Frieze NY: Stuart Shave/Modern Art Presents Artworks by Linder Sterling

“Principle of Totality (Version 1)”, 2012. Photo by Sara Rosen.

Born in Liverpool, England, in 1954, Linder Sterling’s life changed one night in June 1976 when she saw the Sex Pistols play their first show in Manchester. That night, she met Howard Devoto of the Buzzcocks and Morrissey, who would become central figures in her life. Upon discovering she was a student studying commercial art at Manchester Polytechnic, the Buzzcocks asked Linder to produce their fliers and record sleeves.

Linder began working on collages, combining images from women’s lifestyle and pornography magazines, to sumptuous effect. The aesthetics of “feminine” marketing easily lent themselves to a starting, yet charming, dialogue. Combining images of male and female fantasy, Linder found a way to illustrate and comment on the development of our appetites in the modern age. For Linder is not simply a provocateur, or an aesthetic absurdist—she is filling our desire to look and to consume, with a knowing smile and an alluring wink that makes her images at once complicit in the system of objectification, and, at the same time, just a little bit more complicated.

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For the works themselves are for sale, and so they can satisfy the sweet tooth of the collector whose investment will most certainly increase the value and significance of these works. Undoubtedly, this is a certain kind of knowingness that makes the purchase of this work something of an act of cognitive dissonance. Purchasing art about consumerism is an ideological ouroburo, a snake eating its own tail. Which perhaps makes Linder an artist of our times. Good thing her work is well represented by Stuart Shave / Modern Art at Frieze New York, booth C55.

Detail, “Principle of Totality (Version 1)”, 2012. Photo by Sara Rosen.

“Principle of Totality (Version 1)” from 2012 is a stand-out amongst the show, not only in the way that it is lit and seems to glow, but in the way that it cunningly encourages us to keep looking at it. It changes so subtly and so completely with each new set of lips collaged onto the face that one is compelled to go back and forth, trying to make sense of it. Compared with the other images included in the booth, this series does not make references to pornography or to consumerism. There is no woman as object of desire. Instead there is something else.

There is an emotionality, a kind of instability that women know all too well. It is something that recalls the poetry of Charles Bukowski, specifically, “Cows in Art Class.” It is about the constant mutability of the inner state, of the way in which the slightest thing can influence a woman’s mood and take her from sunny to stormy in 4.3 seconds flat.

Detail, “Principle of Totality (Version 1)”, 2012. Photo by Sara Rosen.


In bringing each of these images together, as a single work, Linder is reminding us that the sum of the whole is greater than its parts. She who is me — reminding me that there is something funny about all of this. Linder’s collages, taken as a whole, are strangely tender, even when they touch upon the crass. She seems to remind us that above all, what is best about art is the way that it reminds us just how much we love to look.