Like so many atheists, the Dadaists were true believers of a sort. Late in life, when Arp was carving blocks of marble into classical forms that somehow still embodied a Dadaist’s doubts, he reminisced about the Dada years. “The important thing about Dada, it seems to me, is that the Dadaists despised what is commonly regarded as art, but put the whole universe on the lofty throne of art,” he wrote, “we declared that everything that comes into being or is made by man is art. Art can be evil, boring, wild, sweet, dangerous, euphonious, ugly, or a feast to the eyes. The whole earth is art. To draw well is art . . . . The nightingale is a great artist. Michelangelo’s Moses: Bravo! But at the sight of an inspired snow man, the Dadaist also cried bravo.” Put this way, the Dadaist creed is quite simply a celebration of the open-mindedness of the avant-garde, and most of the artists I know would agree with a good deal of what Arp has to say. Not the least of the strengths of Dickerman’s exhibition is that one may leave it believing that Arp, not Duchamp, is the essential Dadaist hero. Arp’s youthful Dadaist optimism puts Duchamp’s withering skepticism in its rightful place–not an entirely dishonorable place in twentieth-century art, but a very small place. Dada deserves better than Duchamp.
Via Brian Sholis.