The Generational: Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number

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Published February 5, 2009

Well timed to control the weekday news cycle, last night the New Museum released its new blast announcing the participants in April’s generational, “Younger Than Jesus.” For those not in the know, Jesus was 33 when he died. The announcement, titled “OMG!” was equal parts self-effacing and ironic. There’s reason to be bashful, as any generational’s premise is in part star-making, even if it completes its mission and crystallizes some diffuse contemporary feelings and ideas. And there has been real speculation as to the participants chosen by curators Lauren Cornell, Laura Hoptman, and Massimiliano Gioni—at least among writers, curators and collectors. Who was too blue chip? Who’s too smart? Who’s not smart enough? Who is too New York? Has too foreign-sounding of a name? Who would be pushed as the show’s real star? We’d heard murmurs prodded artists and socialites: Without fail, board members forgot names, and other such nonsense.

 

We announced with great excitement the involvement of the young French updater of land art Cyprien Gaillard on our site. We hope he performs, and brins Koudlam. And we’d heard of Matt Keegan’s selection months ago—and weren’t surprised, given his last show at Anna Helwing and his recent artist book both involved the premise of the generation. (Full disclosure: I’m in that book). Kerstin Braetsch, who often exhibits with Adele Roeder as Das Institut and has a show at the Swiss Institute in New York the summer, was another early pick.

 

 

 

Artists like Tris Vonna-Mitchell, who won the Baloise Prize at Basel last summer for his stunning storytelling, and who has exhibited worldwide (he was given the entire attic at Berlin’s Kunst Werke last year, and performed at the Yokohama Triennial) in spite of being unable to produce any substantial number of sellable objects, was a welcome non-surprise. Ryan Trecartin, whose star-making turn came at the 2006 Whitney Biennial for his video A Family Finds Entertainment, was another. It was the strongest work in a Biennial of very strong videos, and got an amazing push by its keen placing at the etrance to the second floor. The generational is synchronized to another much-awaited show, Trecartin’s collaboration with sculptor Lizzie Fitch at Elizabeth Dee. Ahmet Ogut, an artist with Turkey’s Rodeo Gallery who’s installing in the Turkish pavilion for Venice was another great selection. And the impressive, and unrecognized for her multi-faceted production, Tauba Auerbach represents the New York downtown set, I suppose. But for seductive op geometry, where’s Xylor Jane? Is she too old?

There were big surprises. For one, who knew that the enormously prolific Josh Smith was young enough to qualify? With his painting showing everywhere from Matthew Marks to the Journal Gallery, he’s the blue chip pick, and the arbiter of a young-ish intellectual New York. But in terms of real, substantial surprises: The number of non-US-based and really, truly young artists is encouraging. The New Museum chose as its youngest participants AIDS-3D, Daniel Keller and Nik Kosmas. Never mind for a minute that the first work of theirs that I saw, at a storefront squat in Kreuzberg, Berlin, was a heavy brick throne on which sitters were videotaped, with haunting shapes—and that it was an incredibly memorable piece. As the youngest participants, the exiles from Detroit and the Chicago Art Institute are a crucible for many of the Generational’s tests of youth sub-cultures, especially expatriate cultures, professionalization and education,  and the Internet.

In the midst of a recession, the New Museum really went all out on plane fare. Sculptor Dineo Seshee Bopape is from South Africa (via Columbia University), and will prove an intriguing counterpoint to the type of mixed media work that the New Museum has championed in its briefreincarnation. The paper and book works of Cypriot-born artist Haris Epaminonda don’t shy from the heritage; nor do the works of Mumbai-based Shilpa Gupta, who makes videos, photographs, sound and public works. These are artists who really aren’t on the international circuit to the same extent as some Western artists their age, and there development henceforth has meaning for a lot of young artists working with identity.

 

Kitty Kraus is a stunning artist and sculptor who is on the international circuit, but who like a lot of a lot of German artists, has not yet broken into America. May she bring with her Henrik Oleson, Natascha Sadr Haghighian, Manfred Pernice (and not just in group shows, although that’s a start). Brendan Fowler gets much love for his support of young artists, his zine ANP Quarterly, his role in the already legendary Alleged Gallery, and his work as BARR. Here he’s acknowledged for his work as a performer—and though not yet confirmed, perhaps his works on paper. And we were happy to see Emily Roysdon, a co-editor of the queer journal LTTR but an amazing performance and mixed media artist in her own right who works in the rarely lauded intersection of performance, gender, and the body. She’s talking about our generation.