The readymade is, in an odd way, a part of the history of still life painting or photography. Duchamp’s readymades are best known through photographs reproduced in art history books. Duchamp’s readymades hardly exist, those that actually exist are mostly limited edition reproductions; this is of no importance because they are not ‘retinal’ works of art but ideas. The artist chooses an object and make it art; it really doesn’t matter if the object exists in a photograph or physically because ultimately it exists as art only in the mind of the viewer.
Maree Alexander’s exhibition of photographs, Behind Closed Doors at Jenny Port Gallery is a beautiful and surreal use of readymades. The relationship that Alexander creates in her photographs between readymade objects creates new Surreal meanings. Surrealism included Duchamp’s idea of the readymade in their repertoire of techniques. Surrealism is a way of understanding the world, a world charged with unexpected meanings from the unconsciousness. And the Surreal unconscious is, not surprisingly given their Freudian influences, a sexually charged world.
Alexander’s readymades, like Duchamp’s, frequently have sexual overtones. Alexander’s kitchen ceramic objects are animated. Lemon squeezers mate with each other, a jug and teapot kiss as honey runs along their lips, a round jug presses a curved glass into a corner. There is a masculine or feminine aspect to many of the objects that Alexander has used. A small ceramic bird begs for food from the leg of a larger upturned jug.
Duchamp’s readymades were frequently purchased in a hardware shops; Maree Alexander’s readymades are found in kitchens (sourced from friends, op-shops and garage sales)
Alexander’s photographs of these surreal readymades have pale tones and a cool gaze. But behind the closed cupboard doors Maree Alexander’s objects are passionate entities.