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Nominees For The 2013 Prix Marcel Duchamp

The nominees for the 2013 Prix Marcel Duchamp were announced last February, and, perhaps more than ever, this year's nominees carry on the legacy of the elusive trickster after whom the prize was named. Ranging from  virtuosic oil paintings to neo-conceptual gambits, these artists' works vary widely but all share a bit of Duchamp's talent for making seeming certainties seem less certain.

Founded in 2000, the Prix Marcel Duchamp, open to artists based in France, has established a history of recognizing challenging, often politically engaged, work. The first winner was Thomas Hirschhorn, whose sprawling installations of duct tape, dummies, cardboard and violent and pornographic imagery are like dioramas of a dysfunctional world. Since then the prize has been awarded to artists like Dominique Gonzaelez-Forrester, Laurent Grasso and Saâdane Afif. The winner receives €35,000, and is given a €30,000 budget to produce an exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. 

Below, we take a brief look at each of this year's nominees:

Farah Atassi's work finds a counterintuitive intersection between abstraction and photorealism. Her works are filled with precise, mimetic detail, and yet, in their flat colors and geometric organization they recall Piet Mondrian and Kazimir Malevich. She often paints empty, desolate interiors whose blank walls and strange colors seem to arise more from the interior logic of the image than any reference to world beyond the frame. A both abstract and representational, the paintings raise interesting questions about the definitions of both terms and whether the two forms of image making really need to exist in opposition.Farah Atassi is currently in residence at the ISCP in New York through June 2013. Farah Atassi: Galerie Xippas (Paris)

Latifa Ekchakch, a participant in Ceci n'est Pas, uses materials like carbon paper, broken tea glasses and india ink to create works that look like a delicate kind of Minimalism while referencing issues of immigration and postcolonialism. In À chaque stencil une revolution (For each stencil a revolution) (2007), for example, Ekchakch covered the walls of a room with carbon copy paper that was then stripped of its bluish carbon layers with alcohol, creating a wash of rippling blue stains. Visually striking, the work was also a melancholic nod to the technology used to create pamphlets and flyers in bygone political movements like the American civil rights struggle. The title itself is a quotation from Yasser Arafat discussing protest movements. In this work a formal gesture functions simultaneously as political allegory.

Latifa Ekchakch : Galerie Kamel Mennour (Paris)

Like many of his contemporaries, Raphael Zarka's works are mazes of reference, miniature archival constructions that string together things like Archimedes tomb, the Tudor Chimney from the English Layer Marney Tower and Luca Paciolis Da Divina Proportione. The physical form of the works themselves vary wildly, but, as Cecilia Canziani has noted, there is an abiding relation to the monument in all its forms, from a tomb to a photograph, a modernist building to an unbuilt proposal. Zarka's works are markers for a chain of associations that extend into the deep past, themselves monuments of thin lines of artistic and intellectual genealogies.

Raphael Zarka: Galerie Michel Rein (Paris) | Galerie Bischoff-Weiss (Londres)

Perhaps the most challenging "artist," perhaps also the most Duchampian, to be nominated for this year's prize is Claire Fontaine. Fontaine, however, is not a real person but rather a "readymade artist" created by a Paris-based artist collective, a little reminiscent of Duchamp's own fictional female persona, Rrose Selavy. Fontaine's works often appear as pastiches of well-known contemporary artists, but reconfigured into something that doesn't safely work as an anodyne museum piece, a Bruce Nauman-like neon sign that reads "STRIKE", a mock Carl Andre sculpture with each brick wrapped in a Folio book cover, or a collection of found lockpicking tools. Fontaine's works are political, certainly, but they refuse to be programmatic, instead, as Anthony Huberman writes, acting as "a hole in the landscape through which a revolution might creep, arriving from elsewhere."

Claire Fontaine was in resindence at the ISPC in New York in 2011.Claire Fontaine: Galerie Metro Pictures (NY)