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Sherrie Levine «After Walker Evans» | Untitled
Sherrie Levine, «After Walker Evans», 1981
Untitled | © Sherrie Levine

Sherrie Levine «After Walker Evans» | UntitledSherrie Levine «After Walker Evans» | Untitled
New York | United States | photo series

 Sherrie Levine
«After Walker Evans»

«Sherrie Levine After Walker Evans» was the title of a 1981 exhibition shown in New York at the newly opened Metro Pictures Gallery. On display was a series of famous Walker Evans photographs which Levine photographed directly from an exhibition catalogue. Although the Evans photograph of the corner of a modest wooden shack and the portrait of a downtrodden farmer were meanwhile handled as icons of art photography, they were no longer subject to copyright laws: in her selection of Evans’ already-released photographs, taken in the 1930s for the Farm Security Administration (F.S.A.), Levine refers to a federal installation of the Roosevelt era for improving the living conditions of impoverished tenant farmers in the American South. Levine’s gesture of reproduction lets itself be interpreted in a variety of ways: it represents a gesture of appropriation and at the same time dismisses every creative act. By exhibiting the rephotographed Evans photographs in an art gallery, she quotes the museum-related status of photography, which since the 1970s enthroned documentary and scientific photography as well, and in doing so makes this process visible. In the end, she also makes current the themes of Evans’ photography (one can establish a reference to the effects of Reagan’s politics on the lower classes of society). Unlike with Richard Prince, whose rephotographs of advertising imagery divert one’s gaze towards everyday ‹visual culture› and reevaluates it, Levine reflects the mechanism of the art system, built around expressions such as authorship and originality, and questions this.
Yet the paradoxes of this system have also overtaken Levine’s works: while the photographs in question by Walker Evans can be copied and reproduced, the rephotographs by Levine are protected by copyright. The website, created by the artist Michael Mandiberg, develops this problem as a central theme and shows here the photographs used by Levine.


Susanne Holschbach