Saturday, February 8, 2014

"3 New York DADAS + The Blind Man" by Marcel Duchamp, Henri-Pierre Roché and Beatrice Wood

Atlas Press (Distributed by D.A.P.) ISBN: 978-1900565-43-1

Atlas Press, out of London (and distributed by D.A.P.) always goes the extra mile.  They've been around for years, yet they are releasing really important books.  Today, I didn't want to be be disturbed or interrupted while reading "3 New Dadas and The Blind Man."  So I took a series of bus trips through out Los Angeles, for the purpose of reading this book from the beginning to the end.  Probably the best Saturday in my life, so far.

The book is both a document, a memoir, as well as fiction regarding three major figures in the early 20th century Arts: Henri-Pierre Roché, Beatrice Wood and of course Marcel Duchamp.  The two Frenchmen came to reside in New York City, where they met Ms. Wood.   At the time, sort of combination of a party girl and hardcore aesthetic person.  In fact, this little volume is a perfect snapshot of bohemian life in New York.

What we are presented with is a piece of fiction by Roché called "Victor," which is basically a memoir with the names changed to protect the guilty.  The book never was completed, and it doesn't really hold up as literature, but it is a fascinating document of a time, a place, and ground zero for one of the greatest things that happen in contemporary art.  Which was in two words: Marcel.  Duchamp.   Roché captures 'Victor' (Duchamp) at the peak of his iconic powers.  He pretty much documents Duchamp's work habits as well as love life of sorts.  The thing about Duchamp is that he is always a man of mystery.  Very visible yet invisible.  He was Warhol-like of his time that he could be in the public's and friend's eyes, but remains on an island that is truly Duchampville.   Before the novel starts the editors gave a glossary of who is who in the novel.  Which of course is fascinating.

The mighty trio at this time started up a zine style magazine called "The Blind Man," which focused on poetry, but a lot of it deals with the R. Mutt sculpture by Duchamp that was turned down by the festival that they helped put together.  Each artist can contribute a piece to the exhibition, but they must pay $6.  Duchamp did so under another name, but there was controversy over the urinal, because of all practices it was just that - a piece of plumbing.  Yet Duchamp chose this everyday instrument of release as an art object.  Bingo, an early, if not the first, conceptual piece in art.  There were two issues of "The Blind Man" and they are here in all of its glory.   Wonderful stuff.

What makes this book so unique is that I don't get the feeling that I am reading or seeing something from the past.  Even those this time period is almost 100 years ago, it seems like now.   Especially coming out of the Printed Matter Book Festival last week - the spirit of doing a magazine or a zine is still very much part of our psyche.   It's a beautiful thing and this book is a real wonder.   Also included is an excerpt from Beatrice's memoir "I Shock Myself" dealing with the period of time when they put together "The Blind Man" as well as her dealing with contemporary art, which to Beatrice Wood at the time, was really weird.  

Highly recommended title if you are a Duchamp fan, but beyond that, the spirit of the book is a complete turn-on.  Oh, and the production, and printing is superb.  Excellent work Atlas!
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