Sunday, January 28, 2007

Radical NY: The NY Art Scene 1974-1984 at AMOA

Glorious January afternoon. Walking across Congress Avenue enjoying the sweetness and smallness of Austin. Watching the weekend tourists stroll around the capital. On my way to The Austin Museum of Art (AMOA) for the second to last day for Radical NY: The New York Art Scene 1974-1984. I was immediately slammed back to to another city I loved, in another time. The names on the walls my friends, my neighbors, the artists, writers and musicians I read about weekly. Photos, journals, artwork, video. In 1974 I was in my first/second year of college. North of NYC but able to visit. In 1975 I moved to SF, delving deeply into its art/music/film scene, still visiting downtown NYC, certainly thinking about it. In 1980 I moved there, for the full on immersion. Steeped in experimental film, conceptual art, and punk music.

Now 2007. I walk around, overwhelmed with the sense of humour, of play. The brazen "we're young now." A movement of people hanging out, fooling around, and creating with their friends. Sara Driver, Jim Jarmusch, Richard Hell, Julian Schnabel, Eric Bogosian, Madonna, Barbara Kruger, Nan Goldin, Laurie Anderson, Art Spielgelman, Patti Smith. A sense of pride and of loss. As Amos Poe said when he visited with Blank Generation earlier this year, so many of the artists now gone: Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Robert Mapplethorpe, Cookie Mueller, Ana Mendieta, David Wojnarowvicz, Spalding Gray. He attributed it to the extremes of the times. Walking around this show feeling the sense of young promise, understanding how it's played out all these years later. I was never in the epicenter but I was definitely connected by what I saw, read, who I knew, what mattered then.

In a museum, with work carefully framed and hung, it's easy to loose sight of the origins. Living hand to mouth, obsessed with found (or created) objects, a belief in a way to see and what's worth seeing. Creating the work in the first place, then others completing the cycle by buying and exhibiting. I'm not an artist by nature. There is a true craziness to that kind of dedication. A simplicity. A serious commitment. This show moved me deeply. Because of my personal connection to the time, of course, before of the movement of time, yes, but because of the power of art to jog as well. I forget that sometimes. This show was a wonderful reminder.

If you missed the exhibit, check out the accompanying The Downtown Book.

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