Wheels are not modern or boring—
In 1913 Marcel Duchamp
kept a bicycle one turning
Along with his “big ugly nudes.”
Now we know they are beautiful
and the wheel has become passé,
far too round and sentimental:
The modern embraces straight lines.
If a pink unicorn, large mane
like a Krylonned blizzard, were to
Coagulate with a satyr, is
that contemporary? Because
Unicorns are not modern, or
post-modern, or post post-modern.

Inspired by: Sarah Al-Fulaij’s Planned Views, 2014, which features aerial views of 45 of the world’s most-visited museums.

Symbol: #39 of 45

Poetic Form: The symbol I chose represents the Institut Valencia d’Art Modern, so of course I had to write in a Spanish form. From the 16th Century, the letrilla is a short form often humorous and satirical, with any number of 6- or 8-syllable lines. The letrilla is a rhyming form, with a refrain that begins and ends the piece. I intended my letrilla to rhyme, but it quickly took on a life of its own. I did count syllables, though!

Process: It struck me how mod the shape of the symbol itself is, all squares and boxes and edges, like a Mondrian, and so I began to explore what is meant by “Modern” art. The term encompasses a period of more than a century, from the 1860s to the 1970s. So while the word “modern” is equated with the present, Modern art is not modern. I then did some research on Marcel Duchamp, whose work is featured in the Institut, and thought about his famous Bicycle Wheel, which he originally mounted upside-down on a stool in his studio in 1913. The wheel was invented in 3500 B.C., so it’s not exactly modern, either! And I had just seen a show featuring the work of Mike Kelley, whose work is contemporary yet full of echoes of the past—both the recent past and the further-away past—so I brought him into the poem, too! It was fun to play around with ideas about art and words.


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