Dada's Daddy

I am sitting in my basement office surrounded by the shadows of my father and my father's father.  In a box beside my desk buried in tissue paper lies my father's boy scout uniform from his childhood in Barrington, Rhode Island.  Along my desk and bookshelves are mementos of my grandfather's years donning his grey flannel suit.  A collection of cigarette lighters, commemorative watches and, strangely, a nasal douche.

At the Big Chicken Barn, I purchased the April 28, 1952 issue of Life with a cover story Dwight D. Eisenhower's wedding, but what really makes the issue worth having is the pictorial on Marcel Duchamp, entitled Dada's Daddy.  It is features like this one that make mainstream magazines of the past so interesting.

I have been reading quite a bit about Duchamp lately:

October No. 70:  The Duchamp Effect
The Exiles of Marcel Duchamp by T.J. Demos
Dada's Boys:  Masculinity After Duchamp by David Hopkins
Postmodernism and the En-gendering of Marcel Duchamp by Amelia Jones.

Jones's book provides an interesting reading of this issue of Life that highlights that until the 1950s, Duchamp as an artist was synonymous with the Nude Descending a Staircase.  For Americans, Duchamp was that painting.  The Life photograph makes that association evident.  Yet beginning with Motherwell's Dada Painters and Poets on through Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, Duchamp would be associated with the readymade.  The shift is predicted by the two-page spread in Life dedicated to a Duchamp suitcase.  Jones' books analyses the implications of that shift.  If Jones was being interviewed on Coffee Talk with Linda Richman, the conversation would open with, "Duchamp is posited as the father of postmodernism.  Discuss."  Postmodernism denies paternalism and master narratives yet it persistently adopts Duchamp as a father figure.  By Life standards the essay accompanying the pictorial is long, detailed and well worth reading.  This issue of Life helped father those myths of postmodern paternity.



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