We come out of winter into our final show of the 2006-2007 academic year, ‘Modern Lovers’, organized by Kathryn Andrews, a Los Angeles based artist. Andrews exhibited in our gallery as recently as last June, in the show ‘Summer Suite’, which also featured the work of Hadley Holliday and Emily Newman.
‘Modern Lovers’ is about the traces of so-called aesthetic modernism Andrews perceives in the artwork of her peers. By juxtaposing pieces rife with overtly anachronistic construction strategies and references, she wishes to force the question, “Why this now?” Contemporary artists’ romance with modernism is difficult to deny — simply walk through Chinatown galleries on a Saturday afternoon. Takes on geometric abstraction, gestural painting, and mid-century figurative and minimal sculpture abound, as contemporary artists continue to labor toward individualized interpretations of modern forms.
Tenets of the modern aesthetic, for Andrews, have to do with the effects of the advent of photography vis-à-vis painting. Photography, realism at the touch of a button, concluded the centuries-long quest for instantaneous replication of the “real”. In response, perhaps beginning with Paul Cézanne, artists began to react against the (purportedly) quenched ambitions of painterly realism, turning instead to abstraction and primitivism, and the use of language and nonsense in their compositions. Andrews is interested in the influence of these tendencies within the practices of the artists in this show, and how in the contemporary context such offshoots can assume new meanings.
The ideological lynchpin of ‘Modern Lovers’ is the impact of the relationship between modern utopianism and “the new” (that was to usher in a perfect human society) on the modern aesthetic. Even during disco, artists were able to enjoy the notion that through their work they were involved in a unique cultural phenomenon, and that society could be viewed as improving as disco grew. Today “the new” is still with us in broad socio-economic and technological terms, as sure as humans edge closer toward the production of either an artificial super-intelligence or the apocalypse (or both). But as far as culture goes, are we possessed of more than a hollow-eyed bloodlust for the “now”? ‘Modern Lovers’ pushes its audience to reflect upon what it means for contemporary artists to reference modernism through their work, given that the modern aesthetic is still alive and kicking.
Andrews is currently working on a book, to be published in June, of interviews between artists and art writers that will address these ideas in further depth.