Sturtevant: Warhol Marilyn (Afterall) by Patricia Lee

777777_.jpg Author Patricia Lee
Isbn 9781846381638
File size 2MB
Year 2016
Pages 104
Language English
File format PDF
Category art


First published in 2016 by Afterall Books Afterall Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London Granary Building 1 Granary Square London N1C 4AA © Afterall, Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London, the artists and the authors eISBN: 978-1-84638-164-5 eISBN: 978-1-84638-165-2 eISBN: 978-1-84638-166-9 Distribution by The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts and London Art Direction and Typeface Design A2/SW/HK cover: Sturtevant, Warhol Marilyn, 1965, synthetic polymer silkscreen and acrylic on canvas, 40.6 × 32cm All works by Sturtevant © Estate Sturtevant, Paris, courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris–Salzburg Research assistance for this publication was made possible through the kind support of Inge and Philip van den Hurk An Afterall Book Distributed by The MIT Press One Work is a unique series of books published by Afterall, a Research Centre of University of the Arts London, located at Central Saint Martins. Each book presents a single work of art considered in detail by a single author. The focus of the series is on contemporary art and its aim is to provoke debate about significant moments in art’s recent development. Over the course of more than one hundred books, important works will be presented in a meticulous and generous manner by writers who believe passionately in the originality and significance of the works about which they have chosen to write. Each book contains a comprehensive and detailed formal description of the work, followed by a critical mapping of the aesthetic and cultural context in which it was made and that it has gone on to shape. The changing presentation and reception of the work throughout its existence is also discussed, and each writer stakes a claim on the influence ‘their’ work has on the making and understanding of other works of art. The books insist that a single contemporary work of art (in all of its different manifestations), through a unique and radical aesthetic articulation or invention, can affect our understanding of art in general. More than that, these books suggest that a single work of art can literally transform, however modestly, the way we look at and understand the world. In this sense the One Work series, while by no means exhaustive, will eventually become a veritable library of works of art that have made a difference. I would like to thank Loren Muzzey of the artist’s estate, who generously answered my numerous questions; Peter Eleey of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, for sharing his scholarship; James Harithas of the Station Museum of Contemporary Art in Houston, for contributing his recollections of Sturtevant and his kind encouragement; and Briony Fer, Jo Applin and Brandon Taylor, for reading first drafts and offering invaluable feedback and insight. I am also grateful to Anthony Reynolds, for meeting with me when I began researching Sturtevant as a student more than eight years ago; to Renaud Pillon of Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Stuart Comer of MoMA and Catherine Wood of Tate Modern, for facilitating introductions; and to Marianne Barcellona and Judson Rosebush, who answered questions when most needed. And finally, the book would not have been possible without Bruce Hainley’s pioneering work on Sturtevant. Patricia Lee is a writer, lecturer and scholar of contemporary art. To Eva above: Sturtevant, from left to right: Warhol Four Marilyns, 1973; Warhol Marilyn, 1973; Warhol Marilyn, 1973; Warhol Marilyn, 1965; Warhol Marilyn, 1965; Warhol 25 Marilyns, 1973; Warhol Marilyn, 1965; Warhol Marilyn, 1965; Warhol Four Marilyns, 1972; and Warhol Twenty Marilyns, 1972, in ‘Sturtevant: The Brutal Truth’ at Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt am Main, 2004 Courtesy Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt am Main Photograph: Axel Schneider Contents What’s in a Name? ‘Ask Elaine’ The Podber Incident ‘Not a Copy’ Original Sturtevant Risk Hank Herron and Pierre Menard Redundant Object Warhol Marilyn Exit Stage Right Picture Section Endnotes Other Titles in the One Work Series What’s in a Name? In Warhol Marilyn (1965, fig.1), the face of Marilyn Monroe, one of the most famous Hollywood actresses of the twentieth century, is depicted in what might equally be one of the most well-known portraits in the history of modern art. The silkscreen-and-acrylic painting was composed from a publicity photograph used for the 1953 film Niagara. Bold, colourful strokes of paint float against a background of arresting red, with the photographic image applied in black, wiped with a squeegee through a silkscreen stencil. Monroe’s hair is denoted by a wide swathe of lemon yellow, her face a porcine pink. Three sky-blue shapes suffice to indicate cosmetic eyeshadow and a halter-neck strap. The red of the background is also put to use as an imprecise dash of lipstick. Striking a balance between the mechanical properties of the appropriated photographic image and its gestural painted elements, Sturtevant’sWarhol Marilyn presents an image as famous as the silver screen icon it depicts; an image that is a heavily coded icon of Pop art, and more specifically of Andy Warhol. Warhol  took up  the portrait soon after Monroe  was found  dead, on 5  August  1962,  from an overdose of  pills. He would gain notoriety in the early 1960s for his serial images of celebrities such as Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor and Jackie Kennedy, as well as for his depictions of consumer products, from Campbell’s Soup Cans (1962) to Brillo Boxes (1964), which drew upon a reservoir of popular culture, advertising and media imagery and exposed the reification of identity endemic in post-War American society. Warhol incorporated elements of chance and speed of execution into his screen-printing method: a work was produced in stages, with the figurative elements put down before the painted ground, and occasionally finished with over-painting by hand. 1 One might mistakenly identifyWarhol Marilyn as one of the silkscreen portraits produced by Warhol more than ‘fifty times between August 1962 and September 1964’. 2 Warhol took a distanced approach to the process of making his artworks, and even to authorship. On having others execute his work, Warhol firmly stated: ‘I think somebody should be able to do all my paintings for me […] I think it would be great if more people took up silkscreens so that no one would know whether my picture was mine or somebody else’s.’ 3 Warhol’s comment presages the encounter with the picture here in question. Warhol Marilyn, from 1965, and pictured on the cover of this Sturtevant: Warhol Marilyn Patricia Lee | 8 book, is not a Warhol but a Sturtevant. It is accompanied by other screenprinted paintings (fig.2–3) produced in 1965 under the same title by Elaine Sturtevant, who preferred to be known by the gender-neutral moniker of her ex-husband’s surname. 4 That the viewer comes to be mistaken about the authorship of this iconic work is part of a planned response on the part of Sturtevant, who, over the mid- to late-1960s, was becoming notorious in New York art circles for ‘making her work the work of other artists’, as Jill Johnston reported in the Village Voice in 1967. 5 In my own experience of works of works by Sturtevant, I have been impressed by their presence. Not only do they resemble the works from which they were made, they also project a sense of the time from which they hail. Stella Arbeit Macht Frei  (1989, fig.23) and Stella Die Fahne Hoch! (1990), which I saw in 2009 at the Danish pavilion at the 53rd edition of the Venice Biennale, convey all the auratic glamour of Frank Stella’s early works, and were even made using the same paint Stella first used in the 1960s – which had been discontinued by the late 1980s, when Sturtevant began making these works. She later recounted the ‘chance find’ of some canisters of paint in a hardware store in Lower Manhattan as an instance of the ‘throw of the dice’ that Mallarmé described – as a time when luck is on your side. 6 The sheer good fortune of finding the same kind of black enamel paint that Stella had used could not have been planned, as she described in the 2007 performance-lecture: When doing the black Stellas, the chemistry of the paint had been changed, giving a different quality to the work. It was resolved by finding one of those jammed Little Italy stores. Not because they had old black paint, but rather because the owner had a Brooklyn friend who had a basement full of old black paint. But that is a throw of the dice. 7 Sturtevant: Warhol Marilyn Patricia Lee | 9 The use of black paint would seem to be the most mechanical aspect of making her Stella works, yet its location and employ were not so straightforward. The chance acquisition of a particular vintage of black paint that was over two decades old was critical to getting the works right. I saw Sturtevant’s installation of Gonzalez-Torres Untitled (Blue Placebo) (2004) at the Frieze Art Fair in London in 2008, and assumed the striking sea of blue cellophane wrapped candies on the white expanse of floor was Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s 1991 Untitled (Blue Placebo). The late Cuban-American artist's approach, not unlike Warhol’s and Sturtevant’s, deliberately challenged authorship in that it often took the form of ephemeral manifestations supported by certificates granting license to make and remake works under certain guidelines. 8 The term ‘placebo’ provides a compelling metaphor. As sugar substitutes masquerading as drugs with active ingredients, placebos often function in the creation of control groups for clinical trials of new pharmaceuticals – such as the AIDS drug trials of the 1990s – performing a specific ruse for ethical purposes. 9 In the situation of art connoisseurship, this description of how a placebo functions corresponds to the notion of a ‘fake’ work, or a ‘copy’, that conventionally purports to masquerade as something it is not. ‘Placebo’, as it occurs in the titles of Gonzalez-Torres’s work, might reference the individual sweets – as palliatives for an illness that, at the time that Gonzalez-Torres was making art, had no cure. 10 ‘Placebo’ in Sturtevant’s work might also reference the quality of the work, conceptually, as a decoy that formally resembles, quite closely, a signature work by another artist. Sturtevant once stated that her work was about ‘the immediacy of an apparent content being denied’. 11 In this case, the ‘apparent content’ being refused consists of the spectator’s assumption that the work is by another artist. Most viewers of Sturtevant’s Warhol Marilyn will encounter the work via its reproduction in a book. 12 The reader’s interface with the work thus reproduced is actually not entirely out of keeping with the experience of viewing the intimately sized Warhol Marilyn in person. The 40.6-by32-centimetre dimensions of the canvas make Monroe’s face approximate in scale to the viewer’s. In terms of colour, the red may appear more or less orange depending on which publication you’re comparing it to. But whatever the reproduction, the thinking behind the work remains apparent, Sturtevant: Warhol Marilyn Patricia Lee | 10 and has the most significance. The single Warhol Marilyn featured on the cover of this book offers a starting point for a work remade in different formats over a period of four decades. More than thirty Sturtevant works incorporate the same stencil of the photograph of Monroe first used in 1965. As with Warhol’s Marilyns, Sturtevant’s vary in format, arrangement, colour and size. They appear to be very similar, and yet each is unique, with a distinct colour distribution and print quality. Each is, in this sense, an ‘original’. Sturtevant’s repetition of Warhol Marilyn may differ from Warhol’s Marilyn series in the number of works produced as well as in the duration of time over which they were fabricated, but Sturtevant’s permutations incorporate and extend Warhol’s own practice of repetition. As he put it in 1963, ‘I liked the way repetition changed the image. Also, I felt at the time, as I do now, that people can look at and absorb more than one image at a time.’ 13 Indeed, difference in repetition is true of all multiples. Rather than presenting an exhortation to note the specific qualities of the various incarnations of Warhol Marilyn, this book seeks to show how Sturtevant’s adoption of repetition produced multiple and multilayered triggers for thought. What is it that matters most in the experience of seeing works of works repeated in serial form? Is it the varying qualities of the crafted object, revisited again and again? Or is it the effect that Sturtevant’s works may have in the viewer’s mind? Once a viewer has encountered a Sturtevant work of a work, does his or her experience of the unique object become secondary, or, as some authors have noted, redundant? 14 In 1989, Sturtevant suggested that ‘although the object is crucial, it is not important’. 15 The vital yet uncertain status of the object reveals a paradox at the heart of her practice. Process is also paradoxical, according to Sturtevant, who deemed it, again, to be ‘crucial but not important’. 16 While she paid close attention to the way in which each particular work was made, it was for the sake of conceptual expediency and not for the object to be revered for its own sake. 17 Like much conceptual art involving multiples, the materialism of one Warhol Marilyn (and of all the others) is significant only in relation to the idea that generated its existence. Sturtevant’s contemporary Sol LeWitt, in his ‘Sentences on Conceptual Art’ (1969), famously asserted: ‘Ideas alone can be works of art; they are in a chain of development that may eventually find Sturtevant: Warhol Marilyn Patricia Lee | 11 some form. All ideas need not be made physical.’ The proviso suggests that whether an idea attains object form is incidental. 18 Sturtevant’s work correlates with much of the aspiration of the conceptual ideals of her generation of artists, who arguably prioritised thinking over the optical experience of visual art, or rather, made art visual as a trigger for thought, with the experience of the work tantamount to its material ownership. Hence, Warhol Marilyn provocatively embodies a decisive moment in the history of the object in art – an ambivalence that was symptomatic of art’s dematerialisation in a particular moment, as established by Lucy Lippard in her landmark book Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object: 1966– 1972 (1973). 19 It is in Sturtevant’s work that the issue of the copy and its ramifications in Pop, Minimal and Conceptual art crystallises. Despite Sturtevant’s noted ambivalence toward the object and the process by which it was made in her practice, Warhol Marilyn holds a special place in her repertoire for me as an art historian. The work is suggestive as an avatar for the figure she cut over the five decades of her art career. Sometimes popular, at other times vilified, consistently notorious and latterly applauded, Sturtevant, Monroe, the painting Marilyn by Warhol and Sturtevant’s Warhol Marilyn operate in a feedback loop prompting questions not only in regard to the copy but also concerning celebrity, iconicity and gender. The iconographic image of a troubled actress who died young but embodies so much in the cultural imagination resonates compellingly with Sturtevant as an under-recognised female artist, whose work was so often misunderstood. Sturtevant’s offerings unnerved the public, so much so that she ceased making work altogether, disappearing from the art world for over a decade between 1974 and 1985. 20 Sturtevant described that time as filled with ‘writing, thinking, playing tennis and carrying on’. 21 The allusion to tennis suggests a wink to the renunciation of art for chess that Marcel Duchamp, a favoured artist in Sturtevant’s estimation, famously undertook. Warhol Marilyn derived from a 1960s cultural milieu that was formative not only for Sturtevant’s work as an artist but also for art today. The legacy of that period continues to unfold. I wish to examine the critical decision-making and (perhaps unconscious) drive influencing Sturtevant’s gravitation toward cultural hotspots and figures, Warhol and Marilyn Monroe included. Sturtevant, like Warhol, thrived on controversy, and positioned Sturtevant: Warhol Marilyn Patricia Lee | 12 herself adeptly in relation to celebrity and notoriety. She had a penchant for getting under the public’s skin, a skill that sometimes seems a prerequisite for artists seeking attention and success amidst today’s global networks. Sturtevant fended off the accusation that she only made works by influential male artists for less than honourable motives, i.e. personal profit, and because she could not come up with any original subject matter of her own – that she was, in effect, hanging on the ‘coat-tails’ of more illustrious company. 22 In a 1989 interview with Bill Arning, she maintained that her decisions on which works to make ‘were made on another level’, one less obvious and more intuitive. 23 Further study of Sturtevant’s relationship to Warhol will clarify the level on which she interacted peer to peer with one of the artists from whose works she made works. Sturtevant was never a sycophantic acolyte, and she consistently asserted that her works were not copies. She also declined to accept the position of a historical predecessor to 1980s Appropriation artists. She told Bruce Hainley that she refused to be ‘jammed into that category’. 24 Although she gained critical attention via the discussion surrounding the new generation of artists, she was keen to distance her work from their specific concerns. Why did Sturtevant make Warhol Marilyn again and again in later years? If the actual object becomes redundant after a certain point, why did Sturtevant take up the stencil she used in 1965 to prepare for her 1973 show at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, New York (fig.5), for which she made a range of new works, including Warhol Marilyn (1973, fig.4) and Warhol 25 Marilyns (fig.6)? 25 Three decades later she returned to Monroe’s image in making Study for Warhol Diptych (2004, fig.11), exhibited alongside a group of Warhol Marilyns at ‘Sturtevant: The Brutal Truth’, at the Museum for Moderne Kunst (MMK) in Frankfurt am Main (2004, fig.12). Sturtevant’s Warhol Marilyns and the group of Monroe-based works to which they relate occupy formidable territory both in the space of the gallery and also in the context of her oeuvre – the display took up an entire room of this major retrospective. That same year, she made two versions of Warhol Black Marilyn that were later exhibited in the show ‘Cold Fear’ at Anthony Reynolds Gallery in London (2006, fig.13–14). Several Warhol Marilyns were also included in her retrospective ‘Sturtevant: Double Trouble’ (2014–15) at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York (fig.16). 26 Bruce Hainley’s discussion of the iconography of Warhol Marilyn in Sturtevant: Warhol Marilyn Patricia Lee | 13 his 2014 book Under the Sign of [sic] addresses the ‘power of the image’, even its ‘apotropaic force’, and offers particular insight into Sturtevant’s practice of repetition. 27 Hainley suggests that Warhol’s Marilyn is a work not just about the death of the actress but about ‘America’s investment in Monroe’s gently comic cataclysm’, 28 with parallels to the death of the image through oversaturation and its digital reduction to points on a screen. The image of Monroe projects a seemingly transparent, stereotypical and overtly sexualised femininity. Yet the actress who embodied this projection argued that she’d never fooled anyone: ‘They didn't bother to find out who and what I was. Instead they would invent a character for me. I wouldn’t argue with them. They were obviously loving somebody I wasn’t.’ 29 Warhol mined this masked, unknowable interior in his iterations of Marilyn between 1962 and 1963, as he was developing the silkscreenpainting technique that would catapult him to fame. To its audience in the 1960s, Sturtevant’s Warhol Marilyn unravelled the logic of Warhol’s proposal; it continues to manifest how concepts of originality, identity and celebrity intersect and are reconstructed, as do all her works of works. ‘Ask Elaine’ In 1965, Elaine Sturtevant approached Andy Warhol with a proposition. Warhol had all but retired from painting in order to focus more on filmmaking, and on holding court amongst celebrities and hipsters in his foillined Factory in Lower Manhattan. Sturtevant was a fledgling artist, a member of Robert Rauschenberg’s entourage, an ex-prop stylist in the commercial-art world and a socialite of sorts who had dinner parties in her fashionable Upper East Side townhouse. 30 Sturtevant requested to use Warhol’s Marilyn silkscreen. She would later attest that Warhol acquiesced, and that his assistant instructed her to ‘take whatever Marilyn I wanted’. She was unable to find the stencil for Marilyn in Warhol’s loft, as she would explain while mimicking the cadence of Warhol’s speech: I was in there for two hours going through hundreds of screens, no bloody Marilyn. When I saw Andy he said, ‘Oh wow, oh, wow, I didn’t know that, I thought it was in there.’ I said, ‘Oh, wow, Andy, oh, wow.’ Sturtevant: Warhol Marilyn Patricia Lee | 14 I decided to find the original Hollywood still, one chance in a million and I found it. I took it to Andy’s silkscreen man and it was perfect. A Warhol screen from my photo which was his photo. 31 Sturtevant claimed that later, when asked how he made his silkscreened works, Warhol told people to ‘ask Elaine’. 32 However, she went on to dismiss Warhol’s comprehension of her conceptual project: ‘Everyone says, “So, Andy really understood!” Well I don’t think so. I think he didn’t give a fuck. Which is a very big difference, isn’t it?’ 33 Regardless of whether or not he was engaged in her overall project, Warhol neither resisted nor expressed animosity toward Sturtevant in her endeavour, in the mid-1960s, to make works from his. Other artists were less accommodating. Claes Oldenburg demanded that she dismantle and remove The Store of Claes Oldenburg (1967, fig.21), based on The Store he made in 1961 on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. At one time a strong advocate of her work – they went together to the opening of The Store of Claes Oldenburg – he turned into one of Sturtevant’s fiercest opponents. 34 She has recounted that when one of their mutual collectors, Eugene Schwartz, acquired the work Oldenburg Pie Case, produced as part of the installation, Oldenburg marched up to Schwartz and demanded: ‘If you don’t get rid of that piece I won’t let you have any of my work, and I’ll never walk in your house again.’ 35 If Oldenburg felt that Sturtevant’s choice of remaking his Store was an attack on his integrity, the irony is that it was more likely an indication of his arrival. A perceived lack of animosity and possessiveness in Warhol likely contributed to Sturtevant’s estimation of him. He jettisoned outmoded concepts of authorship due to his grasp of celebrity-driven culture, in which he operated less as an artist in a romantic sense of the word than as an art personality, a commodity-producer with his Factory. His position was in no small part facilitated by his cognizance of the predominance of images in contemporary American culture: he first outraged his audience with the presentation of banality, then seduced them with the cachet of transgression. Warhol’s seemingly straightforward ‘lifting’ from popular sources actually involved careful deliberation over minute details, as Donna De Salvo Sturtevant: Warhol Marilyn Patricia Lee | 15 has noted. 36 For Sturtevant, Warhol’s potency lay in ‘the contradiction that the powerful dynamics lie not in the interior but in a galvanised surface, and it is this surface that pushes the work’. 37 Sturtevant’s works that trip up the viewer manifest this idea of artwork as surface. The facile world of appearances is shored up by celebrated objects and, ultimately, subjects – the latter personified by Warhol himself in his coolly distant, ‘what you see is what you get’ public persona. He feyly challenged his audience: ‘If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface of my paintings and films and me, and there I am.’ Sturtevant concurred: ‘Once you know Andy there is not much more to know but a lot more to see.' 38 Sturtevant’s works are the opposite of Warhol’s self-postulation in that what you see is not what you get. For her works to operate, Sturtevant mobilised the power of the ‘galvanised surface’, and extrapolated from Warhol to provoke a confused response from her viewer. She sought to shock the viewer’s nervous system in order to disrupt an automatic reception. Sturtevant’s methodology ran parallel to what Johanna Burton has described as the Pop paradigm of homeopathy: the introduction of small doses of already given cultural material into the social body ‘to render its symptoms visible, manipulable’.39 Her works operate in a subversive-ironic mode so as to inoculate the viewer from being taken in by consumer spectacle. 40 Warhol understood that the viewer’s initial glance at an appearance triggered a chain reaction in his or her thought process, arguably occurring at an accelerated speed in 1960s visual culture. The contingent material status of the art object in the practices of Sturtevant and her contemporaries related to the emerging predominance of television as a cultural medium, as Peter Eleey has noted. 41 Branden Joseph and David Joselit have each also discussed the art historical significance of the hovering presence of the flickering image, the molecular dematerialisation of an object televisually. 42 Such cultural factors diminished the object’s claims to pre-eminence, or to the kind of presence that Michael Fried sought to restore in his 1967 polemic on art, objecthood and theatricality. 43 Sturtevant stressed the centrality of television for the spectator of her work, arguing that ‘if you don’t watch TV, you have a big hole in your head’. 44 Though he belonged to a whole generation of Pop artists employing readymade imagery ‘borrowed’ from advertising and commercial art, Sturtevant: Warhol Marilyn Patricia Lee | 16 Warhol in particular encountered legal battles for his sources. Triggering a response from a public that was angry to the point of being litigious, he inaugurated a new chapter in the articulation of copyright infringement and enforcement. Ivan Karp recalled the legal hassles and settlements out of court on the part of the Castelli Gallery for Warhol’s 1964 show ‘Flower Paintings’: 45 Patricia Caulfield, the photographer who shot and published the image of hibiscus flowers that became the basis for Warhol’s Flowers series (1964), settled her copyright infringement suit out of court, with Warhol in the end gifting her several of the paintings in question (a lucrative exchange for Caulfield). 46 While Sturtevant claimed that copyright was not one of her principal concerns, the publicly controversial aspect of Warhol’s travails was relevant to her, for the broad recognition necessary for her works to operate was fuelled by the notoriety of Warhol’s work. When Warhol made his first Marilyns, in 1962, he accommodated a changed viewing public, acculturated to the rhythms of celebrity culture distributed through mass media outlets. The death of the famous movie star and its rampant portrayal in the popular press coincided with the birth of Warhol’s method of painting and silkscreening popular imagery on stretched canvas, the traditional modernist ground. The hollowing out of a person by fame, as epitomised by Monroe, corresponded with the distillation of an image to the dots of a screen, whereby the illusion of depth into projected pictorial space is forfeited. 47 The gradual tendency toward flatness in painting – the teleological end of Greenbergian modernism – was further reinforced by Warhol’s pivoting of the picture surface to the proverbial printer’s press, where images roll out horizontally, in a movement recalling Leo Steinberg’s 1968 pronouncement of a new orientation for the picture plane – as ‘flatbed’. 48 Regarding the limitations of imagery, Sturtevant would later tell Dan Cameron: If you go back to the pop artists, you have the abstract expressionists, who were obsessed with the idea of creating a new imagery, and it really was an obsession to create something new. And then when you had the pop artist, and they came up with incredibly startling, forthright, dynamic imagery, it was a further step in that direction, but it was still concerned with imagery. That seemed to me rather flat, because it’s limiting if you are only involved with creating Sturtevant: Warhol Marilyn Patricia Lee | 17 an image. 49 The flat iconography of Warhol Marilyn is ineluctable. She and Warhol were not the only artists to be drawn to Monroe. An entire exhibition of works inspired by her took place at the Sidney Janis Gallery in New York in 1967, 50 where Monroe at once represented the presumptive object of normative male desire and embodied a problematic moment for feminism. Peggy Phelan has perceptively diagnosed Warhol’s Marilyn as symptomatic of a particularly American fascination with the death spectacle. 51 Monroe’s suicide as a self-silencing has been associated with Sturtevant’s own ‘disappearance’ from the New York art world in 1974. 52 Belinda Bowring has extended the Hollywood association to liken Sturtevant to a ‘fading starlet’ in a ‘comeback’ performance. 53 Peter Eleey has suggested that Warhol Marilyn, along with the crying girls in Sturtevant works such as Drawing for Lichtenstein Girl with Hair Ribbon (1966–67, fig.20) and Lichtenstein But It’s Hopeless (1969–70), were symptomatic of Sturtevant’s anxiety about making art that might anger audiences or incite violent reactions. 54 The idea of Sturtevant’s identification with the ‘girls’ in the picture is compelling despite Sturtevant’s consistent rejection of the straightforward and literal acceptance of imagery at face value. The association of Sturtevant and Monroe is potentially explosive, as the artist consistently refused to entertain questions about gender in her work. Her evasion of the subject is perhaps indicative of an unconscious drive underscoring her choices and behaviour. Sturtevant asserted to Peter Halley that her decisions on which artists and artworks to base her works on happened by ‘intuition’. 55 As she admitted, ‘If I knew exactly what I was doing there would be no point in doing it! What keeps any body of work fascinating is what develops by doing it.’ 56 While she vehemently resisted any kind of biographical discussion of her work or her practice as a female artist, I think it’s worth taking the prerogative to discuss Warhol Marilyn’s oblique references to representational content. That Monroe was an extraordinary female celebrity who embodied the fictionality of commodified identity at a particular cultural moment was critical for Sturtevant’s development as an artist. Thomas Crow once stated that Sturtevant’s conceit was in ‘replicating the works of all the dominant males in Pop as early as 1965’. 57 However, by Sturtevant: Warhol Marilyn Patricia Lee | 18 1973 she had also made works from works by Joseph Beuys, Stella and Duchamp, for example, who cannot be considered Pop, and by the female artists Niki de Saint Phalle and Yvonne Rainer. Although much has been written about Sturtevant’s indebtedness to Warhol, she was never going to accept the dismissive designation of explainer, as implied by ‘Ask Elaine’. When Hainley enquired about ‘Warhol in the 80s as a person and as an artist’, Sturtevant responded that she considered him a ‘vulnerable and distant-but-there man’. She claimed that he had once asked her when she was going to ‘do’ his ‘piss paintings’ (Oxidation Paintings, 1977–78), and that she rejected the idea stating that she did not ‘have the right equipment’. She never did choose to execute works of those works; by her own account, she refused to be pigeonholed. 58 Sturtevant was not indebted to any artist in particular but made works of works by numerous artists at the same time – a reinforcement of her refusal to be characterised as a replicator of one artist or one kind of art. The Podber Incident Warhol’s Marilyn was the epicentre of a notorious art event in the autumn of 1964. Less than a year before Sturtevant approached Warhol for his silkscreen, a performance artist named Dorothy Podber entered the Factory to ask if she could ‘shoot’ his Marilyn paintings. Thinking that she was asking to photograph them, Warhol assented. 59 Podber drew a pistol from her bag and shot through a stack of four Marilyns, leaving a hole in each of their foreheads. Podber’s violent act prefigured the shooting of Warhol himself by the radical feminist Valerie Solanas in 1968. 60 After she shot the Marilyns, Warhol banned Podber from the Factory for life. Podber’s permanent exile contrasted sharply with the free access granted to Sturtevant, who admitted that she saw quite a bit of Warhol ‘in the high-tension time of the Factory’. 61 Podber’s action alluded to Niki de Saint Phalle’s Shooting Pictures (1961–63), for which de Saint Phalle encased paint-filled polythene bags in layers of plaster and then invited spectators to shoot the bags, thereby releasing colour and form onto block-board backings. 62 In turn, in 1965, for her first solo exhibition, ‘Sturtevant’ at Bianchini Gallery, New York, Sturtevant made a work of a work by de Saint Phalle, which she placed in a vitrine containing other works of works by Arman, Johns and Rauschenberg Sturtevant: Warhol Marilyn Patricia Lee | 19 (fig.18). Warhol’s work was also referenced in the work 7th Avenue Garment Rack with Warhol Flowers (1965, fig.17). The flowers formed a backdrop to the rack, which carried more works of signature works by Arman, Johns, Lichtenstein, Oldenburg, Rosenquist and Stella and was positioned as if pulled along by a plaster figure by George Segal. John Gruen, in a 1967 article about art developments in the East Village, recounted the shocking story of how Sturtevant was accosted by children attending school a few doors down from where she was installing her Oldenburg installation. According to Gruen, she received cuts and bruises on her body and head from being hit with sticks and thrown cans, and sustained further injuries from two men and a woman whilst seeking help near Tompkins Square Park. 63 Gruen described Sturtevant as a ‘scapegoat of the anger and violence of New Bohemia’. Then an area where younger artists found space for projects such as The Store of Claes Oldenburg, Lower Manhattan had high rates of poverty and crime in the 1960s; even so, the attack was perhaps emblematic of the negative reaction of some in Sturtevant’s audience at large. Sturtevant was attracted to subjects such as Warhol’s Marilyn and Oldenberg’s The Store, works that elicited strong, even violent reactions, her consistently conceptual approach suggests that she carried another notion of art’s potential to radicalise the social order – not through violent acts but by functioning as an alternative public sphere of discourse. The Podber incident exemplifies the effect of anger stirred up by political movements. Warhol was clearly never an aggressively patriarchal figure-head of the Pop movement, but he was a surface onto which people projected their fantasies, Podber included. In making Warhol Marilyn subsequent to Podber’s shooting of the Marilyns, Sturtevant may not have been operating from an explicitly feminist position, either institutionally or politically aligned, but her work did not fail to encompass the potent intersection of women, gender and art as these elements were being renegotiated in the predominantly white, male bastion of the 1960s New York art establishment. ‘Not a Copy’ Warhol Marilyn is not simply a copy of Warhol’s Marilyn. The cumbrous phrasing of a work of a work to describe Sturtevant’s art exemplifies how she sought to disrupt the discourse of the copy ever since the beginning of Sturtevant: Warhol Marilyn Patricia Lee | 20

Author Patricia Lee Isbn 9781846381638 File size 2MB Year 2016 Pages 104 Language English File format PDF Category Art Book Description: FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrDiggMySpaceShare Warhol Marilyn (1965) is not a work by Andy Warhol but by the artist Elaine Sturtevant (1930–2014). Throughout her career, Sturtevant (as she preferred to be called) remade and exhibited works by other contemporary artists, among them Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, and Robert Rauschenberg. For Warhol Marilyn, Sturtevant used one of Warhol’s own silkscreens from his series of Marilyn printed multiples. (When asked how he made his silkscreened work, Warhol famously answered, “I don’t know. Ask Elaine.”) In this book, Patricia Lee examines Warhol Marilyn as representing a shift in thinking about artistic authorship and originality, highlighting a decisive moment in the rethinking of the contemporary artwork. Lee describes the cognitive dissonance a viewer might feel on learning the identity of Warhol Marilyn’s author, and explains that mistaken identity is part of Sturtevant’s intention for the operation of the work. She discusses the ways that Sturtevant’s methodology went against the grain of a certain interpretation of modernism, and addresses the cultural significance of both Warhol and Monroe as celebrity figures. She considers Dorothy Podber’s shooting a bullet through a stack of Warhol’s Marilyns (thereafter known as The Shot Marilyns) at the Factory in 1964 and its possible influence on Sturtevant’s decision to remake the work. Lee writes that Sturtevant’s critical reception has been informed by some fictional forebears: the made-up artist Hank Herron (whose nonexistent work duplicating paintings by Frank Stella was reviewed by a fictional critic), and (suggested by Sturtevant herself) Pierre Menard, the title character of Jorge Luis Borges’s “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote,” who recreates a section of Cervantes’s masterpiece line by line. And finally, she explores installation contexts and display strategies for Sturtevant’s work as illuminating her broader artistic aims and principles.     Download (2MB) The Oxford Dictionary of American Art and Artists The Artist’s Mind: A Psychoanalytic Perspective on Creativity, Modern Art and Modern Artists David Hockney: A Retrospective The Fairy Fellers Master-Stroke The Studio Reader: On the Space of Artists Load more posts

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