Curated by painter, critic, and curator Michelle Grabner, the group exhibition A Study in Midwestern Appropriation surveys the defining trait of appropriation in contemporary art from the heartland. Artists included in the show from Chicago, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis present a range of image and content-borrowing strategies, from the critical to the open-ended, the humorous imitation to the urgent copy.
As defined by Tony Godfrey in Conceptual Art, appropriation in art is “the act of one artist assuming the work of another artist and claiming it as their own. This act defies assumptions about the authenticity of artistic creation and traditional notions of copyright.” Contemporary appropriation strategies are fluid in gesture and embrace a very different ‘creative’ content than the critical acts of appropriation that Marcel Duchamp pioneered nearly one hundred years ago. Grabner’s exhibition posits that, unlike work by artists from other regions, artwork by midwestern artists deploy appropriation to convey self-deprecating and comical qualities. Grabner states, “How these [Midwest] artists decide how they are used and by whom is an open question, but there would appear to be little or no proprietary interest in the images themselves. Like the work of art ‘designed for reproducibility,’ such as a multiple, these images are not created to be used so much as appropriated. Since they have multiple contexts to begin with, they are always already recontextualized, making their production a form of viral consumption.”
A Study in Midwestern Appropriation features sculptures, drawings, text-based work, photographs, prints, and collages by artists from Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis.