Susan Laxton will deliver a lecture titled John Stezaker, Image Thief as part of the Sam Fox School Public Lecture Series. This lecture will explore the work of John Stezaker within the context of art history and contemporary art practice, especially in relationship to photography.
John Stezaker, Image Thief
Using collage and montage to deform popular imagery has long been a strategy of avant-garde artists seeking to resist “instrumental language,” or words and images consumed unthinkingly as mere vehicles of information. John Stezaker’s work joins this tradition of bungling the lines of communication, a critical strategy aimed at the passive consumption of media images we have naturalized as our visual field. That Stezaker draws his material exclusively from readymade imagery, citing rather than creating, places his unique form of “anti-expression” within the category of contemporary strategies of appropriation that work against the purported transparency of the photographic image to illuminate its deployment as a vehicle of persuasion. The strange syncretism of his found and recombined images, and the cognitive dissonance they in turn produce, are newly relevant in the contemporary context of hyper-availability enabled by the Internet. They offer a model for sorting art from artifice in a contemporary culture that embraces reuse, recycling, and brazen piracy as its primary means of expression.
Susan Laxton is assistant professor of art history at the University of California, Riverside, specializing in the history of photography and the European avant-gardes. She has been the recipient of fellowships at Princeton University and The Institute for Advanced Study. Her most recent work, forthcoming in the journal Critical Inquiry, is on Gerhard Richter’s overpainted snapshots; her essays on games, chance, and indeterminacy in the visual arts can already be found in October, Papers of Surrealism, the exhibition catalog Chance Aesthetics, and scattered among a number of recent anthologies. She is the author of the exhibition catalog Paris as Gameboard: Man Ray’s Atgets, and is currently finishing a book on ludic strategies in Surrealism.