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Domestic Image (Kleenex)

James Cagle


archival digital pigment print

12" x 18"

In 1917 Marcel Duchamp forever changed the art world when he presented Fountain, an upside-down urinal, signed and dated “R. Mutt, 1917,” to be exhibited in the Society of Independent Artists’ salon. By placing an existing urinal in a context completely divorced from its intended function, Duchamp challenged viewers to see the object as something else entirely. Stated succinctly by writer Louis Norton in an editorial published that same year, “He [Duchamp] took an ordinary article of life, placed it so that its useful significance disappeared under the new title and point of view—created a new thought for the object.” In doing so, he upended conventional notions about what constituted a work of art—a conceptional move that forces us to ask, “What is art?”

In the realm of fine art photography, this question can sometimes translate into, “what object or subject is worthy of photographing?” With his Domestic Image series, Cagle tacitly implied that anything, even something as seemingly banal as a box of Kleenex, can be transformed into a composition that inspires aesthetic contemplation. His attention to the quality of light and sharpness of color, in addition to how he isolated and framed an object, have the combined effect of decontextualizing known content. This allows viewers to experience something familiar in a new way.


Gift of the artist