Tuesday, May 5, 2009

For those of you who like your books with pictures.

For those of us born in the age of imagery, the Metropolitan Museum of Art offers a special exhibition entitled The Pictures Generation, 1974-1984. This show focuses on a group of artists that were taught by John Baldessari in the early 1970s. Many of these artist appeared in the original Pictures Generation exhibition in 1977. The group eventually picks up Cindy Sherman and Richard Prince, creating one of the most influential groups of artists in the late twentieth century.

In fact Prince, Sherman, and several other artists in this show all had works in the a special exhibition (Into the Sunset: Photography’s Image of the American West) at the Museum of Modern Art just a few blocks away.

It was interesting to see this show after seeing The Generational, Younger Than Jesus at the New Museum. Like that show, many of the works from this group of artists were messy, experimental, and favored ideas over production values. But through the lens of history, the best of these artists have accomplished just what artists should; shown us the best and worst of who we are. And many of the issues they chose to critique are still affecting who we are today.

Take Barbara Kruger’s large-scale works that ask questions about consumerism, feminism, and social responsibility. Truly, you are not yourself. Kruger’s works seem as pertinent today as when they first appeared. Then there is Sherman’s work which smacks us in the face with a desperate fascination for celebrity and identity. Cindy practically predicted the future.

I loved James Casebere’s photographs of completely disposable subdivisions. And Richard Prince’s photographs of advertising photographs still ask questions about what constitutes are in a world where so much spectacular imagery is so readily available.

Robert Longo’s works were some of my favorites, particularly the large-scale charcoal and graphite drawings. These beautiful works are statements on the increasingly realistic violence in cinema seen through the filter of the thrash-like dancing in the clubs of the early 80s.

I think I’m happy to be part of The Pictures Generation.

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