These woodcuts are derived from canonical paintings by four early modernists: Marcel Duchamp, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Piet Mondrian, and Claude Monet. To make the prints, the artist photographed a reproduction of each work, scanned the photos, and reduced each digital file to twelve pixels using a computer program. These simplified images were used as the source material for the woodcuts, eliminating any detail, brushwork, or distinguishing formal traits among the masterworks, transforming them into abstract variations. Since her emergence in the early 1980s, Levine has been deeply invested in questions of artistic originality, pioneering appropriation art by making copies of works by well-known twentieth-century male artists and claiming them as her own work. Her groundbreaking approach has been enormously influential, as many artists in today’s Internet-saturated culture have inherited this fluid relationship with images and her skepticism toward the concept of uniqueness.
Gallery label from Abstract Generation: Now in Print, March 15–September 2, 2013.