Lea Lublin

Hôtel Des Arts

For over ten years, Lea Lublin has looked with an inquisitive eye at major works from art history, not with a sense of nostalgia, or, for that matter, to follow in the path of the appropriationists. Not content simply to copy the works, she has, rather, discovered in them hidden aspects that social convention keeps from us. In her 1983 show, Lublin unveiled the erotic charge that is immanent in the gestures of the Virgin and Child, by placing decoupaged elements into reproductions of religious paintings and isolating significant scenes in drawings. Without any previous knowledge of Leo Steinberg’s studies on the sexuality of Christ (Lublin met Steinberg subsequently in Paris, and he himself was astonished by the correspondences in their work), she brought forth visible signs of the masculinity of the child-God, the repressive space, as well as the projection of the forbidden desires of the artist.

Lublin’s work, which is fundamentally Conceptual, posits an imaginative passage of appearances, rendering a new and additional sense to iconic images, thus giving them new life. This is an intuitive and heuristic passage, which stems principally from the content of the art and from the discovery of the signified elements. If there is an accusatory attitude in Lublin’s earlier pieces, in her new series, entitled “Présent suspendu” (Suspended present, 1991), Lublin has created a work of allegiance to her spiritual father, Marcel Duchamp. Originally Argentinian, Lublin went to Buenos Aires following in Duchamp’s footsteps to investigate his 1918–19 sojourn there. Lublin discovered some startling clues to his cryptic works. Working from Duchamp’s correspondence with his family, she was able to locate his studio, which had a window with opaque panes, painted a yellowish green, perhaps the inspiration for Duchamp’s 1920 Fresh Widow. Also, in a copy of La Naciôn—a newspaper of the era almost certainly read by Duchamp, Lublin found an advertisement for Rose’s Lime Juice, from which he may have taken his well-known feminine pseudonym, Rrose Sélavy.

Lublin has transformed this Duchampian memoire into visual creations in a spectacular way, using new technological media that allow for seductive affective and formal analogies. Enlarged photographs of the studio, inscribed with a circle, Les Fenêtres Fraîches (The fresh windows, 1990) evoke not only the famous “window,” but also the magnifying glass that Duchamp used in the execution of À regarder (de l’autre côté du verre) d’un oeil, de près, pendant presque une heure (To be looked at [from the other side of the glass], close to, for almost an hour, 1918). The label and the bottle of Rose’s Lime Juice are used in a series of large computer images, and presented in light boxes, which give the found information a personal feeling, following the phenomenal number of variations on the Duchampian myth; thus, the label of La bouteille perdu de Marcel Duchamp (The lost bottle of Marcel Duchamp, 1991) reproduces the label of an assisted readymade: Belle Haleine, Eau de Voilette (Beautiful breath, veil water, 1921) with the portrait and monogram of Rrose Sélavy, modern Ariane. Lublin unwinds her thread through the linguistic labyrinth of Duchamp’s secrets, but she does not make readymades. In a manner that might be termed narrative, Lublin’s work, in her own words, has nothing to do with “the image as being reality, but as being the reality of the image.”

Anne Dagbert

Translated from the French by Diana C. Stoll.