9 moules malic, étude relates to two seminal works by Marcel Duchamp. Executed in 1938, the present work is a study made by the artist for La Boîte-en-valise (1935-1941), a compendium of his previous works which served as an anthology of his production. By the mid-1930s, with both the protection of his body of work and the judgment of future generations in mind, Duchamp had become intrigued with the idea of collecting his oeuvre in the form of an album of reproductions.
The official title of this compendium is de ou par Marcel Duchamp ou Rrose Sélavy, and it consists of miniature two and three dimensional replicas of sixty nine works on paper, canvas and glass, as well as ready-mades, presented in a display container—for the deluxe edition, a leather case also designed by the artist. Duchamp maintained control of every aspect of the work’s production, from the technical aspects of the printing process, to its financing and distribution. He employed collotype and pochoir to produce small scale replicas of the paintings, while other items required different printing processes. The present work, for instance, was employed, in the production of the Boîte, as a colour separation artwork, using both gouache and collage.
9 moules malic is one of the elements of what is arguably Duchamp’s magnum opus, La mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même (Le Grand Verre) (1915 – 1923), which took the artist eight years to finalise, and whose reproduction is included in the Boîte. The first studies and notes for this work date to 1912, when the artist, ‘after ten years of painting’, got bored with it and ‘just wanted to react against what others were doing, Matisse and the rest, all that work with the hand’ (quoted in A. Schwarz, The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, New York, 2000, vol. 1, p. 123). Relinquishing painting as a medium, Duchamp set himself to change his way of working, creating art which would set him apart from his peers.
Composed of various elements, the Grand verre is divided into two parts, one female, the upper one, and one male, the lower, separated by a stack of glass plates. The work constitutes a diagram of an ironic love-making machine of extraordinary complexity with references to alchemy, the Tarot cards, and Christian symbolism. Originally titled Cimitière des uniformes et livrées (Cemetery of Uniforms and Liveries), these 9 moules malic (Nine Malic Moulds) are an element of the lower part, named the ‘Bachelor Apparatus’, and are hollow mannequin forms of different uniforms or liveries, from the policeman’s to the priest’s to the bellboy’s, representing nine types of traditional male jobs. ‘Empty husks, then, inert and powerless, which wait stupidly for the signal to perform the basic male function that is required of them here’ (C. Tompkins, Duchamp, A Biography, New York, 1996, p. 6).
An extremely rare and beguiling work, 9 moules malic, étude allows a deeper insight on the methods of one of the past century’s most complex artists, whose influence on radical conceptual art cannot be overstated.