The Laughing Ass

The Société Anonyme: Modernism for America
Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Cultural Center

The rooms resemble the original exhibitions, crowded with masterpieces. Klee and Campendonk each have a wall (the latter showing an affinity with Chagall), Kandinsky and Stella (Joseph) share one, Leger has half a wall with his curves, angles and proportions. A De Chirico Metaphysical Interior with walrus hunters, Van Gogh’s Adeline Ravoux (three-quarters view of head and shoulders), Miro’s Somersault (upended horse, volcano, wheel, patch of green, AH!, HoO!, calligraphic style), a Lehmbruck Female Torso of cast stone, Picasso’s saltimbanque family drypoint The Bath, Sophie Tauber-Arp’s laughing Head of turned wood (not the more famous one), Brancusis, Mondrians, especially the Composition with Yellow, Blue, Black and Light Blue (1929), a square of light blue bordered on the left by yellow, light blue and blue, by white and black below, Ernst’s Anthropomorphic Figure (Plaster Man), corrugated planes dappled with blue and black and orange, rectangle legs, etc.

Marcel Duchamp
Tu m'
1918
(side view)

Marcel Duchamp 
Tu m'
Oil on canvas, with bottle brush, three safety pins, and one bolt
27 1/2 x 119 5/16 in.
1918

Picabia’s Midi (Promenade des anglais) is a palm-lined lane beside the sea, the trees are macaroni and feathers, Sautet’s Midi à la Duchamp/Ray.

The letterhead of the Société Anonyme resembles a chess knight in profile and is among the reproductions in Duchamp’s Boîte-en-valise, the utility of which is evident. Tu m’ is sometimes said to be his adieu to the brush, although the painting gives rather an impression of virtuosity and summation both before and after the fact. An act of criticism and definition, certainly the starting-point of Rauschenberg. Color swatches, the elements of line, the shadow of a corkscrew, a painted rent held by real safety pins, a bottle brush protruding, the swatches secured by a bolt. In English the title is the dilemma, in French also. In Advance of the Broken Arm is the gesture and the figure in one act of contemplation.

Max Ernst
Paris-Rêve
oil on canvas
1924-25

Piet Mondrian
Fox Trot A
oil on canvas
1930

Schwitters is vigorously represented, Arp, Nolde puts in an appearance (Morning in the Flower Garden), Malevich, El Lissitsky, Gleizes, Metzinger, Braque, Crotti, Jacques Villon, Ribemont-Dessaignes, Matta, Harry Holtzman, etc.

Unknowns are led by Walmar Shwab’s horizontal Construction 14, a study of tonal gradations in greens and browns with an abstract yellow pivot. Adolf Erbslöh’s rigidly analyzed Factory (Die Fabrik) is trees before a hill and the establishment there on top.

Joseph Stella leads the Americans, later there is Calder, Arthur Dove is there, with many a name unfamiliar, John Covert’s for instance, his corrugated abstractions (Vocalization, for one) of 1919 ought to be better known. Burgoyne Diller bridges De Stijl and McLaughlin, James Henry Daugherty’s The Risen Christ is a massive proposition in Delaunay hues.

Albers’ Gate outlines two planes with a single line intersecting on purple, around a rectangular center.

Francis Picabia
Midi (Promenade des anglais) 
oil, feathers, macaroni, and leather on canvas
ca. 1923–26

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