terra foundation for american art postdoctoral fellow

America America: Sturtevant’s Repetitions, Pop, and the Rise of American Postwar Art

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

17.30, Kenneth Clark Lecture Theatre

Robert Rauschenberg and Elaine Sturtevant pose as Adam and Eve
Sturtevant, Duchamp Relache, 1967. Black and white photograph. Copyright the artist, courtesy Anthony Reynolds Gallery, London

Speaker(s): Dr Elisa Schaar (Terra Foundation for American Art Postdoctoral Fellow)

Ticket/entry details: Open to all, free admission

Organised by: Professor Caroline Arscott

Sturtevant’s recent award of a Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement marks the pinnacle of her belated critical recognition. This comes almost fifty years after Robert Rauschenberg won the Grand Prize at the Venice Biennale (the first American to do so) and ironically posed with Sturtevant as Adam and Eve, primal figures of a new American art scene several times removed from European painting. By now Sturtevant is commonly acknowledged as a forerunner of appropriationists such as Sherrie Levine for having made one-to-one repetitions of works by artist peers, including Jasper Johns’ Flags, Claes Oldenburg’s Store, Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain, Joseph Beuys’ Fat Chair, and Andy Warhol’s Marilyns, notably, with Warhol’s own silkscreens, in New York starting in the early 1960s. She has consistently asserted that ‘the brutal truth of the work is that it is not copy’ and that ‘gender has nothing to do with the work’. By her own account, it was mounting hostility and misunderstandings that led her to withdraw from the art world in the early 1970s – until the appropriationists caught up with her a decade later and she returned to the scene with a Deleuzian explanatory framework for her practice and a new set of repetitions spanning from Kiefer Jason to Gober Wedding Gown and Gonzalez-Torres America. The Paris-based artist has now turned to making video, installation and performance work on themes of sex and death in the digital age, alongside further repetitions such as Duchamp Fresh Widow. Of late she is a regular presence on the London art scene too.

In this lecture, Elisa Schaar looks beyond Sturtevant’s most well-known repetitions, the artist’s own statements and the intriguing issues of authorship and originality that have dominated the discussion. She reconsiders the work’s historical context and artistic connections in American postwar art, giving consideration to the particular nature of that post-1945 art scene as male-dominated, consumer-oriented and increasingly internationalized.

A major exhibition of Sturtevant’s work, Image over Image, is currently on view at the Moderna Museet, Stockholm (17 March to 26 August 2012).

Elisa Schaar is Terra Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow in American Art at The Courtauld Institute of Art. She is currently writing a book on forerunners of appropriation art circa 1964-1974, and co-organizing a two-day international symposium on American Art and the Mass Media that will take place at the Institut national d’histoire de l’art (INHA) in Paris on 2 and 3 May 2012. Her article ‘Spinoza in Vegas, Sturtevant Everywhere: A Case of Critical (Re-) Discoveries and Artistic Self-Reinventions’ appeared in Art History, December 2010. 

For further information about the Terra Foundation for American Art and this initiative see www.terraamericanart.org

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