Art & Photography / Culture Talks

The New Exhibition Examining Appropriation in Art

Double Take, the new show at London’s Skarstedt Gallery, examines authorship and ownership in visual culture

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Prince - Untitled (Woman with Eyelashes), 1982-84
Untitled (eyelashes), 1982-1984© Richard Prince

Bombarded as we are by images these days – whether through billboard advertising, our social media feeds, or the online world in general – we rarely give our frantic consumption of them a second thought. This month, a new exhibition at London’s Skarstedt Gallery is asking that we pause to do just that. The cue for such a moment of reflection? A show of work by artists who have made the appropriation of photographic imagery from advertising campaigns, magazines, the internet, and found objects the focus of their work.

Featuring pieces by seminal figures such as Richard Prince, a member of the so-called ‘Pictures Generation’ – a group of artists who came of age in the 1970s, and were known for their shrewd take on the media culture of the time – and the likes of Roe Ethridge, Collier Schorr and Anne Collier, Double Take explores the re-framing and re-presentation of appropriation in photography from the 1960s to the present day.

25 artworks by nine artists will be on show at the London gallery, exploring themes such as authorship and originality; how the manipulation and layering of images shapes the way we experience them; and the creation of new fictions through recontextualising old images. “This core group of artists, Richard Prince being one of the most identifiable, have taken images from magazines and the media, and appropriated them to challenge our ideas about what’s real and what’s not,” says Bona Montagu, Skarstedt’s director. “We thought it would be interesting to look at how these artists have used appropriation not only as a formal tool, but how they have made [their work] about the very process [of appropriation] itself.” Here, Montagu walks us through some of the key ideas permeating the show.

On a younger generation looking at the work of its predecessors…
“There is a vibrant younger group of artists who’ve been extremely influenced by the Pictures Generation, looking at the same things but in a way which is relevant to now – with the internet, and [the dissemination of images]… Many are good friends. Richard Prince for example has had an exhibition with Roe Ethridge, Collier Schorr used to work in Richard Prince’s studio, and Roe Ethridge is a good friend of Anne Collier. They are interlinked. We wanted to show iconic artworks from the Pictures Generation and [other] works where you can see what connects them.” 

On re-purposing images to create new narratives…
“Richard Prince, when he was working for Time-Life, was dealing with tear-sheets [of advertising images], which he cropped to make his own images… he was fascinated by these photographs because he felt there was something very true in the origin of the photograph – it was used to create a fiction, but it had come from a truth… And in one of his projects Hank Willis Thomas digitally removes the logos from magazine ads. In doing so he poses all kinds of questions about what we normally associate with images like that, and in turn creates a very different narrative.”

On interrogating the way images are presented to us by the media…
“In Robert Heinecken’s Are You Rea he culled more than 2,000 magazine pages over a four-year period and made direct contact prints or ‘camera-less’ photographs. By superimposing both sides of the magazine page he draws attention to the visual strategies adopted by commercial media, in creating an image that automatically emblazons a particular idea about desirability in your mind. The title is a play on a title in a magazine, ‘Are You Real’. What do we read as real when we see these images that are presented to us? Heinecken was also quite political and this work is a satirical comment on the media explosion of the 1960s – what was being sold and presented to people.”

On the power of cropping images…
“Anne Collier has made a series of images featuring close-ups of women crying [cropped and enlarged from old album covers], which are really compelling, and Richard Prince made a series [comprising] images from fashion magazines where he cropped photographs of glamorous models taken from advertisements to draw our attention to the power of mass-circulated images. When you zoom in on part of an image, it makes what you’re looking at far more powerful.”

Double Take is on display at Skarstedt Gallery in London from March 7 until April 22, 2017.

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