When Geoffrey and I were at MOMA a week or so ago to see the Matisse Cut Outs exhibit, we accidentally stumbled upon another fantastic exhibit which we’d somehow managed to avoid even knowing about: Double Trouble — featuring the works of the late Pop artist, Sturtevant — which is nearing the end of its run in just a couple of weeks. You should not miss this exhibit if at all possible.
In the likely case that you have no idea who Sturtevant even was, here is a bunch of background information on the artist that I ripped off from her Wikipedia page! Elaine Frances Sturtevant, also known simply as Sturtevant, was an American artist who achieved recognition for her carefully inexact repetitions of other artists’ works that prefigured appropriation.
Sturtevant spent the first years of her life working in New York, where she began in 1965 to manually reproduce paintings and objects created by her contemporaries with results that can immediately be identified with an original. Sturtevant thus turned the concept of originality on its head. All of her works are copies of the works of other artists; none is an original. She initially focused on works by such American artists as Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, Jasper Johns, and Andy Warhol. Warhol gave Sturtevant one of his silkscreens so she could produce her own versions of his Flowers paintings.
After a Jasper Johns flag painting that was a component of Robert Rauschenberg’s combine Short Circuit was stolen, Rauschenberg commissioned Sturtevant to paint a reproduction, which was subsequently incorporated into the combine.
From the early 1980s she focused on the next generation of artists, including Robert Gober, Anselm Kiefer, Paul McCarthy, and Felix Gonzalez-Torres (see first photo in this post). She mastered painting, sculpture, photography and film in order to produce a full range of copies of the works of her chosen artists. In most cases, her decision to start copying an artist happened before those artists achieved broader recognition. Nearly all of the artists she chose to copy are today considered iconic for their time or style. This has given rise to discussions amongst art critics on how it had been possible for Sturtevant to identify those artists at such an early stage.
Rather than taking the form of a traditional retrospective, Double Trouble offers a historical overview of her work from a contemporary vantage point, interspersing more recent video pieces among key artworks from all periods of Sturtevant’s career. Elaine Sturtevant passed away in May of 2014 at the age of 89.
Sturtevant: Double Trouble will be on Exhibit only until February 22nd, 2015 at MOMA, Located at 11 West 53rd Street, NYC.