[Francis Naumann]

Francis M. Naumann Fine Art is pleased to present “Étant donnés 2°,” a new series by artist T. R. Ericsson, who maintains studios in Concord Township, Ohio, and Brooklyn, New York.  As the title suggests, the work is based on Marcel Duchamp’s great environmental tableau installed in the galleries of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Étant donnés: 1° la chute d’eau / 2° le gaz d’éclairage [Given: 1° The Waterfall / 2° the illuminating gas], 1946-66.

Ericsson’s imagery shares a great deal in common with the work of Duchamp.  Many have interpreted Duchamp’s Étant donnés as representing the scene of a rape or murder, a gruesome though somewhat logical interpretation, for the woman in the diorama lies naked and appears lifeless in an outdoor setting.  This was not Duchamp’s intent, any more than it was Ericsson’s.  Indeed, both artists attempted to record precisely the opposite impression: Duchamp wanted to preserve the image and physical allure of his lover at the time, an exotic Brazilian sculptor whom he had recently met and fallen in love with, while Ericsson records the body of his wife, to whom he is intimately devoted (and her affection for

him is reciprocated by her willingness to participate in this collaboration).  Just as Duchamp’s readymades force viewers to see ordinary objects differently—indeed, as the opposite of what they might originally appear (not ordinary objects that can be used and are fairly inexpensive, but objects that can no longer be used because they are works and, as such, are very valuable)—the Étant donnés is not the residue of a rape, but precisely the opposite: an act of love.

 
Ericsson’s affection for his wife is mirrored by the elaborate procedure and care that goes into the making of each image.  They are based on hundreds of photographs that he took of her unclothed body lying in a forest setting, often near a stream or partially submerged in it, her head and facial features—as in Duchamp’s Étant Donnés—never clearly visible (a privately printed book features some 300 of these images and serves as the show’s catalogue).  For the present exhibition, 10 of these images were selected and enlarged as silkscreens.  The screen is hinged onto a piece of paper that rests on the floor (the whole held into position by cement blocks), and then powdered graphite is forced through the screen as stringently as possible (so that it will adhere to the surface of the paper).  The surface is then reworked from top to bottom with stumping, erasing and vacuuming until he achieves exactly the effect he desires.  Although the photograph and silkscreen were essential in creating the image, because of this elaborate final step, the images are produced in only singular examples.  Since the images are unique and the process replicates techniques of draftsmanship, the works are more accurately referred to as drawings.

Ericsson showed examples of these drawings for the first time in 2010 at Shaheen Contemporary and Modern Art in Cleveland.  The works shown in the present exhibition are envisioned as a complete installation, including, among other things, his wife’s breath entrapped in a glass vial on display in the center gallery—similar to Duchamp’s Air de Paris (1919).  Because these works evolve from those shown earlier, Ericsson has entitled the show Étant donnés 2.°
Installation