A way to share and manage lots.
Paula Cooper Gallery, New York
Phillips, London, 28 June 2012, lot 5
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
New York, Paula Cooper Gallery, Sherrie Levine, 3 April – 3 May 2008 (another example exhibited)
London, Simon Lee Gallery, Sherrie Levine, 29 May – 31 July 2009 (another example exhibited)
Krefeld, Museum Haus Lange, Sherrie Levine – Pairs And Posses, 10 October 2010– 6 February 2011 (another example exhibited)
With its glistening metallic arches and balletic lines, Dada, cast in bronze in 2008, is a sculptural culmination of Sherrie Levine’s inimitable style and acclaimed appropriation technique. A traditional rocking horse reduced to Minimalist abstraction, the present work was fabricated from a wooden toy discovered in the desert of New Mexico, where Levine currently resides. Dada, which translates to hobby-horse in French and echoes childish vernacular, channels the Dada ethos of selecting everyday materials and objects from our quotidian lives. Poised and inert, Dada rests directly on the floor, tempting us to play and experiment with the oscillation of the object.
Rising to prominence as an acclaimed member of the Pictures Generation of the late 1970s and early 1980s, Levine’s contemporaries include prestigious practitioners such as Cindy Sherman and Richard Prince - those who investigated the historical and cultural significance of iconic artwork through the medium of photography. In her iconic series After Walker Evans, in which Levine appropriates widely disseminated photographs, the artist comments ‘I take photographs of photographs. I choose pictures that manifest the desire that nature and culture provide us with a sense of order and meaning. I appropriate these images to express my own simultaneous longing for the passion of engagement and the sublimity of aloofness.’ (Kunsthalle Zurich, Sherrie Levine, 3 November 1991 - 5 January 1992, p. 9). In selecting physical prosaic items and manipulating their materiality and, therefore, meaning, Levine creates surreal and uncanny objects that challenge our perception and understanding of artistic authorship. Levine has noted, ‘I try to make art which celebrates doubt and uncertainty. Which provokes answers but doesn’t give them. Which withholds absolute meaning by incorporating parasite meanings. Which suspends meaning while perpetually dispatching you toward interpretation, urging you beyond dogmatism, beyond doctrine, beyond ideology, beyond authority.’ Dada is thus a playful and spirited interrogation into the replication and reproduction of pre-existing cultural objects.
Appropriation and duplication as a means of artistic production has its roots in the early twentieth century Dadaist movement. Dada thus heralds Marcel Duchamp’s famously controversial readymade sculptures. Duchamp elevated once banal objects into the realm of high art, questioning the very nature of art’s cultural and monetary value. By their very nature, readymade objects are prefabricated, mass produced and utilitarian, with no intervention from the artist’s hand. The artist is secondary to idea and concept, an ideology that paved the way for Modernism. Duchampian in her endeavours, Levine cast her own urinal in 1991, Fountain (After Marcel Duchamp), an explicit reference to Duchamp’s Fountain, which celebrates its centenary this year, still heralded as a quintessential example of iconic twentieth century art. Levine’s artistic production is often based on works by prominent male artists from the early twentieth century, underscoring the relative absence of women in the canon of art history. Levine’s sources are thus diverse, including Walker Evan’s photographs as well as Constantin Brâncuși's sculptures and Duchamp’s readymades.
The present work is utterly exquisite in its traditional methods yet presents a refreshing and adroit interpretation of remodelling the readymade. Static yet coursing with dynamism, Dada espouses the notion of the amended and re-contextualized copy, an integral theme that continues to shape our understanding of contemporary art today.
London Auction 29 June 2017