Thursday, 2 July 2009

Marcel, Duchampian Of The World

Adrian Ghenie’s painting Dada is Dead restages the famous photograph of the 1920 International Dada Exhibition, with John Heartfield’s Prussian Archangel (a pig-faced soldier mannequin) bumping along the ceiling and (anachronistically) a Malevich black cross hanging on the wall, each a component of a secular iconography dependent upon the ghosts of art past. Angels and crosses allude to a secularized transfiguration absolutely at the core of Dadaist found object principles, but in Ghenie’s muscular assertion of the primacy of paint, how archaic that religion looks now. A slash of light illuminates a wolf stalking the abandoned gallery, frozen mid-prowl, come to pick the bones clean. The painting has a lovely reflexive weirdness. How strange that Dada is dead, how strange it ever lived, and how strange and surprising that it should be painting that performs the eulogy.

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