AIDS-3D, OMG Obelisk, 2007, MDF, electroluminescent wire, steel,
hot glue, acrylic paint and fire
New York Times critic Holland Cotter ruminates on how cultural history gets written, discussing The Metropolitan Museum’s The Pictures Generation 1974-1984, and Younger Than Jesus at the New Museum. Kudos to Cotter for pointing out the Met’s inappropriate exclusion of Philip Smith, though we differ in opinion on Younger Than Jesus. The critic writes:
A scan of the catalog's biographies confirms that, almost without exception, the artists in the show are products of art schools, as often as not intensely professionalized, canon-driven environments. This may help explain why so much of the work on view comes with art historical references and borrowings, tweaks on tweaks on tweaks so intricate and numerous as to defy listing.
The same biographies reveal that nearly all of these 33-and-under artists already have substantial careers in progress, with solo shows in commercial galleries, appearances in international surveys and so on. So this isn't a promising-newcomer event. It's a market-vetted product and one that, my guess is, entailed relatively little adventuring on the part of its organizers.
While Cotter describes the professionalized state of the art world quite well (brilliantly, in fact), I don’t think it’s fair to penalize the curators for presenting an accurate account of that culture. After all, the criteria Cotter lays out no longer describes “promising-newcomers,” but outsider artists. Younger Than Jesus has it’s flaws, but not sharing the interests of a critic shouldn’t be one of them.