PRINT February 1979


Marcel Duchamp: Appearance Stripped Bare

Octavio Paz, Marcel Duchamp: Appearance Stripped Bare (New York: The Viking Press, 1978), 211 pages.

Marcel Duchamp has been known for his inactivity in the art world as much as for his activity. In Marcel Duchamp: Appearance Stripped Bare Octavio Paz sets up a duality between Duchamp’s modus operandi and that of Picasso: the silence of Duchamp set against the incessant production of Picasso. Paz pairs these two as the greatest artists of the 20th century, yet in all his writing there is very little actually stated about Picasso’s work, except to say what the work is not. Duchamp, then, is Paz’s real hero.

What do Duchamp and Paz have in common? Both believe in the power of words, and in “mental reality.” Paz is best known, particularly in Mexico, for his several volumes of poetry. Indeed, Duchamp is surely Paz’s artist because he is such a verbal artist—a poet’s artist. What Duchamp sees,

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