Crimp says that appropriating artistic styles to make a voice is artistic, “… Mapplethorpe constructs from his historical sources a synthetic ‘personal’ vision.” (Crimp. 1982: 192) but that Levine uses pure appropriation and is non-artistic, “Her appropriations have only functional value for the particular historical discourses into which they are inserted” (Crimp. 1982: 191)
The Met Museum (Sherrie Levine. s.d.) says that in 1981 Levine photographed reproductions of Depression-era photographs by Walker Evans.
Fig. 1 After Walker Evans: 4 (1981)
The Met article (Sherrie Levine s.d.) further states that the photograph became a critical moment in defining postmodernism and that by presenting her photograph (in a gallery) she raised questions of both originality and ownership.
Here, we might ask whether the subject or the artist determines creativity? Is the creativity in the landscape or in how Constable painted it? Levine’s subject was a photograph, but she photographed it.
It may be deemed prosaic by the appropriators, but I don’t think anybody should profit financially from appropriating work without significantly changing it. Art costs time and money to produce and is the foundation of artists’ livelihoods and I don’t think that artistic license overrides legal copyright.
In contrast, I think using full, part or multiple appropriation as part of one’s work is artistically valid because the meanings carried by the appropriated work become your raw materials. Conceptual artists ‘paint with ideas’ and their creativity is in how they portray and question complex verbal concepts with a ‘simple’ powerful image. An image that in the case of Duchamp and Levine changed the direction and understanding of art.
However, I am not a conceptual artist and my work holds up my subjectivity to the world, so I use non-appropriated subjects and do not have a connection with Levine’s working methods.
List of illustrations:
Fig. 1 After Walker Evans: 4 (1981) [Web page, screenshot] At: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/267214 (Accessed 19/11/2020).
Crimp, D. (1982) Appropriating Appropriation At: OpenAthens (s.d.) At: https://contentstore.cla.co.uk/EReader/Index?p=RDpcU2l0ZXNccHJvZHVjdGlvblxUZW1wXERDUy1hZGFhNzgxMi1jMTQzLTRlM2UtOGMwNy04ODExZmI1NDFjYTcucGRm&o=JnB1Ymxpc2hlZENvbnRlbnRfSWQ9MTI5NDk0NSZjb250ZW50UmVxdWVzdF9JZD0xNDAwNzI3JmRvY3VtZW50TGluaz1mYTJjZmQ2NC01N2U4LWVhMTEtODBjZC0wMDUwNTZhZjQwOTkmY29udGVudEl0ZW1fSWQ9MzExMTE5&id=fa2cfd64-57e8-ea11-80cd-005056af4099 (Accessed 19/11/2020).
Sherrie Levine (s.d.) At: http://www.artnet.com/artists/sherrie-levine/ (Accessed 19/11/2020).
Sherrie Levine (s.d.) At: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/267214 (Accessed 19/11/2020).
Tate (s.d.) Sherrie Levine born 1947. At: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/sherrie-levine-2753 (Accessed 19/11/2020).