MIKE BIDLO: NOT Duchamp: Fountain and Bottle Rack is the artist’s second solo exhibition at Francis M. Naumann Fine Art (the first—Erased de Kooning Drawings—was held over ten years ago, in 2005).
Bidlo is an appropriation artist, that is to say, he intentionally replicates the work of other artists (sometime introducing variations, sometimes not). In all cases, the work he creates is considered an integral part of his own artistic production, and under no circumstances (especially commercial) does he wish for it be confused with the source work from which it is appropriated. It is for this reason that he usually signs work with his handprint, and titles it as NOT the work of the artist whose work is being appropriated: NOT Brancusi, NOT Picasso, NOT Léger, or, in the case of the present exhibition, NOT Duchamp.
Bidlo here appropriates two readymades by Marcel Duchamp, his Bottle Rack from 1914, and his notorious Fountain of 1917. In both instances, however, the resultant work is radically transformed from its original incarnation: in the case of his Bottle Rack, vintage French bottle racks are “mirrored” in a bright reflective gold/bronze metallic paint, and several were intentionally crushed by a steam roller and subsequently chromed. The Fountain is a porcelain urinal that Bidlo hand-crafted, smashed, reassembled, and then cast into solid bronze (each produced in an edition of eight signed and numbered examples, the same number—not coincidentally—in which Duchamp issued replicas of his readymades in 1964).
The broken urinal echoes an accident that occurred to Duchamp’s Large Glass in the late 1920s (shattered in transit, Duchamp painstaking reassembled it), but also reflects an incident that allegedly occurred in 1917, when, under the pseudonym of R. Mutt, Duchamp submitted the urinal to the first exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists in New York. William Glackens, the society’s president, was in a quandary over whether or not to display of such an indecent object in a public setting, and was said to have solved the problem by raising the piece of plumbing over his head and letting it go, smashing it to pieces and thereby resolving the argument.