The New Museum’s new show, Younger than Jesus, is the broadest of surveys of what’s going on in the minds of art-world youngsters. While this is not particularly ground-breaking territory to investigate, these survey shows are good to have around every couple of years. It certainly jives with the New Museum’s oft-professed mission to explore the “why” and the “what-is” of new-ness in our post-modern world.
There is a lot of work in the show. For that reason, there are some major hits and some major misses.
One of the most exciting pieces is Cyprien Gaillard’s Desniansky Raion. Set in various European public housing projects, this 30 minute video is divided into three parts: colored shapes and flowers projected onto a scene of demolition in Paris , the clash of two underground Russian fightclubs, and a Kiev apartment building shot from a miniature airplane in winter. The work manages to both document and project fantasies onto what is often the symbol of Modern Utopic visions (the housing bloc), without rehashing the routine conversation over its failure.
AMERICAAMERICA, an installation by Matt Keegan, also brought some great work to the show, particularly his sculpture, Hands Almost Across America. Horrifically lifelike casts of the hands of different mayors from across America sit on a tabletop painted in tiled flesh tones, atop steel sawhorses. This strangely seductive piece of sculpture sits directly across from the photo-installation, 23 portraits of 22 year olds, definitely one of the less interesting works in the show, and also by Matt Keegan. This type of disparity is one of the more invigorating characteristics of a show of young, experimenting artists.
The show itself—the actual art in the galleries—was an exciting experience.
However, the New Museum cannot help but lord itself over the work; as facilitator, as Hub, as collector. With this show comes a catalogue, 4 essays, a website which tracks related reviews and events, a book of artists submitted for consideration (500 to be exact), not to mention the ridiculous moniker bestowed on each artist by the curators, Younger Than Jesus (maybe a more apt title would have been Younger Than Us).
The fifth floor, according to the museum’s website, is intended to “serve as a research platform, discussion venue, and repository of international periodicals, films, and music created by or documenting this generation.” Next to the display of books, videos, and zines, you, the spectator, can participate by using the suggestion box to “add events, media, and other info that further define this generation.”
The curators of the show refer constantly the “expanding the exhibition platform.”
But my question is: what does this actually achieve?
By including this surplus media, the New Museums is trying to open new avenues of communication and participation; to invite everyone (not just those in the immediate “art world”) into the conversation over “Generation Y”. In the end, these supplementary materials end up stifling debate by because they over-saturate and over-compensate. The fifth floor comes off as paternalistically pedagogical, educating those un-initiated as to how to look at and participate with the work on the floors below.
When we calibrate all of the tentacles of this exhibition, the organizational powers of the curators tend overshadow the art itself. The art at the New Museum is infinitely more interesting than the ways in which the curators have tried to direct our questioning of the Younger Than Jesus generation. That said, it is a very ambitious show, and therefore one worth seeing and discussing.
To download this video as a podcast go here.
ARTICLE: Maren Miller
VIDEO CREDITS: Alexandra Lerman, Michael Cervieri, Tami Meir, Maren Miller
MUSIC: Tad Piecka