Exceptional Works: Sherrie Levine | David Zwirner
A title graphic for the Sherrie Levine Viewing Room, featuring the following caption information: Sherrie Levine After Russell Lee: 1-60, 2016 Sixty (60) giclée prints Print, each: 20 x 16 inches 50.8 x 40.6 cm Framed, each: 21 3/4 x 17 3/4 x 1 1/4 inches 55.2 x 45.1 x 3.2 cm.

Comprising sixty individual color photographs, Sherrie Levine’s After Russell Lee: 1–60 (2016) revisits a group of images taken by Lee that depicts life in Pie Town, New Mexico, in 1940.  

After Russell Lee is a seminal example of Levine’s practice of appropriating artworks and motifs from the Western art-historical canon, challenging notions of originality, authenticity, and identity. As Joanna Burton writes, Levine’s work “underscores the ways in which art accumulates different meanings over time and in different contexts. [She] suggests that how we see and understand things is conditioned by our own experiences, collective and singular, shared and private.”

A detail from a photograph from Sherrie Levine's series titled After Russell Lee: 1–60, dated 2016.

Sherrie Levine, After Russell Lee: 1–60, 2016 (detail)

Sherrie Levine, After Russell Lee: 1–60, 2016 (detail)

An installation view of Sherrie Levine's series titled After Russell Lee: 1–60, dated 2016.

Sherrie Levine

After Russell Lee: 1–60, 2016

Sixty (60) giclée prints

Print, each: 20 x 16 inches
50.8 x 40.6 cm
Framed, each: 21 3/4 x 17 3/4 inches
55.2 x 45.1 x 3.2 cm
Overall dimensions variable

This edition is an artist proof that comes directly from the artist’s studio. Editions are held by Art Bridges Foundation, Glenstone, the Pinault Collection, and The Broad.

Like Walker Evans, whose work is one of Levine’s earliest and most recurrent subjects, Russell Lee was a photographer contracted by the Farm Security Administration (FSA) to document the lives of Americans outside cities. An initiative created in 1935 by the US government to combat rural poverty in the wake of the Great Depression, the FSA was perhaps best known for its small but important photography program. The images taken by the eleven photographers it commissioned have come to be regarded as works of art in their own right.

“Lee, who had trained as a chemist and then as a painter, arrived in Pie Town in June, 1940, to take pictures ‘of most anything he can find,’ as the local Magdalena News put it. He left with six hundred images that give an intimate look at the daily goings on of a small desert community. Unusual for the time, they were mostly shot in color—rich, saturated Kodachrome that shows the landscape in its full vibrancy.” —The New Yorker

A photo of the photographer Russell Lee in circa 1942.

Russell Lee, c. 1942

Russell Lee, c. 1942

A photograph from Sherrie Levine's series titled After Russell Lee: 1–60, dated 2016.

Sherrie Levine, After Russell Lee: 1–60, 2016 (detail)

Sherrie Levine, After Russell Lee: 1–60, 2016 (detail)

A photograph from Sherrie Levine's series titled After Russell Lee: 1–60, dated 2016.

Sherrie Levine, After Russell Lee: 1–60, 2016 (detail)

Sherrie Levine, After Russell Lee: 1–60, 2016 (detail)

A photograph from Sherrie Levine's series titled After Russell Lee: 1–60, dated 2016.

Sherrie Levine, After Russell Lee: 1–60, 2016 (detail)

Sherrie Levine, After Russell Lee: 1–60, 2016 (detail)

A photograph from Sherrie Levine's series titled After Russell Lee: 1–60, dated 2016.

Sherrie Levine, After Russell Lee: 1–60, 2016 (detail)

Sherrie Levine, After Russell Lee: 1–60, 2016 (detail)

A photograph from Sherrie Levine's series titled After Russell Lee: 1–60, dated 2016.

Sherrie Levine, After Russell Lee: 1–60, 2016 (detail)

Sherrie Levine, After Russell Lee: 1–60, 2016 (detail)

“My work is an addition,” Levine, who frequently titles her works “After [artist],” has explained. “The idea is to broaden the discussion, not narrow it.”

Levine rose to prominence as a member of the Pictures Generation, a group of artists based in New York in the late 1970s and 1980s, named after the exhibition in 1977 by the same title held at Artist’s Space in New York. Immersed in media culture, their work examines the structures of signification underlying mass-circulated images and, in many cases, directly appropriates these images in order to imbue them with new, critically inflected meaning.

A detail from a photograph from Sherrie Levine's series titled After Russell Lee: 1–60, dated 2016.

Sherrie Levine, After Russell Lee: 1-60, 2016 (detail)

Sherrie Levine, After Russell Lee: 1-60, 2016 (detail)

A photo from a series by Sherrie Levine, titled After Walker Evans: 1–22, dated 1981.
Sherrie Levine, After Walker Evans: 1–22, 1981 (detail)
Sherrie Levine, After Walker Evans: 1–22, 1981 (detail)
A photo from a series by Sherrie Levine, titled After Walker Evans: 1–22, dated 1981.

Sherrie Levine, After Walker Evans: 1–22, 1981 (detail)

Sherrie Levine, After Walker Evans: 1–22, 1981 (detail)

An installation view of part of a work by Sherrie Levine, titled African Masks After Walker Evans: 1–24, dated 2014.

Sherrie Levine, African Masks After Walker Evans: 1–24, 2014 (detail)

Sherrie Levine, African Masks After Walker Evans: 1–24, 2014 (detail)

“On one level, Levine’s simple Duchampian gesture of appropriation presented an ardent attempt to disrupt the liturgical flow of the modernist story of art history, with its focus on the heroic achievements of male artists, by raising questions of authorship, originality, and attribution. On another level, her act of appropriation was not so much a negation as a strange kind of homage to her subjects…. It is the doubling effect produced in these works, their creation of doppelgängers of well-known images, that has given them the power to disturb our sense of order while also opening them up for another kind of interpretive cathexis.”

—Douglas Fogle, “The Last Picture Show,” in The Last Picture Show: Artists Using Photography 1960–1982. Exh. cat. (Minneapolis: Walker Art Center, 2003)

A photo from a series by Sherrie Levine, titled After Russell Lee: 1–60, dated 2016.

Sherrie Levine, After Russell Lee: 1–60, 2016 (detail)

Sherrie Levine, After Russell Lee: 1–60, 2016 (detail)

A photograph by Russell Lee from his Pie Town series, dated 1939.

Russell Lee, Pie Town, 1940 (detail)

Russell Lee, Pie Town, 1940 (detail)

A painting by Rosa Bonheur, titled Ploughing Scene, dated 1854.

Rosa Bonheur, Ploughing Scene, 1854. Walters Art Museum

Rosa Bonheur, Ploughing Scene, 1854. Walters Art Museum

An installation view of Sherrie Levines series titled After Russell Lee: 1–60, dated 2016, at the Broad art museum.

Installation view, A Journey That Wasn’t, The Broad, Los Angeles, 2018. Photo by Coley Brown

Installation view, A Journey That Wasn’t, The Broad, Los Angeles, 2018. Photo by Coley Brown

“The pictures I make are really ghosts of ghosts; their relationship to the original images is tertiary, i.e., three or four times removed. By the time a picture becomes a bookplate, it has already been rephotographed several times. When I started doing this work, I wanted to make a picture that contradicted itself. I wanted to put a picture on top of a picture so that there are times when both pictures disappear and other times when they’re both manifest; that vibration is basically what the work is about for me–that space in the middle where there’s no picture.”

—Sherrie Levine

A detail from a photograph from Sherrie Levine's series titled After Russell Lee: 1–60, dated 2016.

Sherrie Levine, After Russell Lee: 1–60, 2016 (detail)

Sherrie Levine, After Russell Lee: 1–60, 2016 (detail)

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