Theories on Forgetting maps evolutions of cultural symbolism through the work of eighteen contemporary artists. Questioning how popular images originate, gain importance, obsolesce, and renew, the exhibition surveys a broad range of artworks with source amnesia: strange relics and personal figments reveal the emergence of new languages fertilized by previous ones. These diverse cultural apparitions engage individual and collective memory as subject, action, and material.
The rise and fall of icons occurs cyclically, and sometimes recursively. In Christian Jankowski’s film installation Casting Jesus (2011), the Vatican plays host to a reality show in search of a church-ordained face of Christ, paneled by experts in divinity. In the series Self-Portrait of You + Me, after the Factory (2007), Douglas Gordon appropriates Warhol’s images of “superstars” and burns them away to reveal polished mirrors that reflect the viewer’s consumptive stare.
Recalling life before the advent of the Internet’s vast image bank, Taryn Simon has photographed groups of related postcards, magazine clippings, and other printed images from the famous Picture Collection of the New York Public Library. Each of Simon’s photographs contains overlapping printed matter that she has selected from archival categories such as Mirrors, Abandoned Buildings and Towns, Express Highways, and Waiting, like Borges’s Chinese encyclopedia. Oliver Laric uses 3-D technology to analyze museum artifacts and map trajectories of style, from Greek to Roman to everyday knockoffs. Sourcing objects from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Jonas Wood invents his own archive of antiquity.
With the proliferation of instant news sources, history has given way to a multiverse of potential truths, while new forms of shorthand and social media communications constantly force adaptation to diachronic shifts in language. Mungo Thomson’s appropriation of the format and legacy of Time alludes to the magazine’s intended function as a populist social mirror. In recent prints, Ed Ruscha depicts typical metal road signage, patinated and punctured by corrosion and bullets, while in large-scale paintings, Mark Flood invokes “bit rot,” the blight of digital archives, as it overtakes diametrically opposed voices in television.
Other works catalogue the nuances of performance or assemble natural and man-made fragments into visions of an uncertain future. Throughout the Los Angeles Art Book Fair in 2014, Piero Golia engaged in a sixteen-hour conversation, recorded by a stenographer. The transcripts are collected in the unique artist book On Record (Three days conversation on general matters), which will be shown for the first time and read aloud in conjunction with the exhibition. The late Ana Mendieta’s photographs of the residues of her body performances in nature have come to symbolize both her tragic death and her memory. Using the past as a raw and unsentimental material for production, Max Hooper Schneider creates artificial biomes that are vitrines of cultural rubble. These alien taxonomies and incongruous artifacts provide a tropically lush yet futuristic take on modernity.
Featured artists include Mark Flood, Piero Golia, Douglas Gordon, Mark Hagen, John Houck, Christian Jankowski, Oliver Laric, Ana Mendieta, Cady Noland, Richard Phillips, Sterling Ruby, Thomas Ruff, Ed Ruscha, Analia Saban, Max Hooper Schneider, Taryn Simon, Mungo Thomson, and Jonas Wood.
Piero Golia’s On Record (Three days conversation on general matters) will be read at the opening reception, and on August 21 from 12 to 6pm.
The New York Public Library’s Picture Collection
Joshua Chuang, the Robert B. Menschel Senior Curator of Photography at the New York Public Library, discusses the institution’s singular Picture Collection, the artist Taryn Simon’s rigorous engagement with it, and four instances of its little-known role in the history of art making.
Taryn Simon and Teju Cole
This spring, as part of the Lambert Family Lecture Series at the Wexner Center for the Arts, Taryn Simon joined Teju Cole for an online conversation about her artistic practice and creative process.
Taryn Simon: An Occupation of Loss
In Taryn Simon’s performance work An Occupation of Loss (2016), professional mourners enact rituals of grief, simultaneously broadcasting their lamentations from within a sculptural installation. This video by filmmaker Boris B. Bertram documents the April 2018 performance of this work with Artangel in Islington, London.
Jacoba Urist profiles the legendary collector.
Augurs of Spring
As spring approaches in the Northern Hemisphere, Sydney Stutterheim reflects on the iconography and symbolism of the season in art both past and present.
The Art History of Presidential Campaign Posters
Against the backdrop of the 2020 US presidential election, historian Hal Wert takes us through the artistic and political evolution of American campaign posters, from their origin in 1844 to the present. In an interview with Quarterly editor Gillian Jakab, Wert highlights an array of landmark posters and the artists who made them.