A Copy of a Copy of Another Copy: Appropriation Art Through the Ages!

‘Appropriation’. When merely Googling this subject you’re bombarded with duplicated image results: “a copy of a copy of another copy!” according to Julia Campisi. The modern tradition of appropriating an original artwork has been a technique that has distinguished itself amongst other modern movements to be perpetually embodied by contemporary artists. So, in honour of our own appropriation superstar, we want to pay tribute to some of our favourite appropriation artists who birthed and played with this ‘critique’ on the originality of art.

Marcel Duchamp. Fountain. 1917.

Marcel Duchamp is perhaps, the first artist to successfully demonstrate appropriation within art, as he devised the concept of the ‘readymade’. From shit to hit! The item is chosen by the artist, signed by the artist and then re-situated within a gallery environment.

For Duchamp the artistry rested in the selection of the object. Da Da! Toilets are now considered. Though we guess a pile of shit on the floor of an art gallery would not be considered appropriate appropriation…

Louise Lawler. Monogram. 1984. Robert Rauschenberg. Monogram. late 1950's.

Louise Lawler not only spear-headed the female presence in the modern art scene, but she created appropriation art with a casualness that walked along the edge of representation as presentation. Her ‘Monogram’ from 1984, wittingly appropriates an original artwork by Jasper Johns in an interior fit for the cover of Elle Decor. However her strength as an artist is revealed through symbols that only art historians could get wet dreams about!

The embroidered monogram on the bed’s duvet is not only a subtle detail, but also pays homage to Robert Rauschenberg’s arguably most famous piece, ‘Monogram’ from the late ‘50s. This astute reference to the affectionate relationship that both male artists shared illustrates her prowess. We bow down to you, Lawler.

Robert Colescott. Jus'Folks by Vermeer. 1976.

Robert Colescott proves that appropriation art does not only belong to fine art photography, but that paintings of appropriated culture within an art historical context are equally as significant. Colescott’s appropriations were part homage to artists he revered and part sharp cultural critique.

In the post-Pop Art era, Colescott’s appropriation of stereotypes were not only shocking and disruptive, but they also provided a novelty association with the avant-garde throughout art history.

Richard Prince. New Portraits. 2014.

Richard Prince, the controversial cowboy, works the grey territory that appropriation art has come to encompass within the fine art world. His artistic practice stirred up trouble at the Gagosian Gallery in 2014 with his ‘New Portraits’ show, which saw Instagram posts from celebrities as fine art portraits with a weird vernacular signage from the #PrinceofAppropriaiton himself.

Some might bash his capitalistic appropriation of digital culture, but we applaud Prince for his irreverent social commentary on our obsession with having a well-curated Instagram. We say, print a duck-face selfie as a picture hanging idea!

Julia Campisi appropriates iconic pictures from history books that are "still relevant and then [she] pushes them into a new direction that changes the photographs original form.” Her series, “I Am Also You” for The Public House of Art encapsulates her precision and sensitivity to colour, shape, form, texture and layering. She credits the original artist in each title as a “comment on the idea of the original and its function in today’s society.” “Photographs are everywhere all at once. The idea of taking something that already exists is really a comment on photography and its accessible nature in today’s cyber world and our own cyber existence.”

The ‘original’ typically exists in a physical space. But so often people who pilgrimage to these attractions end up taking a picture. BOOM. It becomes a memory, their own memory of an appropriated experience.

Long live appropriations, because art is shaped by its context, surroundings, arrangement, and so many other things, that there is no impartial way to present it.


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