Sherrie Levine at Paula Cooper

Installation shot of Sherrie Levine’s exhibition at Paula Cooper Gallery

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The romance of nihilism isn’t lost on me, nor am I oblivious to the allure of icy intellectualism.  But could someone please explain to me why Sherrie Levine is taken seriously as, you know, an artist? I know, I know:  She’s a progenitor of appropriation, of post-modernism, of sticking it to the man (or, as a friend reminds me, “the men”).  But what are you supposed to do when actually faced with Levine’s “tissue of quotations“?  I mean, there’s nothing there to look at.

The press release for Levine’s current exhibition at Paula Cooper isn’t much help–something about the photographer Alfred Stieglitz and distilling abstraction from nature.  The main body of work, around thirty monochrome paintings that are less Brice Marden than Benjamin Moore, is overweening and vacuous.  The accompanying sculptures–particularly, a bronze copy of a carved stone divinity from 12th century Cambodia–are the kind of cultural exploitations only a privileged artist enamored of her own theorizing would dare venture.

Are we supposed to congratulate Levine for making a career of congratulating herself?  The Whitney thinks so:  the museum is mounting a Levine retrospective for fall 2011.

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