Assignment Two: the displaced image

I am long overdue posting my latest work on the blog… I have now completed assignment two and received feedback from my tutor. The work was regarded as ‘competent’ by my tutor which is I believe a fair assessment. I questioned myself whether I had put my heart and soul into the work and I think I might have done better. I completed most of the work quite quickly and then had a significant time lapse before finishing it off. As a result I lost my flow. My tutor also recommended that I make specific references to my sources from within the text which I will do from now on. She also provided very valuable insight into the work of the artists which I had selected. An overview of the work I submitted is set out below.

Introduction 

This assignment is about exploring the ways in which artists and designers use the work of others in their own art and the effects that this has on the understanding of meaning. 

The scope of the assignment required that I find three examples of work in which the work of others is incorporated and three examples where the work appropriates copies or references everyday objects and reuses them as works of fine art. 

For the former I have selected the following works: 

  • The Artist’s Studio – The Dance by Roy Lichtenstein
  • Canal Zone Invitation by Richard Prince
  • Fountain, after Marcel Duchamp by Sherrie Levine 

In the case of work appropriating/referencing everyday objects I  selected: 

  • Costermonger’s Barrow II 1991 by Michael Landy
  • Bed by Robert Rauschenberg
  • Delores James 1962 by John Chamberlain 

Reflections on the Annotations 

What is abundantly clear from my review of the selected works is that there are many ways in which other works of art and everyday objects can be used and referenced within other works of art. 

In the case of Lichtenstein, he references several other works by both himself and Matisse in creating The Artist’s Studio – the Dance. His work however is not a straight copy. It is consistent with his broader style, which is comic book in appearance. My take on this is that by referencing works thought of as ‘high’ art he was raising questions about the elitism of the art world, although Lichtenstein’s own view on this is far from clear. 

Richard Prince’s work is based on appropriated photographs from a French photographer Patrick Cariou.  Prince, in his own words, ‘[doesn’t] really makes comments with any of [his] work’. This is perhaps why he was insufficiently persuasive to win a court case brought by Cariou for copyright infringement. The judge found in favour of Cariou because Prince’s work was not in her opinion sufficiently transformative. Prince’s appeal has been lodged and the outcome will be known soon. Personally I think it is possible that Prince was adapting Cariou’s photographs of Rastafarians to comment on broader issues of race and identity in society. A less charitable view however might be that he was taking shortcuts to exploit a gullible art market. 

Sherrie Levine’s use of Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain as a basis for her own work is curious. In the past Levine has appropriated works by other artists as a means of challenging Modernist notions of artistic originality. The choice of Duchamp’s work is however seems a strange one as Duchamp and the Dadaists were also challenging the prevailing assumptions about what constitutes art through their ‘anti-art’ movement.  Is Levine now challenging Duchamp’s challenge?

Landy’s Costermonger’s Barrow literally presents an everyday object as a work of art. It seems to reference earlier works by Duchamp and other Dadaists from the earliest 20th century. It may also be referring to modern capitalist society’s  ‘mindless overproduction of material goods’, to quote Jean Tiguely, an artist who has been a great influence on Landy. 

Rauschenberg used his bed as if it were a ‘canvas’ to produce a work of art. Rauschenberg presents his work, as art rather than anti-art, but also expresses the view that art has ‘everything to do with life’. I find his work intriguing as the unmade bed in itself, with its dirty sheets and indentation, raises many questions in the mind of the viewer. 

Chamberlain simply seems to have used scrap from old cars as ‘art supplies’ to produce what he intended as expressionistic pieces. By presenting them in a gallery setting, sometimes mounted on the wall the materials suggest new meanings far from their original purpose. 

What I have learned from this assignment is that there are many ways in which other art works and everyday objects can be referenced in one’s art. In all the examples I reviewed the original work or object takes on a new significance or meaning. That said interpretation of meaning is in itself problematic. Most of the artists I reviewed have been reluctant to clarify their intentions. Most likely this is because it is now generally accepted that viewers attribute meaning to works of art based on their own background and experiences and that they will also be influenced by the context within which they are viewing or experiencing the work. However, at the same time this reluctance to spell out how the artist has transformed the original work or object is raising interesting questions over copyright for works involving the appropriation of art.

PDF files of the annotations can be found here:

Rauschenberg bed

Prince Canal Zone

Lichtenstein artists studio

Fountain Sherrie Levine

Costamonger annotation

Chamberlain Dolores James

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