Art One Oh One - Postmodernism


We are at the end of class, my friends. Today is the last time we will see the delightful Erin of Art Social and her fab series Art One Oh One. It's been a good semester, right? I'd take a class from her again. And for our last time with Erin, it's postmodernism - does anything REALLY mean anything? Or does it just depend?

"I am constantly playing the game of changing this or that, visually or verbally." - John Baldessari


I'm not gonna take you too far down the Postmodern rabbit hole. I'm only going to discuss one characteristic of Postmodernism, the most fun characteristic in my opinion: appropriation. Appropriation involves artists *ahem*borrowing imagery from past artwork and using it in their own work (and often changing its original intent or meaning).

John Baldessari (above) and Sherrie Levine are two of my favorite Postmodern artists. They both generate images through the reproduction of other images. Appropriation at its finest.

after cezanne.jpg

Sherrie Levine’s 1981 exhibition After Walker Evans (below) consisted of a series of famous Walker Evans photographs, which she photographed directly from an exhibition catalog. Although Evans’ photographs had been handled as icons of art photography, they were no longer subject to copyright laws... so Levine could legally copy his artwork. Ironically, while the photographs by Walker Evans can now be copied and reproduced, copyright laws protect the “rephotographs” by Levine.

after walker evans.jpg

You can interpret Levine’s gesture of reproduction in a variety of ways. It clearly represents appropriation and raises questions about authorship and originality. She also seems to be mocking the art world’s love of documentary photographs. Even though Levine’s photographs are not original, an art gallery still exhibited them. This raises the question of cultural value versus economic value in our society as well as the always entertaining what is art? debate.

Levine's website takes the Postmodern questions of value and originality even further. You can download Levine’s “rephotographs” and print them out along with a certificate of authenticity for each image, which you then sign yourself. There are also directions on how to frame the image so that it will fulfill the requirements of the certificate. The website aims to make these images accessible to everyone and to create a physical object with cultural value, but little or no economic value.

So very Postmodern, huh? Do you think it's silly? That's legit. Does all this copying kinda make you mad? That's legit, too.

Okay, class dismissed! You've been the best students EVER.

Images: John Baldessari, Heel; Sherrie Levine, After Cezanne: 1-18 (4 details); Sherrie Levine, After Walker Evans.

I think we need to give Erin a huge hand of applause! Great series. And how about a little student feedback, okay? Because there are always student evaluations at the end of class. Thumbs up? What did you think of Art One Oh One? Fave parts? Interested in other art classes here?