One of the earliest members of The Pictures Generation, Sherrie Levine is one of the artists most closely associated with the idea of appropriation as an artistic strategy. Best known for her photographs that are lifted directly from the work of predominantly male artists, such as After Walker Evans (1981), After Stieglitz, After Cézanne (2007) and After August Sander (2012) by re-photographing and abstracting these artists' images to the point when they become almost "ghost images" of the originals, Levine raises questions of authenticity and originality while also challenging the notion of the male-genius artist.
Almost fifty years after Walker Evans took the photo of Allie Mae Burroughs, wife of an Alabama sharecropper, Levine rephotographed his image, shooting not the photographic print itslef but a reproduction of the print from an exhibition catalogue.
In tandem with her re-photography works Sherrie Levine also worked across different other media such as painting and sculpture through which she tackled similar issues and concerns. Untitled (Mr. Austridge: 5) is an exact replica of a drawing by George Herriman from his comic strip Krazy Kat which ran in American newspapers between 1913 and 1944. It belongs to a series of works that are differentiated solely by the grain of the wood support onto which the characters are painted, wooden panels that are also thought to be reminiscent of the comic book panels and these characters' original context.
Through her repeated appropriation of Herriman’s comic character, Levine challenges ideas of authorship, authenticity and originality and corresponding artistic value. The character of the ostrich who burries his head in the sand is also open to a range of different interpretations; it has been suggested for example that its willful blindness may serve as a metaphorical counterpoint to the conventional notion of painting as a source of unique visual experience.
“Every word, every image, is leased and mortgaged. We know that a picture is but a space in which a variety of images, none of them original, blend and clash. A picture is a tissue of quotations drawn from the innumerable centres of culture."
This series is itself part of a larger body of work by Levine based on Herriman’s comic strip and its main characters, Krazy Kat and Ignatz. According to the comic’s narrative Krazy Kat who is of ambiguous gender is in love with Ignatz. His love is however unrequited and a masochistic relationship ensues whereupon Krazy Kat is repeatedly struck by a brick thrown by Ignatz, which he interprets as a sign of Ignatz's love. Levine’s repetition of these images, aside from undermining notions of authenticity also underscores the violence and tragedy inherent in the humour of the comic strip story.