“It’s Art If I Say So”

Marcel Duchamp’s Legacy in the Hirshhorn Collection

Six colorful circles with various designs in each

Optical Experiments

Duchamp frequently spoke with disdain about art that he termed “retinal,” by which he meant that which engaged the eye but not the intellect. Thus, when he began a series of optical experiments in 1918, he did so in an effort to create artworks that call upon the brain to enhance, rather than merely process, information received by the eye. These explorations of optical illusion intersected with his interest in mechanical design, leading to the creation of several motorized devices and a series of disks called Rotoreliefs, apparatuses that spun patterned discs and plates in concentric circles, creating dizzying and hypnotic optical effects that appealed primarily to the mind.