Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Fashion Victim: Dada Disco

Click both for larger.

This long sleeved, 100% polyester disco shirt is by "Landmark" and was made in Taiwan. Here's a view of more of the peculiar pattern:

To many, this pattern probably seems like a random design involving screws, pointing hands, tiles of color and... a corkscrew sticking out of a faux tear in the fabric.

To those of us interested in 20th Century avant-garde art, however, it's startling to realize that it's based on Marcel Duchamp's obscure "last" painting, Tu m', of 1918, now in the collection of the Yale University Art Gallery. Oh, sure, they're a little off on some parts (in the painting it's a bottle brush sticking out of the tear, while the corkscrew is visible only as a shadow), but what a strange and surprising image to put on a shirt! When I spotted this in a Detroit thrift store, my reaction was, "Wait a minute... what?" I try to imagine the meeting where the designer says, "This esoteric painting fairly screams get down."

Marcel Duchamp has always been obscure to the general public, even today. In 1973, however, he got as mainstream as he ever was when the Philadelphia Museum of Art, MOMA, and the Art Institute of Chicago hosted a high-profile retrospective exhibition of his work, a show which was featured in popular magazines like Life. With that in mind, I think it's fairly safe to guess that this shirt was made in 1974.


Madduane said...

I saw some Marcel Duchamp work at MoMA when I went there last month. I liked it, it seemed to me to be about the process, really conceptual and I like that it provoked me to think but didn't tell me what. I like that somebody thought they could make a piece of clothing based on something of his.

samael7 said...

There's a few of Duchamp's pieces at SFMOMA, but I had encountered him back in college art history and at least knew of him and DADA.

I wasn't aware of Tu m' but that someone else was enough to pattern a shirt off of it?

Pure groovy.

Frank said...

Is Duchamp really that obscure? Hasn't everyone at least seen "Nude Descending a Staircase"?

Jon said...

There were several dada and surrealist disco shirts available. A friend had a shirt based on Rene Magrittes's "Golconda". I really hated the feel of those polyester shirts but the Magritte shirt was almost cool enough to make me give up my post hippy/pre punk look (circa 1974). My friend assured me that his shirt left most of the dance club crowd scratching their heads. He was very proud of it.