Suzanne Duchamp
(French, 1889-1963)
Broken and Re-Established Multiplication (Multiplication brisée et rétablie)

Suzanne Duchamp. Broken and Re-Established Multiplication (Multiplication brisée et rétablie). 1918-19

(French, 1889-1963) Oil and collage of silver paper on canvas, 24 x 19 11/16” (61 x 50 cm)
The Art Institute of Chicago, Gift of Mary P. Hines in memory of her mother, France W. Pick; through prior acquisitions of Mr. and Mrs. Martin A. Ryerson, H.J. Willing, and Charles H. and Mary F. S. Worcester Photograph © The Art Institute of Chicago, All Rights Reserved. Audio courtesy of Acoustiguide

CURATOR, ANNE UMLAND: Like so many Dada works, Suzanne Duchamp’s painting Broken and Restored Multiplication weaves text and images together in complex ways. Here you see a picture that is filled with different layers and with visual and verbal metaphors of breakage and shattering.”

NARRATOR: Suzanne Duchamp, Marcel’s younger sister, was an artist who worked with collage, painting, and the use of language in art. Deciphering her text is not a passive activity. Curator Anne Umland:

ANNE UMLAND: You have to actively go into this picture and reconstruct the phrases that move up and down along its surface. You have to read phrases backwards and forwards. You get the meaning sort of slipping in and out of focus, just as the words themselves play upon notions of shattering, bursting things, lighting up for a moment and then going out again.

NARRATOR: Beginning in the lower left and moving up and down throughout the picture, the poetic text reads:

ACTOR [female]:
“The mirror would shatter/
The scaffolding would totter/
The balloons would fly away . . ./
The stars would dim/
etc. . . ."

ANNE UMLAND: Image and words work together to comprise metaphors of things upended, like the diagrammatic scaffolding of the Eiffel Tower turned on its head, that you see plunged through the center of the composition. Touching down along the lower edge is a vague sort of intimation of a cityscape. The metallic paints used throughout, the mirroring and reflecting surfaces and letters, all combining in Duchamp’s particular contribution to Dada in Paris.

13 / 19