Original Readymades at the Contemporary Art Museum Houston

Original readymades? Hm. Oxymoron? Not if they are slightly altered readymades, like Duchamp’s. The Contemporary Art Museum Houston calls into question the notion of the readymade tomorrow for their opening reception of It is what it is. Or is it?, on exhibit through July 29th.

Curated by Dean Daderko in his curatorial debut for the museum, “It is what it is. Or is it? attempts to recuperate a sense of the radicality of Duchamp’s gesture and to update dialogues around the notion of the readymade, thinking of them less as static objects than as active processes of articulating thought,” according to the exhibition statement.

Although “recuperating a sense of the radicality of Duchamp’s gesture,” seems nearly impossible. I am interested in contemporary dialogues about readymades. What does that look like for contemporary artists today? Jeff Koons comes to mind, of course—and he certainly offends a lot of people.

Let’s see how these artists recover Duchamp’s legacy in his infamous urinal display. In reference to less static objects, do not forget Duchamp’s perfume! Perhaps among the artists in exhibition, we will find the “original perfume” or art beyond classification by today’s art historians (Unpacking Duchamp: Art in Transit by Dalia Judovitz, 1995). At the very least, we can retool our notion of the readymade at It is what it is. Or is it?

Rachel Hecker, Jesus 1 (Viggo Mortensen/Lord of the Rings), 2011

Participating artists include Ellen Altfest, Fayçal Baghriche, Bill Bollinger, Chto delat/What is to be done?, William Cordova, Abraham Cruzvillegas, Latifa Echakhch, Daphne Fitzpatrick, Claire Fontaine, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Rachel Hecker, Jamie Isenstein, Luis Jacob, Patrick Killoran, Jiri Kovanda, Klara Lidén, Catherine Murphy, and Pratchaya Phinthong.

Feature image: Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Untitled (Silver), 1992.

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