Friday, April 23, 2010

My History Is Not Your History

 Your History Is Not Our History is an exhibition curated by David Salle and Richard Phillips at Haunch of Venison Gallery, open until May 1. (Wouldn’t it have been pure poetry if the show Skin Fruit was there? Too bad.) It's a very upscale gallery located at 1230 Sixth Ave. (between 48th and 49th), 20th Floor. The show includes major work by Donald Baechler, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Ross Bleckner, Francesco Clemente, Carroll Dunham, Eric Fischl, RobertGober, Jeff Koons, Barbara Kruger, Louise Lawler, Sherrie Levine, Malcolm Morley, Richard Prince, David Salle, Julian Schnabel, Cindy Sherman, Laurie Simmons, Phillip Taaffe, Terry Winters and Christopher Wool. 

The exhibition isn't getting much attention (which must be galling Salle). And a panel discussion at the gallery a couple week ago with Salle, Richard Flood, James Fuentes, Allyson Vieira and Jacqeline Humphries and ineptly moderated by Richard Phillips, was poorly attended and so low energy (except for Jacqeline Humphries) it seemed everyone on the panel was depressed.

The purpose of the show, according to the gallery PR, is to set the historical record straight -- that the conceptual/photography art of the 1980's (what they call "critique art") and painting were not in opposition. In their language and grammar, not mine:

...the different manifestations of art in the 1980s - painting as well as the so called critique art came out of the a shared feeling for life "in extremis" and the oppositional characterization of those ways of making art, as if one is an antidote to the other, is wrong and obscures the deeper structures of meaning at work. "Your History is Not Our History strives to help us better understand the web of influences that conjoined in the 1980s to produce a strikingly original and inventive new artistic environment. We reject the sterilized view that is offered in hindsight and hope to offer a more accurate portrayal of the energy and experimentation that was permeating the city during that time," says Richard Phillips.
I wasn't going to blog about the exhibition even though they're showing some terrific work, and it made me nostalgic for the eighties. I just didn't have anything I wanted to say. But I kept thinking about why David Salle, a wildly successful artist, was so defensive. It's not like he wasn't included in the Met's show, The Pictures Generation, 1974–1984  - which I suspect triggered this response. 

Is Salle (I single him out because I believe he’s the driving force here) seriously claiming there was no distinction between the all-male painting (which was seen as outmoded and, if not market-driven, at least as having no qualms about the art market) and the hipper, more conceptual (mainly photography and/or text) and primarily female art of the time?  Is Salle trying to say “hey, I'm a hip conceptual artist, I should be fashionable now too.”  Is he saying it's a coincidence that all the male painters made the big bucks in the eighties, and that money’s not the point? (If so he chose the wrong venue -- Haunch of Venison is owned by Christie’s)

1 comment:

thomas said...

It's even kind of strange that the show (Salle) , wants to set the historical record straight since a lot of the work in the show challenged ideas of history, or the idea of history in the first place. To be crude about it, wasn't much of this work in the painting is dead ( even though I'm doin' it), and History is O-vah vein.

There doesn't seem to be any point to the show beyond historicism. That's irony for you; 80's or otherwise.