Sturtevant, 1930-2014


Elaine Sturtevant, 84, died on Tuesday, May 7 in Paris, where she had lived and worked for the past 40 years. Known simply as Sturtevant, she produced “repetitions” of the works of iconic artists such as Duchamp, Jasper Johns, Frank Stella, Claes Oldenburg, Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and Félix González-Torres.

Plumbing the language of appropriation before its heyday in the ’80s, Sturtevant skillfully remade the paintings, sculptures, photographs and videos of her peers, using the same techniques as the original artists. Warhol was even rumored to have lent his silkscreens for her depiction of his paintings. Never exact replicas, her pieces offer a likeness of their subjects—each constituting an image of an image, a simulacrum of a work of art and its aura.

Very few details from Sturtevant’s personal life are known. Thought to have been born in Ohio in 1930, she supposedly studied first at the University of Iowa and then at Columbia University in the mid-1950s.

Active in New York’s art scene from the mid-1960s onward, Sturtevant mounted her first solo show at the Bianchini Gallery in 1965 and had a survey at the Everson Museum in Syracuse, N.Y. in 1973, before moving to Paris and exiting the public eye. A 1986 exhibition at White Columns in New York ushered in a new phase, as the artist responded to the output of a younger generation. In the early 2000s, she began to focus on the repetition of imagery with multichannel video works.

Over the course of her more than 50-year career, Sturtevant carefully directed critique away from discussions of appropriation, instead imbedding her work in a conversation about “the singularity of experience.”

She was awarded the Golden Lion Award for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice Biennale in 2011. A retrospective will take place at New York’s Museum of Modern Art this fall (Nov. 9, 2014-Feb. 22, 2015).