As We Were Saying: Art and Identity in the Age of “Post”
September 12 - October 25, 2014
Opening Reception: Friday, September 12, 6pm - 8pm
At EFA Project Space, 323 W. 39th St, 2nd Floor
Artists: A.K. Burns & Katherine Hubbard, Josh Faught, Nikita Gale, Cassandra Guan, Jen Kennedy & Liz Linden, Josh Kline, Ignacio Lang, Simone Leigh, Suzanne McClelland, The Filmballad of Mamadada*, Shelly Silver, Jason Simon, and Michael Wang.
Curated by: Claire Barliant
Does "identity politics" still matter? Maybe a better question would be: does difference still matter?
Since the mid-nineties, when interest in identity-centric issues began to wane, traditional categories based on race, class, gender, and sexual orientation, have been in question. Identities are now considered relational and fluid rather than inherent and fixed, and it is often stated that we have entered the age of “post”—post-racial, post-critical, post-AIDS. Passive retrospection has replaced active debate.
The artists in this exhibition wrestle with the question of what identity and difference mean today. Works by A.K. Burns and Katherine Hubbard, Josh Faught, and Cassandra Guan reflect on the erosion of community by considering past moments when identity was a cornerstone of political change. Other artists, including Ignacio Lang, Suzanne McClelland, and Jason Simon, examine the way media shapes and constructs identities in a nuanced way, while Jen Kennedy and Liz Linden's The New York Times Feminist Reading Group is a public forum that encourages frank discussion about women’s rights. The question of what identity means now is taken up by Josh Kline and Simone Leigh, who both explore new ways of representing the “other” through figuration; Nikita Gale, whose prints simultaneously pay homage to the legacy of identity politics while protesting being pigeonholed as an artist of color; and Shelly Silver, whose video gives a diverse group of New Yorkers a chance to air their views on subjects ranging from existence to economics. Michael Wang theorizes that difference still matters—and comments on the complications of hybridity—with a sculpture that encourages interaction between domestic and feral pigeons, the latter free to come and go as they wish through one of the gallery’s windows.
Though these artists all have very different strategies and styles, each of them share a sense of responsibility to the past and the legacy of identity politics. If “the work of the past [is] incomplete,” as Walter Benjamin wrote in Theses on the Philopsopy of History, then, instead of blithely accepting the perturbingly neat category of “post,” the artists in this exhibition continue a conversation begun some thirty years ago.
*The Filmballad of Mamadada is a collective production. For more information please visit www.mamadada.info.
Wednesday, October 8th, 6:30 PM The Unknown Play Project, led by Alexis Clements.
Saturday, October 18th, 3:00 PM The New York Times Feminist Reading Group.
Tuesday, October 21st, 7:00 PM Experimental Conversations with Gordon Hall: Claire Barliant and others.
This exhibition is presented in companionship with Talking, on view through October 19th in the Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop's 20/20 Gallery.