STURTEVANT (1926-2014)
STURTEVANT (1926-2014)
STURTEVANT (1926-2014)
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STURTEVANT (1926-2014)
4 More
The Collection of Thomas and Doris Ammann
STURTEVANT (1924-2014)

Lichtenstein But It's Hopeless

STURTEVANT (1924-2014)
Lichtenstein But It's Hopeless
signed, inscribed and dated 'Study for Lichtenstein's That's The way it should have begun - but Sturtevant '69-70' (on the reverse)
oil, acrylic and graphite on canvas
44 1⁄8 x 44 3⁄8 in. (112 x 112.7 cm.)
Executed in 1969-1970.
Daniel Weinberg Gallery, Los Angeles
Thomas Ammann Fine Art AG, Zurich
Acquired from the above by the present owner
J.-U. Albig, "Ein Bericht von J.-U. Albig," Art 11, November 1988, p. 56 (illustrated).
L. Maculan, Sturtevant. Catalogue Raisonné 1964-2004. Gemälde Skulptur Film und Video/Painting Sculpture Film and Video, Ostfildern-Ruit, 2005, pp. 109-110, no. 236, no. 240 (illustrated, no. 236 and no. 240 are switched).
New York, White Columns, Sturtevant, February-March 1986.
Meymac, Abbaye Saint-André, Centre d'Art Contemporain, Aspects de l’Art du XXe Siècle, August-December 1991, p. 106, no. 4 (illustrated).
Stuttgart, Württembergischer Kunstverein, Das Goldene Zeitalter, November 1991-February 1992.

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Lot Essay

With an authoritative oeuvre that challenges categorization, Sturtevant’s pointed examination of the late twentieth-century art world has proved both prescient and inspired as the years progress. Known for her appropriation of major works and styles by her male peers, the artist was one of the first to problematize issues of originality and authorship in the wake of Modern art’s insistence on the artwork’s singular aura. Lichtenstein But Its Hopeless is an immaculate example of Sturtevant’s attention to detail and commitment to learning and executing varying artistic processes as a means of working through traditional notions of artistic creation. Based on Roy Lichtenstein’s Hopeless (1963), which was in turn sourced from a panel from Tony Abruzzo’s ‘Run For Love’ in the 1962 Secret Hearts comic, Sturtevant’s canvas urges a reconsideration of the original(s) and creates a dialogue around the act of appropriation in a world inundated with copies of copies. Besides Lichtenstein and his Pop compatriot Andy Warhol, Sturtevant pulled from other artists like Robert Gober, Anselm Kiefer, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, and Frank Stella at a time when each was just establishing their own career. Her selection of such pivotal artists before their meteoric rises shows how well-entrenched Sturtevant was in the cultural zeitgeist and how well she understood the systems and trajectory of art history.

Rendered in the exact proportions of Lichtenstein’s composition seven years after that work’s realization, the present example is startlingly precise but is not a one-for-one reproduction. Rather than using mechanical means, Sturtevant embraced her peer’s careful hand-painting process to work through the image on her own terms. The majority of the picture plane is taken up by a woman’s head, her blue eyes overflowing with tears that have just begun to drip down her face. A shock of blonde hair is depicted with flat yellow interspersed with stylized waves in black. She wears a white garment that contrasts with an area of red in the upper left corner near a thought balloon that reads: “That’s the way – it should have begun! But it’s hopeless!” The woman’s skin and the surface upon which she rests are both made up of a mass of small color points that successfully mimic Lichtenstein’s manual Ben Day dot application.

At first glance, it is difficult to distinguish between the two canvases, but small differences like the hand-drawn text, the number of marks on the woman’s blouse, and even a slightly closer crop point to the fact that Sturtevant has actually recreated, not copied, Lichtenstein’s painting. Curator Bernard Blistène posits, “It is not a question of having, on one side, the model and, on the other, the duplicate. Not a question of some sort of crutches or other: lines, grids, square, tracing, projection…or other such devices. But of summoning with sufficient intensity the memory of images viewed in order to be able to recreate and invent them. Not stubbornly worrying about the resemblance alone but working towards an absent original in a convincing manner. Taking the same tools and the same colors. Understanding why and how it is done. Attempting to convoke the observed details” (B. Blistène, “Label Elaine,” in Sturtevant - The Brutal Truth, exh. cat., Frankfurt, Museum für Moderne Kunst, 2004, p. 37). Sturtevant’s finished works are not replications of the surface alone. Rather, they are evidence of an in-depth study of each artist’s impulse and skill.

Key among the issues raised by works like Lichtenstein But Its Hopeless are those of authorship and originality that were first brought to the fore in 1935 by Walter Benjamin’s seminal Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. Beyond just printed reproductions, we now contend with a bevy of digital copies and imitations in the present era. Sturtevant brought to task the traditional ideas of the individual genius artist and the inimitable brushstroke as a means of producing a specific aura that separates an original from a copy. She “correctly and repeatedly points out that a ‘copy’ is something bereft of energy, something that is anaemic [sic] and has nothing in common with what she does” (G. de Vries and L. Maculan, “Interview,” in Sturtevant: Catalogue Raisonné 19642004, Painting Sculpture Film and Video, Frankfurt, 2004, p. 35).

Because her own works are created as a means of questioning these ideological constructions, they are necessarily unique works of art that borrow visual details from other artists in order to more fully realize their potential. Immersing herself in the methods and mindsets of her colleagues, Sturtevant conceptualized a means to question the individual and the solitary art object. How do replication and reflection change the first work? Being confronted with two versions of the same image by different artists necessitates a reevaluation of our views on authenticity and the place of the author in the history of art.

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