29th May – 31 July 2009
“I consider myself a still-life artist, with the bookplate as my subject. I want to make pictures that maintain their reference to the bookplates. And I want my pictures to have a material presence that is as interesting as, but quite different from, the originals.” Sherrie Levine.
For her exhibition at Simon Lee Gallery, Levine presents new works that continue to re-contextualize the found object, using repetition, seriality and literalization to challenge ideas of originality, authorship and the autonomy of the art object. In framing postcards of fragments of forests in Aspen, and a very specific selection of poems from Baudelaire’s formative modernist volume Les Fleurs du Mal, and juxtaposing these with gilded bronze sculptures of Indian household deities, a double-headed creature, a cradle and a rocking horse, she creates still lives, introducing a moment, a gap in which the essence of these objects and words can be apprehended. The degree in which Levine alters their status from their original source varies from subject to subject but is ultimately irrelevant. Their presence here acts as the medium for the idea. Their re-presentation allows Levine’s aesthetic sensibility to extend into a realm of formal beauty in which the poetic dimension of her act of appropriation is revealed.
Her selection of poems from Les Fleurs du Mal is telling: Baudelaire’s Romantic view of the horror and awe provoked by the natural world - forests and oceans - marks a conceptual link to our contemporary memory of nature, as captured and mass-produced in postcard form. The cradle is an object redolent with meaning – perhaps here a poetic link to the birth of Modernism as in Baudelaire’s poems. Dada, the rocking horse found in a flea market, is indebted to Duchamp, Brancusi and the Dadaist movement. The malformed creature False God marks a relationship to nature mediated by science – a freakish, 19th century museum object, and Chimera, the pair of Indian household deities which, in their original form, were a manufactured, quotidian and physical reminder of a divine presence. Each of these objects have been transformed, cast in gilded bronze to become seductive sculptures which, divorced from their actual function, allow myriad other readings.
Sherrie Levine was born in Hazelton, Pennsylvania, grew up in St. Louis and moved to New York in 1975. She has had one-person exhibitions at the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington D.C., 1988; the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, 1988; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, 1991; the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, 1992; and Portikus, Frankfurt, 1994, among many others. In 2005, she was one of the four artists included in Quartet, the opening exhibition of the new Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Levine has recently had shows at The Arts Club of Chicago (in September 2006) and the Georgia O’ Keefe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico (in January 2007). Her work is currently on view in Color Chart: Reinventing Color, 1950 to Today, at the Tate Liverpool (29th May – 13th September 2009) and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in The Pictures Generation (21st April – 2 August 2009). Levine divides her time between New York City and Santa Fe.
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