Magazine article Artforum International

Wooster Enterprises

Magazine article Artforum International

Wooster Enterprises

Article excerpt

CHURNER AND CHURNER

It's a pathetic scene. Painful, even. In 1930s Paris, Marcel Duchamp hawks his Rotoreliefs from a booth at the Inventors' Fair. "Like a smiling salesgirl," Henri-Pierre Roche would recall. Obviously, Duchamp won't be the last artist to test the strategic and commercial potential of modeling artwork as everyday retail merchandise. The cash register rings through Claes Oldenburg's "The Store," 1961, Keith Haring's 1986-2005 Pop Shop, Christine Hill's Volksboutique, 1996-, and Superflex's Guarana Power, 2004- (to say nothing of certain Louis Vuitton collaborations). But what a disheartening precedent. Here Duchamp fashions himself as entrepreneur--and not a single sale.

Skip to 1977, to the annual National Stationery Show in New York. Jaime Davidovich occupies the single chair at a booth draped in black and blandly labeled "Wooster Enterprises," a monochrome blip among pastel greetings and neon tufts of hair. (Troll dolls were big that year.) Davidovich's wares consist of dry witticisms: a note card bearing the photographic image of a foot that slips into an envelope emblazoned with a shoe, a pad of paper with the phrase "I hate to write" scribbled repeatedly across its surface in faint gray. The deadpan eccentricity attracts buyers, and Davidovich studiously records their orders.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Wooster Enterprises, the subject of this retrospective exhibition, was a short-lived stationery business incorporated by Davidovich and his then wife Judith Henry in 1976. In addition to selling their own original products, they marketed items by Fluxus "chairman" George Maciunas, whose principle of "functionalism" informed their design sensibility. According to functionalism, objects should point to their own material construction and social purpose: hence, Maciunas's "hand" note card for a "glove" envelope, or Henry's writing pad overlaid with the image of a crumpled paper sheet. …

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