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The Art of Appropriation
Curated by Emily Shrope ’16

October 19 - December 12, 2015

sance detail

Detail of Jos Sances, Parody of a Political Mural (1989), lithograph, SLU 89.35


In the context of Western art, appropriation is “the taking over, into a work of art, of a real object or even an existing work of art,” according to Simon Wilson and Jessica Lack in the Tate Guide to Modern Art Terms.

Oftentimes, little or no transformation is applied to the original, though its context and meaning are changed. This definition may seem simple, but appropriation takes many different forms, and its elusive quality makes it an effective artistic tool. This exhibition incorporates drawings, prints, photographs, artists’ books, and mixed media from St. Lawrence University’s permanent collection and focuses on stylistic and cultural appropriation.

An artist may borrow from another artist’s style, a specific time period, or other works of art. Stylistically, Sandra Hildreth uses the form and intrinsic meaning of Tibetan Buddhist mandalas as a spiritual veneration of the Adirondack Mountains, while the Guerrilla Girls, Robert Morris, Jos Sances and Michalis Pichler all borrow from specific artworks by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Francisco Goya, Pablo Picasso, and Edward Ruscha, respectively (but not always respectfully).

mannomee drawing

Kavavaow Mannomee, untitled drawing (n.d.), SLU 2005.44

In cultural appropriation, artists adopt ideas and themes from cultures outside of their own, which at times may point to imbalances of power. Some artists in the exhibition attempt to comment upon or redress those imbalances. A drawing by Inuit artist Kavavaow Mannomee appropriates American iconography, for example, leaving viewers to question stereotypical notions of indigenous culture.