Turkish artist Serkan Ozkaya’s “David (inspired by Michelangelo)” follows a time-honored tradition of artists copying and remixing famous works — and it’s not all pop-culture parodies of “The Last Supper.”
Unlike a parody or a straight copy, a remix is in part about appropriation and introducing a significant conceptual contribution from the secondary artist into the re-imagining of an icon.
For example, see how illustrator John Mattos captures the grace of Star Wars android C-3PO as Marcel Duchamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2” as opposed to the easy laugh of the “American Gothic”-styled promotional photo of Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton for their erstwhile reality show “The Simple Life.” Mattos’ piece asks us to consider how and why the two subjects are connected, while “The Simple Life” photo makes a quick visual joke about two pampered socialites trying on the novelty of rural life.
Here’s a closer look at several famous works of art and their remixes.
Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” is one of the most beloved works of Western art, so it might as well have had a “kick me” sign stuck on its back for artists like surrealist Salvador Dali, whose “Self-Portrait as Mona Lisa” (left) re-imagines the mysterious lady with Dali’s signature eyebrows, mustache and wild eyes, and Dada pioneer Marcel Duchamp, whose “L.H.O.O.Q.” is a postcard of the famous portrait with a vandalism-inspired insouciant mustache. Both pieces make Modernist statements about the sacred status of the canon and the role of the artists’ respective movements.
Jean-Michel Basquiat later paid tribute to the feminine muse with “Boone,” his remix portrait of his art dealer, Mary Boone, as the Mona Lisa. The slash of red lipstick really sells it.
But Mona Lisa had been copied thousands of times before 20th century rebels took their liberties. One early copy on exhibit in Madrid’s Museo del Prado was recently determined to have been painted at the same time as the original, by a mystery artist painting side-by-side in the studio with da Vinci. All Things Considered goes deeper into the story.
The University of Louisville’s cast of Rodin’s iconic sculpture is the first of 22 authorized copies, and its wax casting was supervised by Rodin himself. Recent restoration and scanning technology have revealed the ways in which the cast differs from the original statue, and art historians will use that data to compare this replica to others, authorized and no.
But contemporary sculptor Nathan Mabry has taken the art of casting and re-casting to a new level.
Mabry purchased an unauthorized cast of “The Thinker” off the Internet, removed the patina and added a bronze cast of a grotesque latex mask. The result, “Process Art (Dead Men Don’t Make Sculpture),” is an irreverent take on Rodin’s brooding intellectual. It’s part of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego’s collection now.
“Entombment,” Two Ways
Even great masters learned by copying the masters before them, and Rubens was no exception. The image on the left is Caravaggio’s “The Entombment,” and on the right is Rubens’ copy. This is a copy, but it’s not intended to stand in for the original. Rubens made the work his own.
In his version, Rubens brings some figures into the foreground and pulls others into the background, and changes the faces and coloring on the characters. The National Gallery of Canada, which holds the Rubens in their collection, says Rubens “tamed the figures’ grief and reconsidered their relationship, yet he preserved the heart of Caravaggio’s invention – the almost physical presence of Christ’s inert and vulnerable body.”
Andy Warhol’s Marilyn
In Warhol’s case, the remix is the art. Warhol turned a piece of pop culture ephemera — a publicity still of Marilyn Monroe for her first major film role in the 1953 thriller “Niagara” — into a number of iconic pop art pieces, notably “Marilyn Diptych,” a series of 50 remixes of one portrait of Monroe, with one half in technicolor and the other in black and white.
See Art History in Miniature at the Minimuseum
Florida artist Richard McMahan created miniature replicas of famous works of art he’d never seen in person by copying them from library books. As Ozkaya did with “David (Inspired by Michelangelo),” claiming great works of art through nontraditional methods is one way of claiming cultural power, of becoming part of the conversation about these great works, especially for artists living and working outside of those traditions. Tour McMahan’s Minimuseum online thanks to the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art at the College of Charleston. McMahan’s miniature of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” (3.3″ x 3.9″) now belongs to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.