Sunday, January 24, 2010

Graffiti as Caricature?

I know, I know…I am not exactly good at following the rules-in fact no presidents/politics here, but I had already prepared my post for the week before taking note of the key words contemporary and political. I'll try to stick to task better next week...

For my posting I was inspired by the flyer John Sloan provides of the Cubic/ Cubism pun. To be honest I am not so much posting a caricature as I am posting a question of where the lines of caricature begin to blur, and I am considering whether or not Marcel Duchamps’s “L.H.O.O.Q” 1919 could in fact be seen as a caricature. The image is an assisted ready-made in which Duchamp graffitied facial hair over the top of a black and white Mona Lisa reproduction, as well as creating a pun with the letters “L.H.O.O.Q” underneath. When read phonetically in English it would sound like “look”, while when each letter is read aloud in French (the letter “L” sounding like “elle” meaning she, ect) it loosely translates to she is hot on the bottom or she is hot in the ass both of these serving as references to the possibility of the Mona Lisa being horny, or with her androgynous/ ambiguous looks and new mustache that she may actually be a he down below. If caricature is meant to be a distortion of the individual, while maintaining and preserving the individual’s expression- could this qualify? While Duchamp did not accentuate any particular feature, he accentuates and distorts our view of gender, as well as maintaining the sitters original expression with which we are long familiar. But than what individual did he make a caricature of, and who is Duchamp poking fun at? Is he stripping one of the most famous pieces of “high” art of it’s authority? And while it is common practice to believe that the Mona Lisa is Lisa Gherardini, there are many who have guessed at various other sitters for the painting, with many suggesting that it could have been painted in the artist’s own likeness, and commenting on da Vinci’s homosexuality. While I am still not certain who is taking the brunt of the teasing in this work of art, I am certain that Duchamp succeeds at producing a visual joke; he does it with just a few simple markings and a pun.


  1. Did you take Gerar's class? I do not think that this qualifies as a caricature...granted there is some type of distortion to the face and a quip about in the text, but what I gathered from the reading was that the viewer can grasp the meaning from the illustration. Without explaing this altered ready-made to the viewer they immediately assume it is a mockery or sometype of joke. They do not understand the facts about homosexuality and what not. Indeed there is some humor, but nothing more than a visual joke that can lead to no in depth understanding.

  2. In my opinion, I believe that both of you offer valid arguments. Is this work a caricature? No, not by the deffinition of a modern caricature. Yet this assisted ready-made does offer qualities of a caricature, for instance it mocks the reveared "Mona Lisa", stripping the traditional masterpiece of it's majesty, and reveling in the revolt against athority.

    Also, to quote Annibale Carracci,"Is not the task of the caricaturist's the same as the classical artist's? Both see lasting truth behind the outward appearance. Both try to help nature accomplish its plan. The one may strive to visualize the perfect form and to realize it in his work, the other to grasp the perfect deformity, and thus reveal the very essence of a personality."

    True to a caracturist's task, Duchamp gives the "Mona Lisa" a personality, stealing her from the ideal, grounding her to reality with the human emotion of sexual desire.

    Thus once again the question, is "L.H.O.O.Q" a caricature of the "Mona Lisa"?

    My answer would be yes, because even if the title isn't understood, the visual defacement of a masterpiece, that then transforms into a likeness of the original, is louder than any title could be of what the artist's true meaning was, Duchamp's title just adds to the satire.

  3. I agree with Luz that this seems like a ready made. I do not think that this is a caricature, but it is funny and i think that it has many elements of a cartoon. It is interesting that you found a cartoon that like Luz reminds me of previous art history classes.