Walker Art Center

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Press Releases This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s Examines the Changing Art World in a Tumultuous Decade

Minneapolis, June 12, 2012—Throughout the 1980s, a series of ruptures permanently changed the character of the U.S. art world. Art veered between radical and conservative, capricious and political, socially engaged and art-historically aware. Even as Reaganomics dramatically expanded art as a luxury commodity, postmodernism further challenged the very status of representation and shifted artists’ sense of their role in society. It was a time where people of color, women, and gay artists demanded to play an active role in the cultural conversation; photography challenged the primacy of painting and sculpture; the toll of the AIDS/ HIV crisis politicized a broad cross-section of the art community; and the rise of globalism sounded the death knell of New York’s status as the sole “center” of the art world. The major new exhibition This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s, on view at the Walker Art Center from June 30 to September 30, 20121 surveys these and other developments with more than 100 works of painting, sculpture, photography, video, audio, works on paper, and documentary material by some 90 artists.

The exhibition is divided into four thematic sections:

The End is Near presents discourses about the end—of painting, of counterculture, of modernism, and of history. Artists include Dotty Attie, Robert Colescott, General Idea, Robert Gober, Jack Goldstein, Pater Halley, Mary Heilmann, Candy Jernigan, Mike Kelley, Martin Kippenberger, Louise Lawler, Sherrie Levine, Christian Marclay, Allan McCollum, Peter Nagy, Raymond Pettibon, Stephen Prina, Martin Puryear, Gerhard Richter, David Salle, Doug + Mike Starn, Tony Tasset, James Welling, and Christopher Wool.

Democracy focuses on artists’ work in the street and their burgeoning awareness and exploitation of mass media, as well as the emergence of artistic voices from previously marginalized communities. The work in this section reflects artists’ focus on environmental concerns and activism, a questioning of the idea of “representational politics,” and a belief that art is inherently political. Artists include Charlie Ahearn, Gretchen Bender, Black Audio Film Collective, Jennifer Bolande, Gregg Bordowitz, Eugenio Dittborn, , Gran Fury, Group Material, Guerrilla Girls, Hans Haacke, David Hammons, Jenny Holzer, Alfredo Jaar, Barbara Kruger, Louise Lawler, Donald Moffett, Lorraine O’Grady, Paper Tiger Television, Adrian Piper, Lari Pittman, Tim Rollins and K.O.S., Christy Rupp, Doris Salcedo, Juan Sánchez, Tseng Kwong Chi and Keith Haring, Carrie Mae Weems, Christopher Williams, and Krzystof Wodiczko.

Gender Trouble explores the growing awareness among artists of the ways in which society and the media play a role in the construction of gender. It also elaborates on the legacy of 1970s feminism as it became processed in art of the 1980s. The works explore expanding gender roles and address new ideas about sexuality and the human figure in art. Artists include Leigh Bowery, Jimmy De Sana, Carroll Dunham, Jimmy Durham, Alex Garry, Robert Gober, Nan Goldin, Mike Kelley, Paul McCarthy, Annette Messager, Cady Noland, Albert Oehlen, Richard Prince, Cindy Sherman, Lorna Simpson, Julian Schnabel, Rosemarie Trockel, and Jeff Wall.

Desire and Longing presents the art of appropriation in relation to desire, for commodities, love, happiness, and pairs it with work that longs for new forms of intimacy among people, particularly in light of the growing visibility of queer culture sparked by the AIDS crisis. Artists include Judith Barry, Ashley Bickerton, Deborah Bright, Sophie Calle, Marlene Dumas, Felix Gonzales-Torres, Peter Hujar, G. B. Jones, Isaac Julian, Rotimi Fani Kayode, Mary Kelly, Silvia Kolbowski, Jeff Koons, Louise Lawler, Sherrie Levine, Jack Leirner, Robert Mapplethorpe, Richard Prince, Marlon Riggs, David Robbins, Laurie Simmons, Haim Steinbach, and David Wojnarowicz.

Rather than positioning the works exclusively in the terminology of the day, such as Neo- Geo, Neo- Expressionism, and Appropriation these thematic sections seek to see past the trenchant debates of the time, and find valences in works that would often have been seen as in opposition to each other. In deliberately crossing these categories, and presenting a thematic approach that engages the urgency underpinning so many of the works, this contentious exhibition counters the cynicism and irony with which art of this period is often viewed.. This Will Have Been presents a vivid portrait of artists struggling with their wants, needs, and desires in an era of political and aesthetic urgency—and situates our contemporary moment within the history of art of the recent past.

This Will Have Been: Art, Love, and Politics in the 1980s was organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago and curated by Helen Molesworth, Chief Curator, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston. Walker organizing curator: Bartholomew Ryan.

After its run at the Walker Art Center, This Will Have Been will be on view at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston from November 16, 2012 - March 3, 2013.


A comprehensive, 450-page illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition, featuring essays by Molesworth and a range of art historians, curators and critics such as Johanna Burton, William Horrigan, Elisabeth Lebovici, Kobena Mercer, Sarah Schulman, and Frazer Ward.

Related Programs

Opening-Day Talk

Saturday, June 30, 2 pm, Free with gallery admission

Walker Cinema

Curator Helen Molesworth discusses the political and aesthetic urgency of the 1980s with participating artists Lorraine O’Grady and Donald Moffett. O’Grady is an artist and critic, since 1980 she has engaged in performance, installation and text-based works that explore ideas of diaspora, hybridity, and black female subjectivity. A celebrated painter, in the 1980s Moffett was deeply involved in AIDS activism as a member of Act Up and the art collective Gran Fury.

Mack Lectures are made possible by generous support from Aaron and Carol Mack.

80’s Night in the Field

Thursday, August 9, 7–10 pm, Free

Open Field and Target & Friedman Galleries

Wear your neon, shoulder pads, and stirrup pants for an evening that looks back on an oft-maligned decade. Start the night with a special ‘80s-themed edition of Drawing Club (4–8 pm), then check out the exhibition This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s, during a curator-led tour (7 pm). Stick around as Jim Walsh (author of The Replacements: All Over But the Shouting: An Oral History) rounds up fellow musicians and artists who lived through this special time for a round of stories and songs with the Mad Ripple Hootenanny that harks back to a decade when CDs were the next big thing.

Contemporary Art in Conversation: Carrie Mae Weems and Bernadette Mayer

Thursday, September 13, 7 pm, Free

Walker Cinema

Photographer Carrie Mae Weems and writer Bernadette Mayer are known for stretching the boundaries of their form. Over the past four decades Weems has used storytelling and idiomatic forms—jokes, songs, rebukes—that examine subjectivity and expose insidious stereotypes, as seen in her series, American Icons, on view in the exhibition This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s. Mayer, an avant-garde writer associated with the New York School of poets, director of the Poetry Project at St Mark’s Church in New York in the 1980s, and co-editor of the journal 0 TO 9 with artist Vito Acconci, has been experimenting with language and publishing texts since the 1960s. Join Eric Lorberer, editor of Rain Taxi Review of Books, in a moderated discussion with these notable artists.

Co-presented by Rain Taxi Review of Books.

Donald Moffett, Call the White House, 1990

Courtesy of the artist and Marianne Boesky Gallery