By Thomas Girst, Illustrated by Luke Frost & Therese Vandling
Thames & Hudson, $29.95, 224 pages
Thomas Girst’s The Duchamp Dictionary takes the rules of Duchamp’s work and applies it to this reference work about the famous author. Duchamp was, among many other obsessions, obsessed with dictionaries, and the idea of alphabetizing and arranging words. Girst, in this text – rather than trying to tackled the admittedly difficult work of Duchamp in chronological, or more conventional format – adopts the dictionary format and breaks the work of Duchamp down into a series of dictionary entries. The pros of this approach are the accessibility. Duchamp’s work, like many modern artists, can be overwhelming and overly theoretical. None of Girt’s dictionary entries are more than a page or two, so even complicated topics offer relatively easy entree. The cons are that the arrangement can lead to a confusion about what work was created when, and how that creation relates to the figures, event and philosophical ideas in Duchamp’s life. The book also contains some images of Duchamp’s work, but does not have extensive or full color reproductions a more expensive book might have. This book is recommended as supplemental material for readers who already have an interest or background in early 20th century art or Duchamp, but it is not an introductory text.
Reviewed by Katie Richards