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Millennials Speak at New Museum Triennial

NEW MUSEUM EXTERIOR_by Dean KaufmanThis post is almost cruel to write.

I just barely made it the the New Museum’s amazing “The Generational: Younger than Jesus” show on its very last day, but it was just too good to keep to myself.

The theme was simple: artists from around the world aged 33 and younger. Unlike the Whitney Biennial, which concentrates on America’s new art talent, this inaugural triennial is a worldwide view of the next generation of artists. And in my opinion, every three years will not be enough.

ChuYunThe exhibit was a fascinating indication of our times. A cacophony of themes: war, violence, government corruption, materialism and social media.  I missed Ryan Gander’s white track suits embroidered with blood stains worn by the attendants, but I definitely didn’t miss the installation of a woman asleep on a bed in the middle of the gallery. She didn’t move an inch. It was fun to stand nearby and see the looks on people’s faces as they circled the bed not noticing the sleeper until … surprise! a person’s in there. I later learned that Chu Yun’s piece is made up of the materials: “female participant, sleeping pill and bed.” No wonder she didn’t move.

Here’s a run-down of my favorite moments in exhibit:

1. Katerina Seda’s “It Doesn’t Matter”


The Czec Seda featured drawings and a video of her 77-year-old grandmother drawing the goods sold at the store where she worked for 30 years during communism. The exercise was a way to occupy her grandmother who had become detached  — “It doesn’t matter” had become her mantra in retirement as she lost purpose. The work is an amazing picture into memory. It’s as if the drawings itemize all the memories left inside her head.
Click here for more images from the work.

2. Shilpa Gupta’s “Untitled”


The Indian artist’s stirring image calls to mind the “see no evil” maxim. Her photograph is so simple and so powerful. It’s genius. Click here for more on Gupta.

3. Liu Chuang’s “Buying Everything On You”


Chinese artist Chuang’s piece was fascinating to study. He approached kids on the street in China and offered to buy everything off their backs. The results are displayed is an organized spread out like evidence in a police investigation. It was a fascinating sociological experiment but the biggest question for me was how much did it take? How much would someone have to get to do this? That question remains unanswered.
Click herefor more on Chuang.

4. Matt Keegan’s “Hands Almost Across America”


Brooklyn’s Matt Keegan cast the hands of mayors between NY and New Mexico, as a way of looking at the hands of power between the coasts. It also echoes the “Hands Across America” ’80s fund-raising tour at the tail-end of the Reagan administration. The disembodied hands eerily crawl toward the viewer reaching out for attention. Keegan painted incredibly lifelike skin tones. Studying them makes you wonder about the body on the other end, similar to the way the Chuang’s catalogued clothes make you wonder about the person who owned them.
Click herefor more on Keegan. Or click hereto hear Keegan talk about this work.

5. Elad Lassry’s “Drinks, Cheese” “Felicia” “Wolfe”


Israel-born, L.A. based artist’s photographs have something wrong with them. Something’s askew in the faux portraits or ad campaigns. From across the room they look fine, but as you get closer you can see they’re blurry or scary or something just doesn’t seem right. He manipulates vintage images from magazines or stock images, playing with their meaning. They’re familiar and on the surface friendly, but he’s subverting the original intent.
Click herefor more on Lassry.

6. Ryan Trecartin’s “Sibling Topics (Section A)”


Trecartin’s installation took over two small rooms in the museum. Each furnished and playing, loud, disjointed videos on several screens featuring the artists dressed as a woman or in other strange costumes. They were abrasive with nonsensical dialogue and quick cuts. Headphones were provided which projected the video at a louder volume. His work was a sort of hot mess you can’t stop looking at; a visual and aural representation of electronic over-stimulation, an apt stereotype of his generation. Click here to watch a segment from “Sibling Topics.”
Or Click here to see some more of Trecartin’s work (if you dare).

7. Gutherie Lonergan’s “MySpace Intro Playlist”

L.A. artist Lonergan is an Internet observer. In this piece he compiles a video of people introducing their MySpace pages and asking strangers to leave them a message.  Many are funny and sad, although that wasn’t Lonergan’s intention. It’s interesting to see real personalities reach out from the computer screen, trying to make contact – and friends – via technology. Like being a fly on the wall in teenagers bedrooms.
Click here to see the videos. Click herefor Lonergan’s blog.

8. Stephen G. Rhodes’ “Interregnum Repetition Restoration”


One of the most disturbing works in the show, L.A. artist Stephen G. Rhodes’ installation shows a grave mistrust of government. The Oval-Office-like set up shows the seat of power hooked up to transmitters and receivers oozing chemicals like they’ve overloaded and poisoned the leader. Or the leader is long gone and the machines are running the show. The forefather portraits on the wall are fuzzy and an audio component sounded like a post-apocolyptic off-air radio buzz and crackle. Heavy stuff. Maybe as a Texan he feels extra Bush guilt.
Click here or here for more on Rhodes. (photo via

For more on the exhibit and to hear some of the artists talk about their work click here.


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