I have always had a fascination with copies, reproductions, facsimilies, replica’s, translations and multiples in the visual art’s (and beyond). Perhaps an obvious link as to why I work in print. Anyway a few years ago I was incredibly fortunate to work on a fine art digital print edition with the late artist Richard Hamilton who (at the time) had created a digital drawing of Duchamp’s Large Glass work. More specifically Hamilton had constructed a graphic representation or ‘blue print’ of Duchamp’s image to be printed at a 1:1 scale.
For this project post I’m not going to discuss the printing of the file (you can find out more about the printing element in Chapter 5 in my thesis here), instead I want to discuss the reproductive procedures that Hamilton employed in the ‘remaking’ of Duchamp’s Large Glass – Painting / Sculpture.
Prior to the generation of the digital file, Richard Hamilton had collaborated with Marcel Duchamp between 1957 and 1965-6 towards the translation and reconstruction of Duchamp’s sculptural piece The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass), 1915 -1923. In 1957, together with the art historian George Heard Hamilton, Richard Hamilton began translating Duchamp’s notes from The Green Box (1934) into English, which were later published by Hamilton as The Green Book in 1960.
In 1965 Hamilton, aided by Duchamp, began a reconstruction of The Bride Stripped bare by her Bachelors for a Duchamp retrospective Hamilton would curate for the (then) Tate Gallery in 1966. The reconstruction was aided by the fact that Duchamp’s sculpture was too fragile to travel from its permanent installation in the Philadelphia Museum of Modern Art, USA.
Hamilton’s reconstruction took around a year to complete, prior to being signed by Duchamp at the opening of the exhibition in 1966. Using the previously translated notes as a guide, Hamilton sought “to reconstruct procedures rather than imitate the effects of action.” Subsequently the results of Hamilton’s approach does not afford a direct visual copy but a transcription of Duchamp’s making instructions. From this perspective, Hamilton’s reconstruction used the same materials as Duchamp’s Large Glass to replicate the original work rather than copy the effects of age.
The replication of colour in the Sieves for instance, was a system- based procedure using “’time’ and ‘dust’ to produce a transparent pastel colour”. Hamilton later used these kinds of colour descriptions when we were proofing the digital file at CFPR for Typo-Topography of Marcel Duchamp’s Large Glass, 2003, requesting that colours be formulated as ‘chocolate’ or ‘lead’ in reference to Duchamp’s text. The print allows two separate works to exist together, the text from The Green Book and the image of the sculpture The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass) 1915-23, reconstruction by Richard Hamilton 1965-6.