Some time back, I talked here on A&P about image appropriation and artists re-interpreting works of others to produce newer work. This week, I found myself in Gramercy looking over works of Sherrie Levine at Nyehaus. She has made a career that involves pure appropriation and raises questions on the nature and context around her appropriated perspective of original artworks. In her works, she transmogrifies an original, sometimes iconic piece of art into a somewhat exact replica subverting some form or theme in it to produce her own works. In a world of copyright protection, Sherrie’s works seems to be an in-your-face holler which screams that a piece of art once made may be the sole property of the artist and but it is available for further manipulation, exploration and expansion as soon as it is in the public realm. Although I will not quote the exact prices for the works at the gallery, I found most of the works that were priced in six figure ranges to be sold.
Sherrie Levine, ‘Fountain (After Marcel Duchamp)’, 1991, Bronze, 14″ X 24″ X 14″
Oftentimes, I use ‘found’ images on the web. Even if I hate the use of the word ‘found’, I guess it seems appropriate for this discussion. I download them to my hard drive and let it sit and simmer for a period of time. I then permit my mind to lose/forget some of the image identifiers like who the image refers to, what was being conveyed in the image or where the image was taken etc. Three or six months later, I look at these images, re-interpret a select few in a social context that I find appropriate and paint from the image. In most paintings the contextual underpinning behind the painted face and original image do not have any parallels save the fact that the features match each other (to a certain degree). I continue to do so because the plethora of ‘found’ faces that I find online and off (magazines, books, sometimes my photographs etc.) gives me a vast sea of moods, expressions, emotions and countenances that I can then subvert to develop new perspectives (which may not have been intent of the original). Recently, I found a comment on my blog on this practice that asked me a question: “Is that right? Is this allowed?” Even if I can glibly point people who ask me questions like this to the works of Sherrie Levine, Joy Garnett and Richard Prince, the real truth is that I am still searching for the answer. Comments?
Of course, here I am reminded of a one liner I stumbled upon online:
“Some people do, others Duchamp”.