PRINT Summer 2008


Sherrie Levine and The Mother of Us All

Sherrie Levine, The Mother of Us All, 2008, still from a color video, 45 minutes.

FROM THE BEGINNING, Sherrie Levine’s work has been about names and how to count them. Depending on how one took her early appropriations, they seemed to promise a practice without origins or names and, as Craig Owens wrote, without “the paternal rights assigned to the author by law.”¹ Or they suggested precisely the opposite, an agonic and Oedipal struggle over the name: not no names but exactly two. That was Carter Ratcliff’s early argument: “Her ‘appropriations’ are most effective as expressions of her resentment at the fact that her name will never be as glamorous as Walker Evans’s.”² Now, of course, Levine owns an oeuvre and a proper name of her own, one that doesn’t just denote—as any proper name does—but connotes, carrying with it and standing for terms like appropriation and arguments such as Owens’s. She still leans heavily on other artists, but over the past

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