“I have forced myself to contradict myself in order to avoid conforming to my own taste.”
― Marcel Duchamp
Tag Archives: duchamp
Large Horse by Duchamp-Villon
I like it when I have a membership in a museum or I can get in free – because then I don’t feel like I have to see the whole thing. I can concentrate.
What I like to do is to have one favorite thing. One work of art. I like to go to that on a bee-line and stare at it, walk around it, try to understand and possess it completely. You can’t do that if you go wandering through the galleries like a tourist hurrying to catch his bus outside. You have to be selective and patient.
When the Dallas Museum of Art first opened it was free. I was working only about a block away and I would walk over for a few minutes at lunch whenever I could. My favorite sculpture was Max Bill’s Rhythm in Space. I would walk into the sculpture garden and stare at that piece of carved curved granite. It meant something to me. This can’t be put into words, but it was an idea of motion, beauty, and the timelessness of stone. The hard, unyielding granite had been shaped into something graceful and light. The sculpture looked a little like a face from the front, but was reduced to precise geometric principles. The eyes and mouth appeared to be perfect circles – but only from a certain viewpoint. There is also a complex symmetry in the design…. So on and….
That’s what I saw.
It’s gone now. I don’t know where.
For a long time, my favorite sculpture was Tending (Blue) – but it’s gone now too. Well, it’s still there… but.
So now I’ve fallen in love with Large Horse, by Raymond Duchamp-Villon (the brother of Marcel Duchamp and Jacques Villon). It’s right up front, by a glass wall, at the Nasher.
I like to stare at it, walk around it. I’ve taken some pictures of it. I would like to take some more.
To me, it’s clear that it is a statue of a horse – but that horse has been morphed into a complex machine, full of pushrods, pistons, and gears. It has an impressive, solid bulk, but feels like it is about to propel itself out through the glass and speed down the street in a blur, smelling of ozone and oil.
It is cast in very dark bronze – almost black. It swallows a lot of the light, but what does escape is subdued by the power and mass of the horse. It shines with dark energy.
The sculptor was a cavalry doctor in World War I and must have had a close relationship, knowledge, and a deep connection with his horses. He chose this animal to convert into a cubist bronze. He was able to preserve the essential horseness of the shape while implying the obsolescence of the animal – overtaken by the more powerful, rugged, and easily controlled energy of machines.
Duchamp-Villon died too young. He contracted typhoid fever during the war. He died before he finished this sculpture. All he left was the finished small scale model. After his death, his famous brother, Marcel Duchamp (Nude Descending a Staircase) finished the job and had the sculpture cast in full-sized bronze.