Marcel Duchamp, Bicycle Wheel, 1913 (authorised reproduction 1951, original lost)
The means of transport link is a bit tenuous here but I seem to have been writing about a lot of works that are in some way related to the idea of the readymade or assemblage so not mentioning Marcel Duchamp’s Bicycle Wheel would seem like a strange omission. This is a sculpture so simple it’s hard to see it as something that predated minimalism by several decades. Whenever I stop to really think about Duchamp and the idea of the readymade I’m astonished that it took just fifty years to get from the outrage that greeted Édouard Manet’s 1963 painting Le déjeurner sur l’herbe, often seen as heralding the start of Modern Art, to a bicycle wheel on a white stool being declared to be art. That it predated the formation of Dada, a movement with which Duchamp was associated, with its ideas of an anti-art in response to the horrors of the first world war also seems extraordinary.
The VW Beetle is not the only vehicle Damián Ortega has used as art materials. In Miracolo Italiano Ortega presented three Vespa scooters in various states of wholeness. The scooter leading the parade is whole but the ones behind it are exploding out into the space, with the second one showing early signs of breaking up and the third one as fragmented as the Beetle in Cosmic Stuff. Like the Beetle, the Vespa is a twentieth century icon and Miracolo Italiano was made for an exhibition in it’s home city of Turin
One of the things to avoid when buying a car is getting a cut and shut – a car that’s effectively been made from two wrecks, generally joining the front of one car and the back of another – but Gabriel Orozco’s La DS s a cut up car of quite a different nature. The first thing you notice about La DS is that it’s a readymade in the very specific form of a Citroën DS; but it’s immediately also apparent that something isn’t quite right. This is car, but not as we know it. It seems somehow longer than it should be. In reality, it’s not stretched; the proportions are wrong because the car has been slimmed down in an unexpected way. Orozco took a Citroën DS and removed the middle section making the familiar form even sleeker. Of course removing a section two foot wide (or thereabouts) from the middle of a car does have its drawbacks. It looks beautiful but La DS can’t be driven so turns heads only in the gallery.
Simon Starling, Shedboatshed (Mobile Architecture no. 2), 2005
At first sight, Simon Starling’s Shedboatshed (Mobile Architecture no. 2) appears to be a readymade. It’s an old shed. It looks a bit the worse for wear, but age will do that to a shed. Things aren’t quite a simple as they appear though and the first clue’s in the title.
Shedboatshed is a shed. Shedboatshed started out as a shed. But it hasn’t always been a shed. Starling turned an old shed, which he’d found in the banks of the Rhine, into a boat which he then used to get to Basel, carrying the unused parts of the shed in the boat. On arrival, the shed was reassembled and exhibited in the Kunstmuseum Basel and later that year in Tate Britain as part of the Turner Prize exhibition, which Starling won.
I seem to be looking at a lot of art made from other stuff at the moment. The journey from Bruce Lacey’s assemblages and robots at Camden Arts Centre to Damián Ortega’s sculptures at White Cube Mason’s Yard is a short tube ride and a big conceptual leap. Both exhibitions include sculpture made from ordinary objects but the two shows feel worlds apart.
In 1917, Marcel Duchamp bought a urinal, signed it in an assumed name of R. Mutt – the urinal had been bought from the J L Mott Ironworks – and submitted, with the title Fountain, it to the Society of Independent Artists in New York for inclusion in their annual exhibition. The rules stated that work by any artist who paid the fee would be accepted but the committee rejected Fountain. Much debate ensued. Eventually the board of the Society of Independent Artists – of which Duchamp was a member, but who in the main didn’t know he had submitted the work – decided that the work would be hidden from view for the show. Duchamp resigned in protest.
Fountain was photographed by Alfred Stieglitz but was subsequently lost. I think the prevailing view is that Stieglitz threw it out after making the picture.