Monday, July 15, 2019

Elaine Sturtevant, copycat with wit and verve

From the NYTimes:
Known professionally by her surname, Elaine Sturtevant (b. Lakewood, Ohio, 1924; d. 2014) began “repeating” the works of other artists in 1964, more than a decade before Richard Prince photographed his first Marlboro ad and Sherrie Levine appropriated the images of Edward Weston. Her targets tended to be famous male painters (largely because the work of women was less broadly recognized). Over the course of her career, she imitated canvases by Frank Stella, James Rosenquist and Roy Lichtenstein, among others. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given his own puckish understanding of authorship and originality, Andy Warhol approved of Sturtevant’s project and even lent her one of his “Flowers” screens. Other artists, including Claes Oldenburg, were unamused, and collectors largely shied away from purchasing the works. Gradually, however, the art world came around to understanding her conceptual reasons for copying canonical works: to skewer the grand modernist myths of creativity and the artist as lone genius. By focusing on Pop Art, itself a comment on mass production and the suspect nature of authenticity, Sturtevant was taking the genre to its full logical extension. Playful and subversive, somewhere between parody and homage, her efforts also echo the centuries-old tradition of young artists copying old masters.

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