"My work has nothing to do with appropriation, the refocusing of history, or the death of art, or the negative questioning of orginality. Rather just the opposite, as it involves the power and autonomy of orginality and the force and pervasiveness of art" (Sturtevant, Galerie Six Friedrich).
Sturtevant’s Warhol Flowers is just one of five canvases of this large size that the artist painted featuring a quartet of bold red flowers. Painted in 1965, the series is one of the artist’s most significant bodies of works and was completed just a few weeks after Andy Warhol’s historic show of his original flower paintings at New York’s Leo Castelli Gallery. Rather than reimagining the subject, the Sturtevant used a silkscreen that Warhol had given her to create further versions of the composition; famously, when asked about his own technique, Warhol was reported to have said, “I don’t know. Ask Elaine” (A. Warhol, quoted by M. Fox, “Elaine Sturtevant, Who Borrowed Others’ Work Artfully, Is Dead at 89,” New York Times, May 16, 2014).
With its burst of bright red flowers taken directly from Warhol’s iconic composition, Sturtevant builds on the legacy of artist’s such as Marcel Duchamp. Her explorations of appropriation began in 1964, when she started to manually reproduce works of art by memory – focusing at first on those created by her contemporaries such as Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, Jasper Johns and Warhol. Selecting easily recognizable motifs from their oeuvres and deliberately mimicking their aesthetics, she posed a critical challenge to notions of authenticity and authorship in an era increasingly dominated by reproduction. The importance of Warhol’s ‘brand’ in solidifying Sturtevant’s early career was not only evident through her decision to explore several of his images in her works (ranging from the Flowers to the Marilyns) but also in her choice to present an entire show consisting of her repetition of Warhol’s Flowers in 1991.