Sherrie Levine is a photographer and conceptual artist. Much of her work is in the form of very direct image appropriation. The theme and the operational method are based on quotation, parody, repetition, or rather ‘repeat’, and the general idea that a copy, i.e. a reproduction, may be a creative act in itself. It are often the theoretical presuppositions of Modern Art - newness and innovation, originality, concepts of the author, of the work, of authenticity, of the purity of the medium - that are deconstructed in a subtly provocative manner. The artist gained critical attention for her work in the 1980s, where she was considered part of an emergent group of political, conceptual artists which also included Jenny Holzer, Richard Prince, Louise Lawler, Cindy Sherman and Barbara Kruger.
Sherrie Levine was born in 1947 in Hazelton, Pennsylvania. She attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison, receiving her BA in 1969 and her MFA in 1973. She moved to Berkeley in 1973 and two years later relocated to New York. Her early series, Sons and Lovers (1976–77), presented thrity-five different configurations of five silhouettes, including the readily identifiable profiles of former presidents Lincoln, Washington, and Kennedy. Critic and curator Douglas Crimp included this work in his seminal exhibition Pictures at Artists Space in New York in 1977. Levine again utilized the presidential profiles in 1979, this time cut from pages in fashion magazines, for the series Presidential Collages. For Fashion Collages (1979), she exhibited unaltered images from magazines mounted on sheets of paper. In the early 1980s Levine extended her strategy of appropriation, which challenged art-critical concepts like originality and authenticity, when she rephotographed works by famous photographers including Eliot Porter, Edward Weston, and Walker Evans. For her series After Egon Schiele(1982/2001), Levine photographed the Expressionist painter's frenzied, acutely personal self-portraits, which she later copied in watercolor in 2001. She also exhibited excised reproductions of works by Andreas Feininger, Claude Monet, and Vincent van Gogh, among others, as her own collages in 1980, 1982, and 1983, respectively. Also in 1983 Levine began to meticulously recreate—whether in watercolor, ink, or photolithography—printed reproductions of works by iconic male modernists like Joan Miró, Piet Mondrian, and Edgar Degas.
In Levine's series of knot paintings, she accentuated the man-made plugs embedded in each wood panel to hide its natural flaws, first with gold paint in 1984 and then with white paint in 1986, with lead in 1988, and finally with the acrylic color “Parchment” in 2002. Levine addressed the modernist themes of seriality and repetition with her striped paintings in 1985 and check paintings in 1986. By 1987, these evolved into game boards for checkers, chess, and backgammon, which refer not only to the Minimalist grid but also to the Surrealists emphasis on chance and play. In After Alexander Rodchenko (1987–98), Levine appropriated the photographs of the Russian Constructivist. This time with the help of a computer, Levine reduced iconic modernist works by the likes of Piet Mondrian, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, andClaude Monet to their most basic coloristic summaries in grids entitled Melt Down (1989–90). The artist then fashioned several sculptural pieces after works by Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, and Constantin Brancusi: The Bachelors (After Marcel Duchamp) (1989), La Fortune: After Man Ray (1990), Fountain (After Marcel Duchamp) (1991), and Newborn (1993). In 1997 Levine began to divide her time between New York and Santa Fe, the latter of which prompted her to create several bronze sculptures of steer sculls between 2002 and 2003. In 2007 Levine again reduced pivotal modernist expressions of nature to computer-derived grids in After Cezanne.
Solo exhibitions of Levine's work have been organized by The Kitchen in New York (1979), Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford (1987), Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. (1988), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1991), Philadelphia Museum of Art (1993), Portikus in Frankfurt (1994), Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles (1995), Kunstverein in Hamburg (1999), The Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles (2001), and Georgia O' Keefe Museum in Santa Fe (2007). Her work has also been included in major group exhibitions such as Pictures at Artist Space in New York (1977), Documenta 7 (1982), Whitney Biennial (1985, 1989, and 2008), Sydney Biennial (1986), Carnegie International (1988), Prospect 89 (1989), São Paulo Bienal (1998), Singular Forms (Sometimes Repeated) at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York (2004), SITE Santa Fe (2004), and The Pictures Generation, 1974–1984 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (2009). Levine lives and works in New York and Santa Fe.