Ray Beldner makes art from the stuff of everyday life. His works can be found in public and private collections, including the Federal Reserve Board, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and here at the National Portrait Gallery.
Two of Ray Beldner’s works, Avec Ma Langue Dans Ma Joue, or With My Language in My Game, and Duchamp Tout Fait are on display as part of the museum's exhibition “Inventing Marcel Duchamp: The Dynamics of Portraiture.” This exhibition showcases approximately 100 never-before-assembled portraits and self-portraits of Marcel Duchamp ranging from 1912 to the present, including works by his contemporaries Man Ray, Alfred Stieglitz, Francis Picabia, and Florine Stettheimer, as well as portraits by a more recent generation of artists, such as Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Sturtevant, Yasumasa Morimura, David Hammons, Beatrice Wood, Douglas Gordon, and Ray Beldner. See the exhibition while you can; its last day is this Sunday, August 2.
Avec Ma Langue Dans Ma Joue, or With My Language in My Game
Ray Beldner’s work, part of a larger series based on Duchamp’s small sculptural pieces, was inspired by Duchamp’s With My Tongue in My Cheek (1959), which combines a plaster cast of Duchamp’s cheek with a pencil-drawn sketch of his profile.
Here Beldner has substituted his own image. The plaster cast of his cheek is flocked with ground money dust, with the result that the work, as Beldner jokes, looks like a “moldy” version of the original. The use of money dust references Duchamp’s ambivalent relationship to the art market, while Beldner’s remark about mold brings to mind Duchamp’s belief that works of art lose their importance, or become “stale,” over time.
Beldner’s translation of Duchamp’s English title plays on the multiple meanings of the French words langue and joue, paying tribute to Duchamp’s love of manipulating language.
Duchamp Tout Fait
In this composite image, Ray Beldner used digital technology to bring together twenty-six well-known images of Marcel Duchamp. By compiling images from throughout Duchamp’s life, Beldner effectively collapses time and merges Duchamp’s various identities into one compositional space.
As Beldner notes: “It’s a subtle photo, but if given enough time to reflect on it, one can discern many likenesses—from Rrose Sélavy to the artist at rest in front of his chessboard.” The title references Duchamp’s readymades—the everyday objects, such as a bottle rack and a urinal—that he designated as works of art. The commonly used French phrase “tout fait” roughly translates to “ready made.” By pairing the artist’s name with this phrase, or with Beldner’s construction of him, Duchamp himself becomes the “readymade” for this work of art.
Listen to Ray Beldner's gallery talk (39:58)
Avec Ma Langue Dans Ma Joue, or With My Language in My Game / Ray Beldner / Wood and plaster, flocked with ground money dust, 2007 / Courtesy of Catharine Clark Gallery, San Francisco and Caren Golden Fine Arts, New York City
Duchamp Tout Fait / Ray Beldner / Digital pigment print mounted on panel, 2007 / Courtesy of Catharine Clark Gallery, San Francisco and Caren Golden Fine Arts, New York City