Sturtevant died in 2014 after an illustrious career producing work closely based on the appearance of key works of contemporary art by male artists. In so doing she opened up all the central issues of originality and authenticity, which came to the fore with postmodernism. Her work though was not about parody and neither was it fake.
This show opens with several meticulous versions of Fresh Widow: Copyright rose selavy 1920 (sic) . Her identification with Duchamp’s alter ego is made more precise with her version of his Wanted poster in which she substitutes two mug shots of her own face and adds the words ‘known also under name rose selavy or STURTEVANT’. In another larger work she shows herself in the pose and garb of Joseph Beuys striding towards the camera. This has its amusing side: Sturtevant is a great deal bonier than Beuys ever was. Adjacent are three chairs: one an impeccable version of Fat Chair, sandwiched between a chair hosting a puddle of ‘fat’ and another chair with some rubber apparatus and a linden leaf laid across the seat. In my opinion this series is Sturtevant at her best.
Elastic Tango (2010), shown across nine stacked monitors, has more to say about the state of the world today. The screens change rapidly from set to set of banal but gorgeous ’stock images’, forcing an uncomfortable awareness of just how much we are subjected to this kind of mind-numbing material. Upstairs more media work provides a sharp contrast in the shape of footage based on Paul McCarthy’s appallingly hilarious Painter, who merrily hacks off his bloated fingers.
There is a lot to think about in this show, in terms of how we can see it as a reflection of an increasingly alarming world. As a show though it crackles, it is so sharp and so inventive. Just enjoy it as high class art.
Sturtevant: Vice Versa is a Galerie Thaddeus Ropac from 22 February to 31 March