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Sturtevant

Sturtevant, Haring Tag July 15 1981, 1985, sumi ink and acrylic on cloth, 9 7/8 × 12 7/8".

STURTEVANT WAS NOT HER NAME. It originally belonged to someone else, but she inhabited it and made it her own, inaugurating a kind of vaudeville that she would repeat many times over the fifty years of her career. She often said that she liked the name because of its power, but its camouflage surely also appealed to her. Abandoning any kind of recognizable style, she began in 1964 “utilizing Johns, Duchamp, or Warhol . . . as catalysts to dispose of representation,” dedicating herself to a practice whose force depends upon first being seen as what it is not. This meant that a lot of people missed it altogether, and still do.

“If something is not yet known, then only what it is not can be understood,” Sturtevant wrote in a 1971 letter, pointing beyond the horizon of our recognition and indicating the difficulty of her path toward it. A few years ago, I found myself on a certain

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