|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|Sherrie Levine is an American photographer and conceptual artist born April 17, 1947 in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. The artist lives and works in New York. She studied at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, receiving her BA in 1969 and MFA in 1973. |
Biographical information is limited because of the artist's refusal to take part in what she terms the "myth-making" associated with art production. Levine first gained critical attention in the early 1980s through her association with Cindy Sherman, Robert Longo, David Salle and others known as "appropriationists" for drawing upon existing imagery from "high" and "low" culture.
Her works have been interpreted as comments upon the death of Modernism and its ideals, notions of artistic originality, the authenticity and autonomy of the art object and its status as a commodity. "Untitled," after Walker Evans, 1981, is an 8 x 10 photograph in which Levine re-photographed a reproduction of a photograph by Evans. It is said such works articulate a fascination with the photographic processes and their reproduction, while raising post-structuralist discourses on authorship, originality and history, from which they partly derive. Theoretical rigor is complemented by a delicate, timid, if not remote, handling of materials, adding a sensuous dimension to an otherwise academic pursuit.
Since the early 1980s, Levine has made a career out of re-using or appropriating -- famous works of art, often by making new versions of them and placing them in different contexts. Throughout her career, Levine has created art based on works by prominent male artists from the early 20th century in order to underscore the relative absence of women in the art world at that time. In addition to Marcel Duchamp and Walker Evans photographs, her sources include Constantin Brancusi's sculpture.
What's so special about a copy of a famous work of art? If Levine's "Fountain," 1991, is compared with a photograph of Duchamp's infamous ready-made sculpture of a urinal, it is not an exact copy. Duchamp's piece was an actual urinal, turned upside down and unaltered except for his signature. In his Dadaist desire to destroy art create anti-art -- Duchamp believed he could transform such mass-produced, everyday objects into artworks merely by proclaiming them sothereby degrading genuine art.
While Levine is engaged in a precisely similar process, "Fountain," in contrast with Duchamp's found object urinal, is a contemporary urinal cast in metal bronze -- the traditional material for casting sculpture. Polished to a brilliant shine, this work is no longer a common, store-bought object but something quite unique.
Levine's "Fountain" is placed at the entrance to the permanent collection exhibition galleries at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, in an obvious statement of the changes in, and decline of, art over the past century. Moreover, this sculpture shows that today's artistic avant-garde, exhibiting a loss of inspiration, continue to copy the works of the past.
Since the early 1980s, Sherry Levine has made a career out of re-using--or appropriating--famous works of art, often by making new versions of them and placing them in different contexts. Throughout her career, Levine has created art based on works by prominent male artists from the early 20th century in order to underscore the relative absence of women in the art world at that time. In addition to Duchamp, her sources include Walker Evans' photographs and Constantin Brancusi's sculptures.
Walker Art Museum
Sherrie Levine was born in 1947 in Hazelton, Pennsylvania. The family moved to Beaumont, Texas when she was three and then soon moved again to a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri. She enrolled at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where she became involved in anti-Vietnam groups and where she was more excited about the classes she took in literature and social theory than in the life drawing and design classes. She graduated in 1969 and stayed in Madison and enrolled in graduate school to study photo-printmaking. After a period in Berkeley, she went to New York where she became friendly with David Salle, etc. She worked in many media, from photographs, watercolors, paintings.
She became interested in paring down imagery, getting representation to its bones, the way the Minimalists had pared down form. She worked with silhouetted heads as a vehicle; in fluorescent tempera, two to a sheet and always widely spaced and facing each other. They were familiar heads from coins, or ads in tabloid newspapers. Since 1980, she had produced nothing but exacting copies, what have come to be known as appropriations - of famous examples of modern art and photography, always named "After...(whoever)" and never plagiarized. She began in 1983 to make watercolors, after having worked so long and so hard to remove her own hand from her work. Following that, several other series were shown, each giving witness to her growth and change.
Written and submitted by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.
Art in the (Re) Making by Gerald Marzorati in Art News, May 1986
Kristine McKenna in Sunday Calendar section, LA Times, Sunday, November 17, 1996.
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