Archive for January, 2013

art: the eighties at ica

7 January 2013

This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s. Institute for Contemporary Art, Boston

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The subway advertisements for this show promised, in punky cyan-magenta-yellow letters, iconic Eighties artists – Basquiat, Sherman, Mapplethorpe, Koons, Goldin – while the title suggested anticipation of our backward gaze. The show, as it turned out, did not revolve around the stars, and the innocent historical documentary embedded in the materials, their past-ness, is more compelling than any of the high concepts claimed in the show briefs.

Tucked beside the entrance is Charlie Ahearn‘s Wild Style, a documentary of graffiti, rap and breakdance, fresh as a cookie from a time capsule and crisp as a musical comedy routine (check minute 25). How was it not obvious to everyone that hiphop was going to be enormous and remold a vast range of performance forms? Other films record conversations with early AIDS sufferers, the burlesque of high fashion and the protean practice of Cindy Sherman, robotically changing her look with every conversational turn. The mercenary skirmishes that held the place of war are invoked when Alfredo Jaar counterpoints an ad for Fortune featuring an infant and the slogan “We’re All Created Equal. After That, Baby, You’re On Your Own,” with a blurry news image of soldiers. Even without the war angle, the Fortune text was a more direct indictment of the class-money-power nexus than anything else in the show. But then a museum supervised by mysterious millionaires is unlikely to threaten the military-industrial complex to its face.

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