Sturtevant: Leaps, Jumps and Bumps

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Installation view 'Leaps, Jumps and Bumps'

© 2013 Jerry Hardman-Jones, courtesy Serpentine Gallery

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Installation view 'Leaps, Jumps and Bumps'

© 2013 Jerry Hardman-Jones, courtesy Serpentine Gallery

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Installation view 'Leaps, Jumps and Bumps'

© 2013 Jerry Hardman-Jones, courtesy Serpentine Gallery

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'Warhol Diptych', 2004

Photo © Asa Lundén, courtesy of Moderna Museet, Stockholm

Sturtevant first repeated the work of Warhol only a few months after his first exhibition of flower screenprints in New York in 1964. Warhol would famously say when asked about the meaning of his work, ‘I don’t know, ask Elaine Sturtevant.’

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'Duchamp Fresh Widow', 2012

Photo: © 2013 Jerry Hardman-Jones, courtesy Serpentine Gallery

There’s something wonderfully ironic about Marcel Duchamp being aped by Sturtevant. The original, made in 1920 by the master of the readymade to replicate a traditional French window, becomes pointedly unoriginal in the hands of the doyenne of duplication.

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'González-Torres, Untitled (America)' 2004

Image © 2013 Jerry Hardman-Jones, courtesy Serpentine Gallery

Back in 2000, Félix González-Torres’s light work was shown in his solo exhibition at the Serpentine. Repeated in a different formation, Sturtevant’s version plays on the Cuban artist’s idea of using everyday materials in simple configurations that anyone could copy – and expands on his themes of ownership and consumption.

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'Foucault Fold', 2006

Photograph: Loren Muzzey; © 2013 Sturtevant; courtesy Serpentine Gallery

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We live in an age of image proliferation. Visual media constantly bombards us across multiple platforms, from print and television to computers and mobile phones. Even before the internet paved the way for sharing – and repeating – information, American artist Sturtevant (professionally, she drops the Elaine) was mimicking the work of her contemporaries, with machine-like precision.

Entering this 83 year-old’s first UK retrospective feels as if you’re in the main processing hub of the world wide web. The gallery pulsates with clubbing beats and images whirr past you. At the beginning of her career in the mid-1960s, Sturtevant showed gumption as she cheekily copied the work of Pop Art greats like Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns and Roy Lichtenstein. Later she turned her attention to the more conceptually minded likes of Marcel Duchamp, Joseph Beuys and Félix González-Torres. The fact she repeats the works of male artists is, she claims, coincidental and not deliberate.

What is deliberate is her choice of artists who lifted their imagery from pre-existing sources. Sturtevant doesn’t regard her pieces as copies or homages but artworks in their own right. During her formative years as an artist, theorists were questioning authorship and although the philosophical and conceptual concerns of eminent thinkers like Gilles Deleuze frame her practice, they don’t stifle the work or alienate the viewer.

This is a welcome introduction to an artist who in her ninth decade is still at the top of her game. Maybe as a generation of You Tube uploaders, we’re more engaged with the concept of appropriation, so her video works collaging TV footage in a slideshow manner are more relevant than ever.

The repeated image of an owl plastered all over the first gallery comes from a royalty-free website and emulates the type of reuse that’s rife on the internet. Sturtevant even refashions parts of her own previous work. Parts of the film ‘Elastic Tango’ reappear in two ‘Rock & Rap’ video projections, creating a rhythmic loop.

So, from the multiple blow-up male sex dolls peering out at unsuspecting walkers in Hyde Park to the reimagining of the exhibition catalogue as a flip book, this show invites you experience works that continually refresh the idea of repetition. For a generation of retweeters, Sturtevant is the ultimate re-posting pioneer.

Freire Barnes

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Eman

To be honest, I found this exhibition rather shallow, uninspiring and uninspired. The outdoor structure besides the gallery is outstanding, btw I strongly recommend the Blumenfeld one (at Somerseth House) you mention in your site, anyway. Thanks for that hint, it turned out to be impressive, allow yourself a good hour to appreciate it.