Cultured Magazine

February/March 2015

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 133 of 219

When you think of hotbeds of contemporary art exhibitions, New Jersey rarely comes to mind first. Manhattan is so close and is such a powerful magnet for the new and the on-trend, it's hard to establish anything in its orbit that competes on that turf. But the Montclair Art Museum—a venerable institution that celebrated its 100th birthday last year in the leafy, liberal suburban town of Montclair—is car ving out a niche for itself with shows that upend viewer expectations. For example, last year's "Robert Smithson's New Jersey" looked at how the native son developed his pioneering conceptual and earth art in the soil of the Garden State. The museum's newest exhibition, "Come as You Are: Art of the 1990s," features approximately 65 works by artists such as Glenn Ligon, Diana Thater, Vik Muniz, Karen Ki limnik, Kara Walker, Félix González-Torres and many others who came to prominence in that turbulent decade of art-making. The exhibition was organized by Alexandra Schwartz, who was hired four years ago as the museum's first contemporary art curator. Director Lora Urbanelli asked for "thoughtful, scholarly shows that are also accessible," says Schwartz, who didn't need to look far from her own interests fo r this particular exhibition. "It was pretty personal," she says of the show's genesis, which has the infamous 1993 Whitney Biennial as its touchstone. "I was in college and graduate school in the '90s; I really came of age with that work." While 1990s nostalgia in general makes it timely and appealing, "Come as You Are" has something more meaningful on its mind. "There's a lot of interest right now on t he part of younger artists and critics in revisiting this moment that was very socially engaged and had works with more political content," says Schwartz. "We're in a moment where the market is just so pervasive and strong, and I think that in some corners, there's a longing to have that engagement, that kind of controversy and that passionate connection between art and life—or art and politics." Ironic ally, the rebels of the 1990s have been fully embraced by today's market. "When their work was first shown, it was so controversial," says Schwartz. "Members of that group were seen as renegades. Now, they're a lot of the major powerhouses today." A work by Glenn Ligon, for instance, went for almost $4 million at Sotheby's in November. He's represented in "Come as You Are" with Invisible Man (Two Views) (1991). Ligon's head-on tackling of race epitomizes the tone of what's in the show, as does Aziz + Cucher's memorably neutered nude photograph, Man with a Computer (1992). "I think that a lot of societal attitudes toward these issues and work that deals with them has really changed and evolved," says Schwartz. "And to me, that's very exciting." In looking back at the 1990s, of course, Schwartz makes us t hink about what might be right around the corner in art history's future—and the future of the Montclair Museum of Art itself and its bold new direction. Remember the '90s? By looking at the art world's controversial and lasting upheavals of the 1990s, the 100-year-old Montclair Art Museum helps remake itself. BY TED LOOS 132 CULTURED From top: Sharon Lockhart's Untitled, 1996; Rirkrit Tiravanija's untitled (Blind), 1991; Glenn Kaino's The Siege Perilous, 2002; Karen Kilimnik's The Toy Soldier, 1999. FROM TOP, IMAGES COURTESY OF: THE ARTIST & BLUM & POE LA, GLADSTONE GALLERY NY & NEUGERRIEMSCHNEIDER BERLIN © THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART; THE ARTIST & GAVIN BROWN'S ENTERPRISE © RIRKRIT TIRAVANIJA; THE ARTIST & HONOR FRASER GALLERY; 303 GALLERY, NY

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Cultured Magazine - February/March 2015