To celebrate the original Armory Show—which was held at the 69th Regiment Armory in New York City in February-March of 1913—Francis M. Naumann Fine Art plans to mount an exhibition entitled “Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase: An Homage.” This show will open at the Naumann gallery on February 15, 2013, exactly 100 years to the day when the Armory Show opened in New York. For one week—from March 7 through March 10, 2013—selected works from the exhibition will be temporarily dismantled at the gallery and reinstalled in a booth at the Armory Show at the Piers.
Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase was the unexpected sensation of the Armory Show in 1913, more than for any other reason, because visitors were unable to find the descending nude promised by the painting’s descriptive title. Moreover, for a somewhat prudish American public, the title was considered provocative: a nude doing anything more than reclining was more than they were willing to envision. As a result, the painting was the focus of critical attacks and ridicule. Since they were unable to locate the nude, frustrated critics compared the repeated, abstract forms of the painting to sights with which they were more familiar: “rush hour at the subway,” “an elevated railroad stairway in ruins after an earthquake,” and, most memorably, “an explosion in a shingle factory.”
Included in the homage exhibition will be a number of important historical items relating directly to Duchamp’s Nude, such as several examples of the pochoir (stencil-colored reproduction) he made of the painting in 1937. Also on view will be the original hand-colored copy that he made to serve as a guide for the pochoir colorist, which was mounted into the lid of a valise dedicated to Sidney Janis. The Janis valise will form the centerpiece for the show, and works by contemporary artists will hang on the walls of the gallery surrounding it.
Not Duchamp, Nude Descending a Staircase, 2012
Pencil, colored pencil and gouache on paper, 15 ¾ x 8 ¾ inches each
For this exhibition, a number of artists have agreed to create new works relating to Duchamp’s Nude Descending. They include Mike Bidlo (four variations in pencil, colored pencil and gouache), Robert Brinker, Brice Brown, Billy Copley (an amusing variation called Dude Descending a Staircase), D. James Dee, Wim Delvoye (who will be showing a maquette for Twisted Double Dump Truck Staircase), Marcel Dzama (Steps of Gold), TR Ericsson (photograph and video), Robert Forman (an erotically charged nude female figure descending a staircase executed in his usual “thread-painting” technique), Eileen Foti, Kathleen Gilje (a transgendered variation of Gerhard Richter’s version of the painting), Kathy Halbower, Don Joint, Pamela Joseph, Elizabeth Kley (an pen-and-ink drawing called Exquisite Nude, Joseph Kosuth (a white neon installation based on a Duchamp note), Sherrie Levine (eighteen framed postcards of the Nude Descending), Carlo Maria Mariani (a nude skeletal figure mysteriously ascending a staircase), Shinichi Maruyama, Sophie Matisse (a rendition of the painting without the nude, from her so-called “removal” series), Yoko Ono (who will be showing Film No. 4 (Bottoms) / Fluxfilm 16, 1966), Richard Prince (a variation of his de Kooning series), Peter Saul (who has already made several variations of the painting in his hallmark style, but here presents Green Dalis Descending a Staircase) and Tom Shannon (Slinky Descendant un Escalier). Other artists have already made works that draw inspiration from Duchamp’s masterpiece, such as Gjon Mili (best known for his multiple, overlapping images of nude female model descending a staircase, 1942), Mel Ramos (a photorealist depiction of a nude woman descending stairs from 1987), Hans Richter (a photomontage of a descending nude prepared for his film made in 1946), Larry Rivers (one of five variations made of the painting for its 75th anniversary in 1988), Steve Gianakos (Fat Girl Descending Her Stair Case, 1988), Douglas Vogel (An Explosion in a Shingle Factory and Sunrise in a Lumber Yard, two constructions made entirely with house shingles based on separate cartoons of the painting that appeared in the newspapers when it was shown at the Armory Show in 1913) and Tetsuya Yamada (the model for a double-helix staircase planned for a height of 100 feet called The Endless Staircase).
The exhibition shall be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, with an introduction by Francis M. Naumann (addressing the subject of Duchamp’s subsequent use of his Nude in creating other works of art), and a text written by Bradley Bailey, a Professor of Art History at Saint Louis University. Bailey has written extensively on Duchamp, particularly on his identity as a chess player. His text is entitled “The Shock of the Nu: The Legacy of Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2.”
For all intents and purposes, the exhibition is considered an invitational; only artists already inspired by Duchamp’s conceptually oriented approach to art and the art-making process have been invited to participate.