Unpacking Duchamp: Art In Transit



 Perhaps no twentieth-century artist utilized puns and linguistic ambiguity with greater effect—and greater controversy—than Marcel Duchamp. Through a careful "unpacking" of his major works, Dalia Judovitz finds that Duchamp may well have the last laugh. She examines how he interpreted notions of mechanical reproduction in order to redefine the meaning and value of the art object, the artist, and artistic production.

Judovitz begins with Duchamp's supposed abandonment of painting and his subsequent return to material that mimics art without being readily classifiable as such. Her book questions his paradoxical renunciation of pictorial and artistic conventions while continuing to evoke and speculatively draw upon them. She offers insightful analyses of his major works including The Large Glass, Fountain and Given 1) the waterfall, 2) the illuminating gas.

Duchamp, a poser and solver of problems, occupied himself with issues of genre, gender, and representation. His puns, double entendres, and word games become poetic machines, all part of his intellectual quest for the very limits of nature, culture, and perception. Judovitz demonstrates how Duchamp's redefinition of artistic modes of production through reproduction opens up modernism to more speculative explorations, while clearing the ground for the aesthetic of appropriation central to postmodernism. 

Review Commentary

"Transit, transitional, transition: Dalia Judovitz catches Marcel Duchamp on the run with his art in a suitcase and his thought all boxed and ready to go. . . . She demonstrates how the theme of transition, reappearing from work to work, makes each piece reproduce some other piece, while all continue to exemplify an original which can no longer be found and which has no creator."

Jean-François Lyotard 


“Judovitz never loses sight of the underlying constancy of strategic purpose which defines the subject matter, in the largest sense, of Duchamp's art--an art made out of the paradoxes inherent in the making of art. …Her book is perhaps the most comprehensive and balanced description so far, in contemporary critical terms, of the Duchampian project.”

Sheldon Nodelman, University of California-San Diego

Table of Contents


Author's Note

Introduction: Unpacking Duchamp

1. Painting at a Dead End

2. Ready-Mades: (Non) sense and (Non) art

3. Reproductions: Limited Editions, Ready-Made Origins

4. Art and Economics: From the Urinal to the Bank

5. Rendez-vous with Marcel Duchamp: "Given"

Postscript: Duchamp's Postmodern Returns


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Book Details

310 pages

Published (c) 1995

ISBN: 9780520213760

Ordering Information

Available in paperback ($13.99) and hardcover ($16.40)


University of California Press

UC Press