The Whitney is presenting a fairly large show of work by Sherry Levine, a retrospective, reviewed in today's Wall Street Journal. Ms. Levine's work is found in many museums and sells for very large sums. She has become quite wealthy over the years. She is famous for her work on issues of appropriation and commodification. She took photos of 21 of Walker Evans works, arranged them in a grid on a wall and enclosed them with a frame. So she had a 22nd so to speak. Or, a bronzed urinal after Duchamp. The review is scathing about the work, and I have, or more accurately, happily, agree. The ideas of her work are very thin indeed. It is quite dificult to take seriously purported commentary on commodification that is itself just commodification of someone else's work. And sold for high prices. (One should form A Sherry Levine Production, LLC and then sell photos of Sherry Levine photos. Be a bit weird for her to object.)
There are a number of problems with the project (so to speak). First among them is that it is entirely insular and precious. There is no significant challenge to notions of originality, for example, in the work because it merely replicates the claim of originality -- her copying is original. Well, hardly. It is not even an original idea, having been explored pretty thoroughly in the first half of the 20th century, although for much less remuneration. Second, it requires so much explanation to have any value that the objects themselves are of no consequence. And then one is back to the dull ideas being enacted. And third it is built out of intellectual and empirical mistakes.
Or I am old and crabby, which may well be.