The Chess Players

Marcel Duchamp and Eve Babitz-Julian Wasser 1963
In 1963 the Pasadena Art Museum held the first major retrospective of the works of arguably the most important artist of the twentieth century, Marcel Duchamp (see The Process of Perfection). Involved with (though never a full member of) Cubism, Dada and Surrealism, Duchamp’s readymades and dismissal of ‘retinal art’ was to have a profound influence on Conceptual Art and Pop Art.

At the opening Duchamp met the 20 year old writer Eve Babitz who had gate-crashed the event naked, an act of revenge against her married boyfriend Walter Hopps who had neglected to invite her to the party. The subsequent chess match was photographed by Julian Wasser, the chronicler of the West Coast art scene.

Duchamp was a serious chess player and after effectively retiring from art in 1923 devoted himself to the game, playing in the French Championships and writing a weekly chess column.

Eve Babitz was a seminal figure of 60′ and 70’s Hollywood, a West Coast counterpart to Edie Sedgwick. Her famous lovers include the Pop Artist Ed Ruscha and his brother Paul, Jim Morrison, Steve Martin and Harrison Ford. Her novels detailing the LA milieu include Eve’s Hollywood, L.A Woman and Slow Days, Fast Company are undergoing a resurgence of interest and are the basis of a TV series currently in production by Tristar Television.

Artworks including in the photograph are The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass) and Chocolate Grinder.

45 thoughts on “The Chess Players

      1. Pay attention in the back there… dear oh dear…LHOOQ was a Dada provocation by Duchamp in 1919 which was the Mona Lisa with a pencilled moustache and the title LHOOQ (a pun on She has a hot ass)

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes he was very serious about chess and was close to Grand Master level… his decision to concentrate on chess at the expense of art seems a little perverse but that is how legends are made

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Some time ago I saw this picture with no captions, so I didn’t knew the context of Duchamp and Babitz, but remember I tweet the picture using the comment: “Never play strip chess against a Chess Grand Master!”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. For a very random reason when I look at this I can appreciate the surreal nature but what comes to mind first is – she looks like a milk maid, her pendulous rather large breasts, milky white, remind me why as a child I longed for the retrouse brown minature buds of a dancer, and to avoid that ‘womanhood’ that came with no positives. In a way you could apply this to the image, if she were say, a flat chested angry faced girl she may conquer, but her pose and posture say otherwise, as if she knows her fate is simply to be … milked.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Funny I was thinking of Beardsley the other day, really it is very surprising that I haven’t featured him, he is definitely material for Cake. Soon Feather, I promise.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s