© 2015 Tessie Barrera-Scharaga. Website designed by Gabrielle Scharaga

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The Joke is on the Joker

Mixed-media assemblage incorporating a chair and a poem.

18"x18”x36”

2011

 

Marcel Duchamp is considered the grandfather of Contemporary art and every artist using found objects owes him an intellectual debt. In history, he is always presented as a cool intellectual with a razor-sharp wit. His submission of Fountain, a urinal, to the Society of Independent Artists exhibit in 1917 created an uproar in New York City art circles. What is largely dismissed in most historical records is that he was a man of great passions.

My assemblage was inspired by Duchamp’s last masterpiece, “Étant Donnés”, created while the artist was romantically involved with the Brazilian sculptor Maria Martins. Duchamp used plaster casts of Martins’ body for the central figure of his installation. After the affair ended, Duchamp continued working on the piece secretly, for over 20 years. My assemblage alludes at how an idea or emotion can take hold of a person, affecting their life and work. Like an obsession, the poem takes over the chair, encircling and transforming it. The poem, Pablo Neruda’s passionate Soneto XII, speaks about what I imagine Duchamp was trying to convey with his last masterpiece.