In Conceptual or “ultra-conceptual” art, the idea is paramount and the material form is secondary, ephemeral, or “dematerialized.” Lucy Lippard first tackles the concept of dematerialization in 1967, in an article she wrote with John Chandler.
For the exhibition, Martí Cormand focuses exclusively on After Walker Evans, Sherrie Levine’s appropriation of Walker Evans’ photographs made during the Great Depression. The series comprised of 22 photographs was first exhibited in 1981 at Metro Pictures Gallery. Walker Evans’ images of the conditions of the rural poor during the Depression were made famous in the 1941 book ‘Let Us Now Praise Famous Men’. Forty years later, Levine re-photographed Evans' photographs directly from an exhibition catalogue and presented them as her own artwork. Walker Evans’ estate viewed the series as copyright infringement and acquired the works to prevent their sale. Later, Levine donated the entire series to the estate and now the Metropolitan Museum of Art owns all of it. “By appropriating and re-presenting the work of a ‘master' of photography in an absolutely straightforward manner, Levine is providing potent political and aesthetic commentary on the nature of photography, its status as a document or a work of art, a copy of an original, a picture or a fact.” (Metro Pictures, Sherrie Levine May 1981, Press Release)
“If Walker Evans’ photographs were the ‘material,’ in this case, Sherrie Levine’s gesture of re-photographing is the ‘dematerialization.’ By committing the time to draw photographs made in an instant, I am, in a sense, re-materializing her project. Conceptual artists had very clear ideas to express so they would choose a fast and precise medium to communicate them. I have nothing urgent to communicate, no absolute convictions. By examining every gesture from the summits of conceptualism I can measure the distance between the slowness generated by uncertainty and the speed that accelerates convictions.” (Marti Cormand)