been a commonplace. How can we cure ourselves of this regrettable condition? Before we can learn to notice more of what's around us, we must have a process to test how much we already notice. Many artists and all architects already have one: drawing, the process of recording one's perceptions directly onto the page. But while artists may take their liberties with physical reality — it isn't called "artistic license" by coincidence — architects draw with more representationally rigorous expectations in mind.

Though we can heighten our awareness of the built environment around us by practicing architectural drawing, we need not learn only from architects. In the video at the top of the post, a Youtuber named Shadya Campbell who deals with creativity more generally offers a primer on how to draw buildings — or, perhaps less intimidatingly, on "architectural doodles for beginners." As an example, she works through a drawing of Paris' Notre-Dame cathedral (mere weeks, incidentally, before the fire of last April so dramatically altered its appearance), using a simple head-on viewpoint that nevertheless provides plenty of opportunity to practice capturing its shapes and filling in its details.

Below that, architect Llyan Austria goes a step further by introducing a few drawing practices from the profession under the banner of his "top six architecture sketching techniques." Much of his guidance has to do with drawing something as simple — or as seemingly simple — as a line: he recommends beginning with the most general outlines of a space or building and filling in the details later, emphasizing the start and end of each line, and letting the lines that meet overlap. To get slightly more technical, he also introduces the methods of perspective, used to make architectural drawings look more realistically three-dimensional.




When you introduce perspective to your drawings, you have three types to choose from, one-point, two-point, and three-point. A drawing in one-point perspective, the simplest of the three, has only a single "vanishing point," the point at which all of its parallel lines seem to converge, and is most commonly used to render interiors (or to compose shots in Stanley Kubrick movies). In two-point perspective, two vanishing points make possible more angles of viewing, looking not just straight down a hall, for example, but at the corner of a building's exterior. With the third vanishing point incorporated into three-point perspective, you can draw from a high angle, the "bird's eye view," or a low angle, the "worm's eye view."

You can learn how to draw from all three types of perspective in "How to Draw in Perspective for Beginners," a video from Youtube channel Art of Wei. Below that comes the more specifically architecture-minded "How to Draw a House in Two Point Perspective" from Tom McPherson's Circle Line Art School. After a little practice, you'll soon be ready to enrich your architectural drawing skills, however rudimentary they may be, with advice both by and for architecture professionals. At his channel 30X40 Design Workshop, architect Eric Reinholdt has produced videos on all aspects of the practice, and below you'll find his video of "essential tips" on how to draw like an architect."

In this video and another on architectural sketching, Reinholdt offers such practical advice as pulling your pen or pencil instead of pushing it, moving your arm rather than just pivoting at the wrist, and making "single, continuous, confident strokes." He also goes over the importance of line weight — that is, the relative darkness and thickness of lines — and how it can help viewers to feel what in a drawing is supposed to be where. But we can't benefit from any of this if we don't also do as he says and make drawing a habit, switching up our location and materials as necessary to keep our minds engaged. That goes whether we have a professional or educational interest in architecture or whether we just want to learn to see the ever-shifting mixture of manmade and natural forms that surrounds us in all its richness.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Art Record Covers: A Book of Over 500 Album Covers Created by Famous Visual Artists

The list of musicians who are also visual artists goes on and on. We’re all familiar with the biggest names: David Bowie, Patti Smith, Miles Davis, Joni Mitchell, Captain Beefheart, etc, etc, etc. Lesser-known alternative and indie artists like Stone Roses guitarist John Squire and Austin singer/songwriter Daniel Johnston created iconic imagery that adorned their album covers and merchandise.

Such multitalented individuals embody the kinship of sound and vision. But so too do the many collaborations between musicians and fine artists—hundreds of whom have gifted their talents to album covers of every conceivable kind.

Aside from obvious, historic examples (Andy Warhol’s Velvet Underground covers come immediately to mind) such collaborations are often hiding in plain sight. Perhaps you did not know, for example, that the alluring yet mysterious deep blue photograph of Björk on the cover of her remix album Telegram is by Nobuyoshi Araki, one of Japan’s most admired and prolific fine art photographers.




Maybe you were unaware of how Conceptual artist Barbara Kruger, whose work “speaks truth to power,” contributed to the look of the 90s activist industrial hip-hop group Consolidated. Or how Yayoi Kusama leant her eye-popping dots to Towa Tei’s bouncy, electronic pop for the former Deee-Lite DJ’s 2013 album Lucky.

We all know that Patti Smith’s debut album, Horses, features an iconic cover photo by her friend Robert Mapplethorpe. But did you know that the cover of Metallica’s 1996 album Load is a photographic study by artist Andreas Serrano—of Piss Christ fame—that mingles cow blood and his own semen between sheets of plexiglass?

You’ll find hundreds more such collaborations, though few as visceral, in Taschen’s new book Art Record Covers, a celebration of sound and vision in popular music. True to the arts publisher’s reputation for coffee table books the size of coffee tables, this survey is a comprehensive as they come.

The book presents 500 covers and records by visual artists from the 1950s through to today, exploring how modernism, Pop Art, Conceptual Art, postmodernism, and various forms of contemporary art practice have all informed this collateral field of visual production and supported the mass distribution of music with defining imagery that swiftly and suggestively evokes an aural encounter.

Along the way, we find Jean-Michel Basquiat’s urban hieroglyphs for his own Tartown record label, Banksy’s stenciled graffiti for Blur, Damien Hirst’s symbolic skull for the Hours, and a skewered Salvador Dalí butterfly on Jackie Gleason’s Lonesome Echo.

Editor Francesco Spampinato, an art historian studying at the Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris, has mostly kept the focus on pop, rock, punk, metal, alternative, and indie. Including the full breadth of jazz, avant-garde, and other world musics would offer examples enough to justify another volume or two of Art Record Covers.

The focus is suitably broad, nonetheless, to show how “visual and music production have had a particularly intimate relationship… since the dawn of modernism…. From Luigi Russolo’s 1913 Futurist manifesto L’Arte dei Rumori (The Art of Noise) to Marcel Duchamp’s 1925 double-sided discs Rotoreliefs.” It's also a great way to discover new art and new music, and to see the interrelationships between them in entirely new ways. Order a copy of Art Record Covers here.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Artist Ed Ruscha Reads From Jack Kerouac’s On the Road in a Short Film Celebrating His 1966 Photos of the Sunset Strip

In 1956, the Pop artist Ed Ruscha left Oklahoma City for Los Angeles. “I could see I was just born for the job” of an artist, he would later say, “born to watch paint dry.” The comment encapsulates Ruscha’s ironic use of cliché as a centerpiece of his work. He called himself an “abstract artist… who deals with subject matter.” Much of his subject matter has been commonplace words and phrases—decontextualized and foregrounded in paintings and prints made with careful deliberation, against the trend toward Abstract Expressionism and its gestural freedom.

Another of Ruscha’s subjects comes with somewhat less conceptual baggage. His photographic books capture mid-century America gas stations and the city he has called home for over 50 years. In his 1966 book, Every Building on the Sunset Strip, Ruscha “photographed both sides of Sunset Boulevard from the back of a pickup truck,” writes filmmaker Matthew Miller. “He stitched the photos together to make one long book that folded out to 27 feet. That project turned into his larger Streets of Los Angeles series, which spanned decades.”




Miller, inspired by work he did on a 2017 short film called Ed Ruscha: Buildings and Words, decided to bring together two of Ruscha’s longstanding inspirations: the city of L.A. and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, which Kerouac supposedly wrote as a continuous 120-foot long scroll—a format, Miller noticed, much like Every Building on the Sunset Strip. (Ruscha made his own artist’s book version of On the Road in 2009). Miller and editor Sean Leonard cut Ruscha’s photographs together in the montage you see above, commissioned by the Getty Museum, while Ruscha himself read selections from the Kerouac classic.

The connection between their style and their use of language feels really strong, but at the end of the day, I simply thought it’d be great to hear Ed Ruscha read On the Road. Something about Ed’s voice just feels right. Something about his work just feels right. It’s like the images, the words, and the forms he makes were always meant to be together.”

Miller describes the painstaking process of selecting the photos and “constructing a mini narrative that evoked Ed’s sensibilities” at Vimeo. The artist’s “perspective seemed to speak to the signage and architecture of the city, while Kerouac’s voice felt like it was pulling in all the lively characters of the street.” It’s easy to see why Ruscha would be so drawn to Kerouac. Both share a fascination with vernacular American speech and iconic American subjects of advertising, the automobile, and the freedoms of the road.

But where Ruscha turns to words for their visual impact, Kerouac relished them for their music. “For a while,” Miller writes of his project, “it felt like the footage wanted one thing and the voiceover wanted another.” But he and Leonard, who also did the sound design, were able to bring image and voice together in a short film that frames both artists as mid-century visionaries who turned the ordinary and seemingly unremarkable into an experience of the ecstatic.

173 works by Ruscha can be viewed on MoMA's website.

via Aeon

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

14 Paris Museums Put 300,000 Works of Art Online: Download Classics by Monet, Cézanne & More

First trips to Paris all run the same risk: that of the museums consuming all of one's time in the city. What those new to Paris need is a museum-going strategy, not that one size will fit all. Tailoring such a strategy to one's own interests and pursuits requires a sense of each museum's collection, something difficult to attain remotely before Paris Musées opened up its online collections portal.

There, a counter tracks the number of artworks from the museums of Paris digitized and uploaded for all the world to see, which as of this writing comes in at 321,055. 150,222 images, notes a counter below, are in the public domain, and below that, another counter reveals that the archive now contains 621,075 pieces of digital media in total.

Among these, writes Hyperallergic's Valentina Di Liscia, "masterpieces by renowned artists such as Rembrandt, Gustave Courbet, Eugène Delacroix, and Anthony van Dyck, among many other familiar and lesser-known names, can now be accessed and enjoyed digitally."




She highlights "Paul Cézanne’s enchanting 1899 portrait of the French art dealer Ambroise Vollard," pictures taken by "Eugène Atget, the French photographer known for documenting and immortalizing old Paris," and Gustave Courbet’s Les demoiselles des bords de la Seine, which became "the subject of controversy at the Paris Salon of 1857 for what some deemed an indecorous and even sensual portrayal of working class women."

Paris Musées oversees the fourteen City of Paris Museums, including the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and the Petit Palais as well as the Maison de Balzac and Maison de Victor Hugo. That last now has a virtual exhibition up called "Light and Shade," which, through the illustrations of Hugo's literary works, reveals the "frenzy of images that adorned 19th century literature," from "the blossoming of the romantic vignette, to the flood of popular editions, and the swansong of those collectors’ editions celebrating the glories of the Third Republic." The "thematic discovering" section of Paris Musées portal also features sections on caricatures of Victor Hugo, on the 18th century, on portraits, and on Paris in the year 1900, when Art Nouveau made it "the capital of Europe."

"Users can download a file that contains a high definition (300 DPI) image, a document with details about the selected work, and a guide of best practices for using and citing the sources of the image," writes Di Liscia. Shown here are Claude Monet Soleil couchant sur la Seine à Lavacourt, effet d’hiver, Célestin Nanteuil's La Cour des Miracles, Léon Bonnat's Portrait de M. Victor Hugo, Cézanne’s Rochers et branches à Bibémus, and a postcard for the Exposition universelle de Paris 1889. These images are released under a CC0 (Creative Commons Zero) license, and "works still in copyright will be available as low definition files, so users can still get a feel for the museums’ collections online." Do bear in mind that Paris Musées does not have under its umbrella that most famous museum of all, the Louvre. If you're looking to get a feel for that world-renowned destination's formidable collection, you may just have to visit it — a cultural task that necessitates a battle plan of its own.

via Hyperallergic

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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