Untitled (Duchamp with “Blue Eyes”)

Ray Johnson (1927–1995)
Collage on illustration board, 1987

Tony and Gail Ganz, photograph courtesy of the Estate of Ray Johnson at Richard L. Feigen & Co.

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Ray Johnson’s portrait of Duchamp resembles his collages of celebrities, especially his silhouette portraits, which he began making in 1976. He described these portraits, in which layered images obscure the face of the sitter, as “empty vessels” or “depictions of inner states.” Duchamp’s profile appears in at least twenty of Johnson’s portraits.

In Duchamp with “Blue Eyes,” Johnson has filled the silhouette with drawings and collaged elements that reference Duchamp’s work and his conceptual innovations. The twisting fabric, for example, drawn in purple and white, evokes Duchamp’s Allegorie de Genre, a collaged portrait of George Washington that, when viewed from another angle, appears to be a map of the United States. The deliberate ambiguity of Johnson’s work mirrors the optical illusions in Allegorie de Genre.

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Listen to co-curator James McManus discuss this image: