Sherrie Levine. After El Lissitzky. 1984

Sherrie Levine After El Lissitzky 1984

  • Not on view

In the early 1980s, Levine gained recognition for works that critiqued the concept of originality. She and other "appropriation" artists of her generation created works of art by copying and manipulating sources from mass culture, questioning the role of the artist as sole author. Some artists, such as Cindy Sherman and Richard Prince, borrowed imagery from film and television. Levine chose the more exalted realm of art history as her starting point, restricting her sources to work created by twentieth-century male artists, a decision that stemmed from a feminist goal to undermine the myth of the modernist master.

In this original drawing, Levine re-creates a 1920s abstraction by the Russian Suprematist artist El Lissitzky, faithfully imitating every line and detail. She turns the concept of originality on its head by copying directly from an artbook reproduction, bypassing the long tradition of art students copying from original artworks in museums—she refers to this practice by titling her drawing "after" El Lissitzky. Through this work and others, Levine questions the notion of art as a commodity to be bought and sold, asking whether, in a world of replicated images, any one person can really own or author a picture.

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2007, p. 40.
Gouache, ink, and pencil on paper
14 x 11" (35.6 x 27.9 cm)
The Judith Rothschild Foundation Contemporary Drawings Collection Gift
Object number
© 2021 Sherrie Levine
Drawings and Prints

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