In modern art, artists may use previous artistical works and redesign or recontextualize them to produce new work. The newly created artwork may either portray the same artistic message as the original work or an entirely new aspect. Appropriation, therefore, refers to the process of using pre-existing images or objects with little or no transformation application. In visual arts, the word to appropriate simple means to either borrow or adopt and recycle different aspects of human culture. Appropriation plays a vital role in visual arts by providing a platform where artists can either promote or criticize various aspects of culture or various issues portrayed by other artists’ works[1]. In appropriation, the artist intends that the viewer will recognize and align with the central message or issue portrayed by the image that they artist copy. To the artist, it his/her belief that the viewer will carry along his feeling, thoughts, and beliefs he had with the original image and associate it with the newly created image. An iconic example of appropriation was Campbell’s Soup Can which the artist designed in 1951. In creating the soup can, Campbell copied the original labels of the soup can but used the iconic appearance to fill the entire picture plane. The picture below shows the Campbell’s soup can[2].

Erasure refers to a found poetry or found object that the poet or the artist creates by erasing some of the words from the existing text in either prose or verse and framing the resulting words to create a poem. In erasure, the resulting words from such a manipulative process are left to stand either in situ or are arranged to form lines and stanzas. An example of Erasure can be depicted from Ronald Johnson’s Radi OS poem of 1977 which the poet deconstructed from Milton’s text titled Paradise Lost. Based on the definition and implementation processes of appropriation and Erasure, it is evident that there is a significant similarity between the two. Such similarities is because both artworks involve manipulation of the already existing artwork by recontextualizing or erasing some of the words or objects to come up with a new artwork which portrays a new idea, theme, or message. Hence, it is correct to claim that erasure is also appropriative and is similar to appropriation by redefinition of the previous art to create a new piece of art. However, the two are different on the issue the artist changes and how it’s undertaking. That is, while appropriation involves the borrowing and modifying of an artwork’s image or object, erasure involves erasing of some words or rearranging the words to create a poem.

Erasure is appropriative to the extent that manipulation of the original words of the art is not entirely scrapped off. That means that for the process of erasure to remain appropriative, the artist must ensure that the result of erasing the original art will not significantly change the meaning of the original text or poem nor will it be rendered irrelevant by the new words developed. The appropriateness of erasure matters in modern society because it helps in addressing some of the social injustices that were committed in the past. For instance, the black people in the US for years now have been grappling with issues of racial discrimination after the abolition of the slave trade. While the removal of Confederate statutes may be seen as one of the ways of addressing the racial inequalities in the country, the truth is that such action leads to the aspect of erasure. The confederation statues were built to celebrate white supremacy over the African Americans, and to give honor and credit to the white people who played a greater role in suppressing insurrections by the black people. Hence, removing these statues is like erasing the past and making the black people forget the brutal and inhuman treatment that they experienced as slaves during the 18th century.



Coleman, Elizabeth Burns. Aboriginal art, identity, and appropriation. Routledge, 2017.

Walmart Inc. Campbell’sCondensed Tomato Soup 10.75oz.Can. 1961. Accessed 18th February 18, 2019,


[1]Coleman, Elizabeth Burns. Aboriginal art, identity, and appropriation. Routledge, 2017.


[2]Campbell’s Condensed Tomato Soup 10.75oz.Can

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