NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star is the title of an exhibition currently at New York’s New Museum running until 26-05-13. Centered around the year 1993, the exhibit works as a time-capsule, bringing to view issues and aesthetics vivid during the early 90’s time. Primarily using New York based artists, little known then- better known now, over three floors of the Museum present works from eighty different artists. With at least 2 pieces from each artist- this sprawling exhibition manages to coalesce and flow through a wide medley of themes in mediums: sculpture, painting, light installations and film. Interesting to note the freedom and ease with film and video in which artists expressed themselves even in 1993.
The array of issues that were alive in 1993 become palpable as one walks through the different rooms of the show. The destructive effects of the AIDS epidemic, the vulgarity in sexuality, the feminine struggle against our patriarchal society, the unspoken racial tension that has been swept under the rug, the questioning of what it means to be American and the power and limitations of our “freedom”, and most fervently displayed is the underground world’s reluctant collision with the mainstream.
Nan Goldin’s photographs of men on their death bed, physically deteriorated from AIDS, compare with Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ string of delicate lights dangling on a thin string from the ceiling to circle upon the floor: one can feel the transparent line between life and death, between health and illness; the ever approaching moment of when the light goes out. David Hammons’ using only the top of a sweatshirt’s hood nailed to the wall at eye level becomes Cady Noland’s American flag with holes: the link between what we have and what is still missing; the questioning of freedom. John Currin’s paintings of ailing women being almost suffocated by their tightly tucked blankets in bed join together with Cindy Sherman’s photograph of the demented mannequin, twisting into a sentiment of female’s entrapment and suffocation. The curatorial combines of such disparate artists and works serves in this case only to strengthen each work and highlight each artist on their own merit. All achieved with a remarkable flow. While the show speaks to a specific moment in our history, one leaves questioning how far we have come. Are the pieces powerful because the struggles present in 1993 enter the viewer in such a prevailing way? Or, perhaps, these works speak to us so strongly because we see these issues alive in our own world; present still right outside the museum’s walls.
Words: Gracie Brahimy © 2013 Photo: Courtesy the artists and New Museum New York
Exhibition runs from 13 February – 26 May at New Museum 235 Bowery New York, NY 10002