Mike Bidlo is an internationally known appropriation artist. Appropriation is a term used to describe an artistic strategy employed by artists in the 1980s and 1990s to replicate individual works of art (works produced by other artists who were, in most cases, better known than the artist making the replica). They then consider the new product part of their own creative production. In this new series of drawings, however, Bidlo has not replicated a specific work, but, rather, an idea, a completely new alternative to the traditional concept of appropriation. The idea Bidlo has chosen to replicate is based on Robert Rauschenberg’s Erased de Kooning Drawing; in 1953, Rauschenberg erased an original drawing by Willem de Kooning, a bold and courageous gesture considered by many to be among the most profound and original statements made by any artist of the 20th century.
In Bidlo’s recreation of this momentous event, he has painstaking replicated sixteen drawings of women by Willem de Kooning, ranging in date from 1940 to 1968, whereupon he systematically (and equally painstakingly) erased them all. The process of their gradual disappearance is recorded in a series of still photographs, which, in the gallery, are displayed in a continuous dissolve on a video monitor. Each erased drawing is then matted and framed in a manner reflective of the original. “For Bidlo,” as Robert Rosenblum so eloquently wrote in his introduction to the exhibition’s catalogue, “the history of art is a haunting, living presence, the muse that fires his faith in reincarnation.”