Sherrie Levine, After Henri Matisse, 1985. Ink and graphite on paper, 13 7/8 x 10 7/8 inches (35.2 x 27.6 cm). Gift of Barbara Lee, The Barbara Lee Collection of Art by Women. Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner New York/London/Hong Kong. © Sherrie Levine
Sherrie Levine is known for her strategy of naked appropriation. Since 1983, she has used photography, drawing, painting, and sculpture to reproduce in full the work of canonical male modernists. A member of the so-called Pictures Generation, Levine employs what Douglas Crimp called “processes of quotation, excerptation, framing, and staging” in layered works emblematic of a critical style of postmodernism.
In After Henri Matisse, one of many similar works made from the eponymous artist’s work, Levine constructs her re-creation with ink and graphite. Here, the contours of a woman’s face, abstracted by Matisse, are copied exactly by Levine, the repetition bringing the work into a new context to illustrate how art accumulates meanings and interpretations over time.
Though Levine is best known for her photographs and multimedia pieces, this work on paper adds a dimension to the ICA/Boston’s holdings of her oeuvre. Taken together with works in the collection by Louise Lawler and Cindy Sherman, Levine’s works are representative of a late 20th-century paradigm in artistic production that has both historical and contemporary relevance.