Sherrie Levine: After Walker Evans

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Sherrie Levine (American, born 1947)
After Walker Evans: 4, 1981
Gelatin silver print, 12.8 x 9.8 cm (5 1/16 x 3 7/8 in.)

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, a group of artists including Cindy Sherman, Richard Prince, and Sherrie Levine—at the time dubbed the “Pictures” generation—began using photography to examine the strategies and codes of representation. In reshooting Marlboro advertisements, B-movie stills, and even classics of Modernist photography, these artists adopted dual roles as director and spectator. In their manipulated appropriations, these artists were not only exposing and dissembling mass-media fictions, but enacting more complicated scenarios of desire, identification, and loss.

In 1981, Levine photographed reproductions of Depression-era photographs by Walker Evans, such as this famous portrait of Allie Mae Burroughs, the wife of an Alabama sharecropper. The series, entitled After Walker Evans, became a landmark of postmodernism, both praised and attacked as a feminist hijacking of patriarchal authority, a critique of the commodification of art, and an elegy on the death of modernism. Far from a high-concept cheap shot, Levine’s works from this series tell the story of our perpetually dashed hopes to create meaning, the inability to recapture the past, and our own lost illusions.

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Sherrie Levine (American, born 1947)
After Walker Evans: 1, 1981
Gelatin silver print, 8.6 x 12.9 cm. (3 3/8 x 5 1/16 in.)

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Sherrie Levine (American, born 1947)
After Walker Evans: 10, 1981
Gelatin silver print, 9.6 x 12.7 cm. (3 3/4 x 5 in.)

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Sherrie Levine (American, born 1947)
After Walker Evans: 11, 1981
Gelatin silver print, 12.9 x 10.2 cm. (5 1/16 x 4 in.)

http://www.metmuseum.org

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In 1936 Walker Evans photographed the Burroughs, a family of sharecroppers in Depression era Alabama. In 1979 in Sherrie Levine rephotographed Walker Evans’ photographs from the exhibition catalog “First and Last.” In 2001 Michael Mandiberg scanned these same photographs, and created AfterWalkerEvans.com and AfterSherrieLevine.com to facilitate their dissemination as a comment on how we come to know information in this burgeoning digital age.

Here on AfterSherrieLevine.com you will find a browsable selection of these images. Links to the high-resolution exhibition-quality images to download and print out. Along with a certificate of authenticity for each image, which you print out and sign yourself, as well as directions on how to frame the image so that it will fulfill the requirements of the certificate.

By building the image’s URL into the title – the image to the left is “Untitled (AfterSherrieLevine.com/2.jpg)” – the images are locatable and downloadable by anyone who sees or reads about the image. By distributing the images online with certificates of authenticity, the images are accessible by anyone. Unlike the work of the late Felix Gonzalez-Torres ‹ known for his spills of candy and stacks of paper from which the viewer can take a piece of, though the sculpture stays complete because the owner possesses the certificate of authenticity, the right to reproduce ‹ the certificates here are used to insure that each satellite image be considered with equal authenticity, not the opposite. This is an explicit strategy to create a physical object with cultural value, but little or no economic value.

www.aftersherrielevine.com

Barbara Kruger

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Barbara Kruger
Untitled (Your body is a battleground), 1989
photographic silkscreen on vinyl
112 x 112 in. (284.48 x 284.48 cm), The Broad

Barbara Kruger addresses media and politics in their native tongue: tabloid, sensational, authoritative, and direct. Kruger’s words and images merge the commercial and art worlds; their critical resonance eviscerates cultural hierarchies — everyone and everything is for sale. The year 1989 was marked by numerous demonstrations protesting a new wave of antiabortion laws chipping away at the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. Untitled (Your body is a battleground) was produced by Kruger for the Women’s March on Washington in support of reproductive freedom. The woman’s face, disembodied, split in positive and negative exposures, and obscured by text, marks a stark divide. This image is simultaneously art and protest. Though its origin is tied to a specific moment, the power of the work lies in the timelessness of its declaration.

About Barbara Kruger
The large, bold artworks of Barbara Kruger assimilate words and images from the deluge of contemporary mass media. Employing media effects and strategies, Kruger creates her own sexual, social, and political messages, challenging the stereotypical ways mass media influences society’s notions about gender roles, social relationships, and political issues.

Untitled (Your body is a battleground), 1989, exemplifies Kruger’s interest in addressing and interpreting heated political issues of the moment. Using a silkscreened frontal photograph of a model’s face, the artist gives the image additional meaning by dividing the large canvas it occupies into sections; from left to right, the bisected image reverses from positive to negative, and from top to bottom, the face is divided by the emblazoned slogan “Your body is a battleground.” Kruger critiques the objectified standard of symmetry that is applied to feminine beauty and perpetuated by media and advertising. The composition originally included more text and was designed as a poster for the massive pro-choice rally that took place on April 9, 1989, in Washington, D.C.

Untitled (If you’re so successful, why do you feel like a fake?), 1987, is a direct interrogation of the motivations of contemporary society—career building, money, and the appearance of success and good living. Kruger’s assertive display demands an answer from viewers. Unlike in advertising, which may ask a question to compel a purchase, Kruger’s work uses the same techniques to compel ethical change and reflection.

http://www.thebroad.org

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Genpei Akasegawa’s 1000 Yen Note Incident

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One of the most famous chapters of post-war Japanese art is Genpei Akasegawa’s 1000-yen Note Incident.

In 1963, the young han-geijutsu (‘Anti-Art’) artist had printed several hundred single-sided monochrome 1000-yen note semblances, mailing them in the post office’s cash envelopes as invitations to his exhibition of collage works in Tokyo. In the following months he made several thousand reproductions of the image, burning some of them in a performance and using others to wrap objects, like the bag pictured below. Nobody took much notice outside his own circle of artist friends.

The following year, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police launched a criminal investigation on Akasegawa, referring to an old, vaguely termed law prohibiting manufacture of objects with an exterior that “may be confused with currency.” This led to a highly publicised and drawn-out trial at Tokyo District Court which raised more provocative questions and reached more people than Akasegawa’s art works could ever have managed to do without the state intervention.

The case (which has been recounted in recent years by Reiko Tomii and William Marotti) necessitated a close consideration of the boundaries of legality and of art. Backed by a group of like-minded artists and critics, Akasegawa stressed the blatant unusability of his notes, arguing that they weren’t counterfeit because they weren’t pretending to be real or true – they only referred to real and true money (albeit aiming thereby to disrupt its imagined reality and truth). The uselessness of the notes gave them their status as art objects, but the court’s response was that what he did may well have been ‘art’, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t criminal. After two appeals, the supreme court upheld the lower court’s indictment in 1970, activating the artist’s sentence of three months incarceration and one year probation.

An ironic side effect of the incident was that it cemented the otherwise barely noticed work in the public consciousness, and in art history. The event is remembered as a forensic interrogation of the nature of representation, replication, imitation and simulation – which, it turns out, are all quite different things. Akasegawa named his notes ‘models’ – they weren’t intended as currency but as images of currency, money abstracted from monetary value.

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The aforementioned Ming Dynasty bank notes were printed with warnings that forgery was punishable by death. This serves today as a reminder that due to the huge gulf between the low material value of a piece of paper and the high promised value of the state-issued symbol, the risk of counterfeit has been a concomitant part of every paper currency. One of Akasegawa’s responses to the trial was to create the Greater Japan Zero-yen Note (1967) (above), which was ‘money’ that made explicitly clear the fact that it had no monetary value. People were invited to exchange three hundred real yen with him for an ‘original’ zero-yen note, his ambitious idea being that once he swapped it all, there would be no ‘real’ money issued by the state left in circulation.

A member of the avant-garde art collectives Neo Dada (initially Neo Dadaism Organisers) and Hi Red Centre, Akasegawa was associated with the radical han-geijutsu or ‘Anti-Art’ movement of the 1950s and 60s. In later years he would develop a theory of cho-geijutsu or ‘Hyper-Art’, which was less overtly political but would continue to seek intersections of the spaces of art and daily life, and interrogate notions of individual authorship and originality.

He also went on to be a prolific author under the pen name Katsuhiko Otsuji, and wrote the screenplay for the 1989 film Rikyū (by Hiroshi Teshigahara of Woman in the Dunes fame), which chronicles the life of the sixteenth century master of the Japanese tea ceremony. At one point in the film, Sen no Rikyū looks upon a statue made in his image and says, “I now see that I am little more than an effigy myself.” Here, the copy doe not reinforce the originality of the original – in Baudrillard’s terms, the copy suffices to “render both artificial.” This harks back to the institutionalised fear that abounds around semblances of money; mechanical reproductions of mechanical reproductions, they threaten to destabilise the consensual authority of money, and the precarious apparatus of faith required for homogenised symbolic value to function.

http://keithwhittle.org

John Baldessari

John Baldessari exhibit "Pure Beauty" press preview. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California, USA. June 23, 2010. Photo: ©2010 Isaac Hernandez/IsaacHernandez.com

John Baldessari exhibit “Pure Beauty” press preview. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California, USA. June 23, 2010. Photo: ©2010 Isaac Hernandez/IsaacHernandez.com

Artist John Baldessari, 82, poses for a portrait at Marian Goodman Gallery where he is exhibiting "Installation Works, 1987-1989" in New York City on June 26th, 2013. Baldessari will also have his first show in Moscow at The Garage CCC in September. CREDIT: Bryan Derballa for Financial Times

Artist John Baldessari, 82, poses for a portrait at Marian Goodman Gallery where he is exhibiting “Installation Works, 1987-1989” in New York City on June 26th, 2013. Baldessari will also have his first show in Moscow at The Garage CCC in September. CREDIT: Bryan Derballa for Financial Times

APPROPRIATION & CULTURE JAMMING

Appropriation in art is the use of pre-existing objects or images with little or no transformation applied to them. The use of appropriation has played a significant role in the history of the arts (literary, visual, musical and performing arts). In the visual arts, to appropriate means to properly adopt, borrow, recycle or sample aspects (or the entire form) of human-made visual culture. Notable in this respect are the Readymades of Marcel Duchamp.

Inherent in our understanding of appropriation is the concept that the new work recontextualizes whatever it borrows to create the new work. In most cases the original ‘thing’ remains accessible as the original, without change. Wikipedia

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Culture jamming (sometimes guerrilla communication) is a tactic used by many anti-consumerist social movements to disrupt or subvert media culture and its mainstream cultural institutions, including corporate advertising. It attempts to “expose the methods of domination” of a mass society to foster progressive change.

Culture jamming is a form of subvertising. Many culture jams are intended to expose questionable political assumptions behind commercial culture. Tactics include re-figuring logos, fashion statements, and product images as a means to challenge the idea of “what’s cool.” Culture jamming often entails using mass media to produce ironic or satirical commentary about itself, commonly using the original medium’s communication method.

Culture jamming is employed as a reaction against social conformity. Prominent examples of culture jamming include the adulteration of billboard advertising by the Billboard Liberation Front (BLF), and contemporary artists such as Ron English. Culture jamming may involve street parties and protests. While culture jamming usually focuses on subverting or critiquing political and advertising messages, some proponents focus on a more positive (often musically inspired) form which brings together artists, scholars, and activists to create new types of cultural production that transcend—rather than merely criticize—the status quo. Wikipedia

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The Yes Men

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The Yes Men

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The Yes Men

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The Guerrilla Girls

[no title] 1985-90 Guerrilla Girls null Purchased 2003 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/P78815

[no title] 1985-90 Guerrilla Girls null Purchased 2003 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/P78815


The Guerrilla Girls

Do Women Have To Be Naked To Get Into the Met. Museum? 1989 Guerrilla Girls null Purchased 2003 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/P78793

Do Women Have To Be Naked To Get Into the Met. Museum? 1989 Guerrilla Girls null Purchased 2003 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/P78793


The Guerrilla Girls

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Banksy – Guantanamo

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Banksy – No Loitering

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Banksy in Palestine – Cut Out

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Shepard Fairey

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Shepard Fairey

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Shepard Fairey