Exhibition Inquisition

The stuff you look at, but don't see.

Four Facts: This Will Have Been

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Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago

“I got love for you if you were born in the 80s,” croons Calvin Harris. Why thank you Calvin, I was in fact, born in the 80s, towards the end of it, but still.  This is why the MCA’s This Will Have Been is such a fun show for me—because it presents work that I am mostly unfamiliar with.  Unfamiliar, for two reasons: one—the work has not been thoroughly historicized yet, and two—I wasn’t around when most of the work was being produced.

There are A LOT of conversations in the show, some of which you can find here, here, here, and here.  While that might be confusing, the overall curatorial statement is to present “the decade’s moments of contentious debate, raucous dialogue, erudite opinions, and joyful expression.” And there were a lot.

Everybody loves an inflatable bunny!

1) One of the topics that underlies the show is the origins of today’s crazy-ass art market in the 80s. This conversation is never complete with mention of Koons.  So of course the MCA has bust out the old Koon’s Rabbit  (1986) againRabbit is also a favorite of Eli Broad too, he has another edition, which he purchased directly from Koons.   Everyone loves Rabbit really, and it was even made into a balloon for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

2) A less lighthearted moment is John Ahearn’s Raymond and Toby (1989), which was part of a sculptural group commissioned by the New York Department of Cultural Affairs.  The public art commission didn’t stay public very long, and was removed in less than a week of its installation in front of a police station. I wonder how the Broad Art Foundation got their hands this piece.

Protected by a red velvet rope.

3) Another major conversation is how Reagan and Thatcher dominated the decade’s politics.  One work that features Regan prominently is Hans Haacke’s Oil Painting: Homage to Marcel Broodthaer (1982), which was first shown at Documenta 7.  The installation pairs a hand-painted portrait of Regan with a blown up photograph of an anti-nuclear protest.  A red carpet connects the two images, with a red velvet rope in front of the portrait.  Fun Fact: When the work is shown in Germany, the photo used is of a protest in Bonn, Germany; when the work is shown in America, the photo is of New York City protest.  (I don’t know what happens when the work is shown outside of these countries.)  Another LA shout out: this work was part of LACMA’s amazing Art of the Two Germanys show, and is now part of LACMA’s permanent collection (donated by, who else, the Broad Art Foundation.

4) Sometimes I think the 80s was a tacky time.  I bring as evidence (and the only work in this post not related to Broad, as far as I know): Julian Schnabel’s Portrait of Andy Warhol (1982).  Why is the work so tacky you ask? – Because it’s painted on black velvet!  Schnabel seems like a pretty intentional guy though so this is probably a consciously tacky work.  (Sidenote: February 22 is the 25th anniversary of Warhol’s death, so let’s do something to commemorate this guys

Oil on velvet…

These four facts barely scratch the surface of the numerous, rich conversation in the show.  Another great element is the rise of the hip hop and punk music scenes.  To that end, the MCA has compiled several 80s playlists.  Listen on repeat until next month’s First Friday, which is (duh!) 80s themed.

– H.I.

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