Duchamp to Pop @ The Norton Simon Museum

October 12, 2016

Duchamp to Pop attempts to link the emergence of the Pop Art phenomenon to Marcel Duchamp, the undoubtedly pioneering French artist who fed off of a shock and awe campaign of altering the definition of art, away from a purely aesthetic effort. We might consider Duchamp then the originator of artistic expression that is not requisitely beautiful. And this is a consistent movement once we notice the Western culture evacuate its sacred center-point of its religion, liberating the artist to homestead new terrain, irrespective of its quality.

And is such a movement good? We are not able to discern the answer with this exhibition. It is beyond disappointing that the Duchamp exhibition pieces are uninspiring and, save for L.H.O.O.Q., his exhausted attempt at mocking the fine art establishment and precedent for art to be beautiful, is not famous. These pieces come in his advanced life, at the dawn of the emergence of Pop Art with Andy Warhol as the notorious head of the artistic representation of the newborn age of mass commoditized goods and the goods’ very own artistic appeal to the base needs of the human being toward beautiful sensation. This fact of human nature was exploited by many of these artists and were included in the exhibition. Yet not only is the link between this aesthetic movement to Duchamp weak, the incoherence of the rest of the assemblage of quote pop artists is staggering.

Let us not delve into the actual quality of the representations themselves of the Pop Art movement; we are not given even a Lichtenstein for instance; but the scattered effort to draw upon Duchamp’s forced and even vain irreverence and link it toward Pop Art, which is at the very least an artist’s sensibility to capture the historical moment of another degree of still-life, –in short, of aesthetically representing reality yet refining it toward the common objects of everyday life – falls short and hard. And this is for the very incongruity of each artists’ aims. Let us not mention the inconsistency of Duchamp’s own pieces exhibited which represent more anexperimentalism in artistic mediums and being unhinged with respect to which direction an artist can take aim than an actual representation of Duchamp’s signature style. Not only is it a very poor attempt in theory to link Duchamp to pop artistry with the only conceivability being his production during the pop art’s genesis, but also it is a very poor attempt in practice with the potpourri of errors.

When requesting information about the curator of the show, Norton Simon has none other than his name. It’s actually quite telling that a supposed institution of art has no synoptic information on-hand for who’s idea it was to draw a hazy line between the two aforementioneddots. It suggests that its visitors are like baby birds needing their food digested for them; they have no curiosity or even inclination to be outraged at the poor quality that may be demonstrated. No wonder then it is donned with tourists; we cannot call them genuine art lovers unless they actually support the arts rather than go to where they are told to. To love art is to be willing to take a chance on seeing something created which one would not normally see. I leave this museum then then with a very different outlook than when I entered it: it is a mausoleum, not an art institution.

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