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New York

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"Reciprocal Readymade = Use a Rembrandt as an ironing board."
—Marcel Duchamp

Removed from the immediacy of the war, New York provided an atmosphere distinct from the European cities where Dada flourished. While New York Dada's irreverence was less aggressive and more playful than its European counterparts, World War I nonetheless influenced many of its activities. The antics and excesses of the New York dadaists—a number of whom were European artists escaping the war—was a form of protest against the carnage they had witnessed. As Marcel Duchamp explained, "We saw the stupidity of the war. We were in a position to judge the results, which were no results at all. Our movement [Dada] was another form of pacifist demonstration."

As a foreigner living in New York, Duchamp was fascinated with American consumerism and technology, which he countered with his characteristic wit. His "rectified readymade"Apolinère Enameled of 1916–1917, appropriated a tin advertisement for Sapolin brand enamel paint. By engaging in linguistic play and touch-up painting, the artist converted the brand name "Sapolin Enamel" into "Apolinère Enameled," a reference to the poet Guillaume Apollinaire. He signed the work "from Marcel Duchamp," distancing himself as creator (i.e., it is not by Duchamp), and drawing attention to the fact that the sign had been mass-produced.

Duchamp's interest in manufactured products was part of the New York dadaists' obsession with American technology and machine aesthetics. The artists appropriated industrial goods as artistic materials, and they celebrated photography—a medium historically criticized for distancing the artist's hand from the work of art. Paris-born Francis Picabia created images in New York that depicted the gears, cranks, screws, and pipes of modern technology. Like Duchamp, Picabia was impressed by American technology: "Almost immediately upon coming to America it flashed upon me that the genius of the modern world is in machinery and that through machinery art ought to find a most vivid expression." Picabia began making symbolic portraits of his friends, representing them as machines, which he described as being "the very soul" of humanity. In Here, This Is Stieglitz/Faith and Love, Picabia depicts the photographer as an aging camera, accompanied by an automobile gearshift and brake. Picabia's embrace of technology is equivocal, for his portraits likened modern personalities to repetitive, senseless machinery.

Duchamp, Apolinère Enameled
Marcel Duchamp
Apolinère Enameled, 1916–1917
rectified readymade: gouache and pencil on painted tin
(advertising sign for Sapolin Enamel) mounted on board