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Comprehensive exhibition on the drawn output of American artist Elaine Sturtevant on view at the Albertina
Sturtevant, Lichtenstein Final Study for Landscape with Figures, 1988. Sammlung Ringier, Switzerland.

VIENNA.- The Albertina presents a comprehensive exhibition on the drawn output of American artist Elaine Sturtevant (1924–2014).

From the early 1960s onward, Sturtevant produced deliberate repetitions of artworks by figures such as Roy Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, Frank Stella, and Joseph Beuys, doing so shortly following the originals’ creation. Whether they were paintings, drawings, prints or sculptures, the artist created her own duplicates - which occasionally featured modifications in terms of format, motif details, technique, and/or presentation.

The artist’s graphic works play a key role in her uncompromising and conceptual oeuvre: her reproductions of graphics by representatives of pop art are done with technical precision and at the highest level of artistic quality, with her mastery of Johns’s crosshatching being equal to her proficiency in emulating the regularity of Lichtenstein’s technique. It is particularly her Composite Drawings of 1965/66 that indicate Sturtevant’s status in art history as a protagonist of mega Pop or Pop surplus. In these works, she employed a collage technique to combine motifs by various artists, bringing together Warhol’s Flowers with Lichtenstein’s Pointed Finger or Wesselmann’s Great American Nude with Lichtenstein’s Hot Dog. Her pictorial compositions give rise to new contexts and also evoke sexual associations - which Sturtevant, however, played down with the comment: “I have nothing to do with feminism”. In an analogous manner, the artist placed great importance on being mentioned without her first name, a deliberate strategy meant to afford her a gender-neutral presence within the male-dominated art scene.

In her aesthetic gesture of repetition, she took after the example of Marcel Duchamp, whose work was receiving much attention in New York at the time - though she simultaneously developed “anti-readymades” in the form of original Sturtevants. The artist proceeded to carry forward the fundamental ideas of 1960s pop art and concept art, in the process taking questions on notions of creativity, originality, and art-as-intellectual-property to a new and radical level.

As early as two decades before the movement within concept art that practiced artistic repetition, paraphrasing, and reuse came to be known as Appropriation Art, Sturtevant was already questioning the originality of the artwork as such. And she also did so long before Cindy Sherman, Richard Prince, Robert Longo, and David Salle made their own efforts to explore just what true authorship of an artwork might be in an era of found material’s reuse.

With over 100 drawings by the artist, this presentation - developed in cooperation with MMK Museum fr Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt and Nationalgalerie Berlin - is the first museum exhibition to feature Sturtevant’s radical conception of her “art of repetition”.

The accompanying catalogue was prepared in close collaboration with the recently deceased artist, and as a catalogue raisonn FIRST DRAFT, it presents a largely complete cataloguing of her drawings.

In conjunction with the exhibition Sturtevant, the Albertina will also be opening its new, 450-square-meter Galleries for Prints and Drawings. From this point onward, the museum will be devoting these exhibition spaces exclusively to the presentation of drawings and printed graphics.

Curators: Mario Kramer (MMK Museum fr Moderne Kunst), Elsy Lahner (Albertina)

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