Come as You Are: Art of the 1990s

February 8 - May 17, 2015



 

Extended object labels from the exhibition

 
Labels Are in Chronological Order
 
 
Andrea Fraser (born 1965, USA)
Museum Highlights: A Gallery Talk, 1989
Video (color, sound), 29 min.
Courtesy the artist
 
Andrea Fraser is closely associated with "institutional critique," a genre of conceptual art that flourished during the 1990s, particularly with the depreciation of the art market at the beginning of the decade. This video is based on a series of performances in which she dressed as a docent and gave ersatz museum tours. Humorous and at times outrageous, her "tours" offered incisive commentary on the politics of the cultural industry in general and the museum in particular, especially in relation to gender and class. One of the most prominent artist-writers of the 1990s, Fraser was associated with the journal October and its theorization of postmodernism within the visual arts. Additionally, she was one of the numerous artists of the era who, early in their careers, were exhibited and supported by Colin de Land at his influential American Fine Arts gallery in New York.
 
 
Manuel Ocampo (born 1965, Philippines)
La Liberté, 1990
Oil on canvas
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
Gift of Councilman Joel Wachs
 
This work appeared in Helter Skelter: L.A. Art in the 1990s, the controversial 1992 exhibition held at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, known for celebrating a provocative, "bad-boy" aesthetic among its artists. Ocampo was one of the younger artists in that show, representing a fresh take on contemporary painting. This work presents an eclectic range of symbolism from the history of racial injustice and violence, including a Ku Klux Klansman, a swastika, and the motto of the French Republic, liberté, égalité, fraternité, offering searing commentary on race relations in contemporary America, as well as its historical precedents.
 
 
Pepón Osorio (born 1955, Puerto Rico)
A Mis Adorables Hijas, 1990
Mixed media
Courtesy of Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, NY
 
Osorio created this work for Broken Hearts, a performance at the Dance Theater Workshop, New York and the Colorado Dance Festival, Boulder. A sofa embellished with found objects is embroidered with the text of a letter from the suicidal mother of a friend of the artist:
 
To my darling daughters: I have to confess I am not feeling as well as before, life has hit me hard, and pain grows each passing day. I never thought this moment would arrive, but now I find no other solution. Take care, remember I always loved you and will watch over you from Heaven. I hope with time, you will forgive me. Your dear Mother.
 
Osorio conceived of this work as a tribute to single mothers who immigrate to the United States in hopes of a better life for their families.
 
 
Felix Gonzalez-Torres (born 1957, Cuba - died 1996, USA)
"Untitled" (Portrait of Dad), 1991
White candies individually wrapped in cellophane, endless supply
Overall dimensions vary with installation
Ideal weight: 175 lbs.
Carlos and Rosa de la Cruz Collection
 
Felix Gonzalez-Torres made works that deal with the paradoxical strength and fragility of the human body, in both sickness and health. Starting in 1990, he made a series of candy spill works, several of them considered portraits. This work consists of white candies individually wrapped in cellophane, which may be spread on the floor or piled in a corner, depending upon how the owner or curator wishes to install it. Part of the intention of the work -- which has an ideal weight of 175 pounds, the approximate weight of an average man -- is that visitors are allowed to take a piece of candy; as they do so, the sculpture gradually diminishes. However, the work can be replenished and thus re-manifested again and again, referring both to the corporeality of the human body, and to its possibility for renewal.
 
 
Rirkrit Tiravanija (born 1961, Argentina)
untitled (Blind), 1991
20 glass bottles with wax seal in cardboard box
Collection of Martin and Rebecca Eisenberg
 
Beginning in the early nineties, Tiravanija undertook a series of performative works in which visitors were served free food and drink; the act of sharing a meal became the work of art, enacted and enjoyed by the viewers. This work is one of a series of sculptures by this title; the first was made from beer bottles collected at the opening of his first New York exhibition untitled 1990 (Blind) at Randy Alexander Gallery. Here twenty Rolling Rock beer bottles appear stacked neatly and encased in a Plexiglas box. The French critic Nicolas Bourriaud, who was among the first to theorize this new participatory art, considers such works' emphasis on "conviviality" as an indication of artists' desire to move beyond the studio -- and market -- and into the social sphere. Shown in exhibitions and biennials throughout the world, participatory art was arguably the first truly global artistic practice of this era.
 
 
Byron Kim (born 1961, USA)
Synecdoche, 1991/1998
Oil and wax on twenty panels
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Michener Acquisitions Fund, 1998
 
Each of the works in the Synecdoche series, begun in 1991 and ongoing to the present day, consists of a grid of monochrome painted panels; each panel captures the skin tone of an individual whom Kim invited to "sit" for this variation on the group portrait. Synecdoche belongs to the tradition of monochrome abstraction, pioneered by such artists as Kazimir Malevich in the late 1910s and continuing through Ellsworth Kelly in the 1950s, while also offering a subtle commentary on racial and ethnic difference. The literary term "synecdoche" refers to a part that stands metaphorically for a whole. Kim calls attention to how, in a racially divisive society, skin tone comes, simplistically, to stand for an individual.
 
 
Glenn Ligon (born 1960, USA)
Invisible Man (Two Views), 1991
Oil stick and coal dust on canvas, diptych
Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, NH; Museum Purchase: The Henry Melville Fuller Acquisition Fund
 
This work belongs to Ligon's series of text-based paintings citing quotations from literary sources. This work refers to Ralph Ellison's 1952 novel Invisible Man, perhaps the most important meditation on the African American experience of the twentieth century. Ligon used stencils to render the words with various densities, and the fading in and out of the text mirrors the invisibility that Ellison uses as a metaphor for the precarious position of black men in American life.
 
 
Gabriel Orozco (born 1962, Mexico)
My Hands Are My Heart, 1991
Two silver dye bleach prints
 
Pinched Ball (Pelota ponchada), 1993
Silver dye bleach print
Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York
 
Mexican-born artist Gabriel Orozco came to international prominence during the nineties, beginning with his staged, conceptually influenced photographs, including these works. The photographs, shot in various international cities, make references to cultural touchstones ranging from soccer to Mexican indigenous art. That Orozco made these works in cities around the world came to represent his developing status as the model of the newly global, itinerant artist.
 
 
Aziz + Cucher (Anthony Aziz, born 1961, USA and Sammy Cucher, born 1958, Peru)
Man with a Computer, 1992
From the series Faith, Honor and Beauty
C-Print
Indianapolis Museum of Art, Koch Contemporary Art Purchase Fund
 
Based in San Francisco during the early part of the decade, the artist collaborative Aziz + Cucher were at the forefront of artists experimenting with the new digital technologies being pioneered in nearby Silicon Valley. This work presents a statuesque, nude man holding an early Apple laptop. The artists collaborated with a commercial firm to use an industrial precursor to Photoshop to "erase" the central figure's masculine characteristics, a discomfiting take on the recurring theme of gender and sexuality; this early use of digital manipulation predicted the explosion of such practices later in the decade. In an updated twist on classical statuary, the central figure stands as a symbol of the technological revolution: while he grasps his laptop, like a sacred text, in one arm, he gestures toward the future with the other.
 
 
Jennifer Pastor (born 1966, USA)
Untitled, 1992
Sandblasted steel and pigmented epoxy resin structure, holding sandblasted steel and pigmented epoxy resin nest and a found nest
Eileen and Michael Cohen
 
Pastor made this work the year she received her MFA from UCLA; it consists of a small table, on whose surface sits both a found bird's nest and an epoxy bird's nest created by the artist. Playing with the tension between art and nature, real and virtual, it refers to an episode in the artist's life: living in New York before graduate school, she had a job creating environments at the Bronx Zoo. Her last assignment was to make birds' nests, one of which appears in the sculpture. According to the artist, the table lamp (the parts of which constitute other found elements in the otherwise fabricated sculpture; the rest were made) resembles "a scrawny, impotent figure, looking down at the two nests."
 
 
Janine Antoni (born 1964, Bahamas)
Lick and Lather, 1993
Two self-portrait busts: one chocolate and one soap
Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York
 
First exhibited in the cutting-edge Aperto section of the 1993 Venice Biennale and inspired by that city's classical statuary, this work is from a series of self-portrait busts, half of which were rendered in chocolate, and half in soap. Antoni cast each bust from her body, and then eroded its surface: licking away the chocolate and lathering away the soap. Bust portraits are an ancient form of sculpture, commemorating important personages (generally men), forged by artists (usually male) from marble or bronze (traditional artistic materials). Antoni upends these conventions: a female artist, she captures the likeness of a woman (herself), in unorthodox materials (food and soap) usually associated with the domestic (historically female) realm. Whereas a traditional portrait bust grasps at immortality, Antoni embraces the fleeting qualities of her materials, subverting the traditions of classical sculpture by literally destroying the images she creates.
 
 
Daniel Joseph Martinez (born 1957, USA)
From the series I couldn't remember if death or love was the solution to defeating the empire; One thought he was invincible, the other thought he could fly?superheroes, assassins and astrology, they all pray to the wrong god), 1993
 
Combined Action, 1993
Acrylic on velvet
 
Systematic Decomposition, 1993
Acrylic on velvet
 
Constructed Situation, 1993
Acrylic on velvet
 
Detournement, 1993
Acrylic on velvet
Courtesy of the artist and Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, California
 
Martinez made this series of paintings, I couldn't remember if death or love was the solution to defeating the empire; One thought he was invincible, the other thought he could fly -- superheroes, assassins and astrology, they all pray to the wrong god, for the experimental Aperto section of the 1993 Venice Biennale. They have not been exhibited again until now. These works chronicle the acts and subsequent arrest of the Brigate Rosse Marxist-Leninist terrorist group, active in Italy since 1970. Martinez's chronicling of the group within the context of the state-sponsored Biennale might be interpreted as an act of protest.
 
 
Catherine Opie (born 1961, USA)
Jo, 1993
Chromogenic print
Montclair Art Museum, Gift of Patricia A. Bell, 2003.9.2
 
Richard and Skeeter, 1994
Chromogenic print
Montclair Art Museum, Gift of Patricia A. Bell, 2004.2.1
 
Photographer Catherine Opie's early work focused on portraits of friends and acquaintances, often from the LGBTQ community. Shot in a straightforward documentary style, yet with an emphasis on formal rigor and brilliant color, these works depict their subjects with psychological acumen. Attention to the details of the sitters' appearance, such as tattoos and piercings, identified them at the time as part of the counterculture. Opie was part of a group of prolific and influential artists who graduated from CalArts in the late 1980s, and who became pillars of the nineties art scene in L.A. and beyond.
 
 
Jason Rhoades (1965-2006, USA)
Red, 1993
Various materials
Ann and Mel Schaffer Family Collection
 
Jason Rhoades was known for his "scatter art" installations dealing with American mass culture and the everyday objects that one accumulates yet overlooks. Recalling Marcel Duchamp's ready-mades, these works are composed of consumer goods such as prepackaged food boxes, which Rhoades arranged in decentralized compositions that sometimes appeared random, or "scattered." The results are disorienting yet intimately familiar, and speak to the nature of consumer culture and both the waste and the unexpected meaning it produces. One of the most prominent artists to come out of Los Angeles during the nineties, and whose aesthetic has been likened to that decade's grunge music and fashion, Rhoades was an innovator of the DIY (do it yourself) sculpture that dominated the early 2000s.
 
 
Beverly Semmes (born 1958, USA)
Famous Twins, 1993
Crushed velvet and cotton
The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York; gift of Joel and Zoe Dictrow
 
Appearing in the landmark 1994 exhibition Bad Girls West, which examined art and feminism in the 1990s, this work consists of two enormously oversized dresses, hanging from the wall as if from hangers, with exaggeratedly long arms that puddle on the floor below it. Both referring to the body and distorting it, it points to the ways in which feminine identity, particularly concerning beauty and sexuality, often hinges on appearance. Removing the physical body from the clothes, Semmes questions the power of costume in creating both women's self-image and the image they present to the world.
 
 
Gary Simmons (born 1964, USA)
Black Chalkboards (Two Grinning Faces with Cookie Bag) from the Erasure Series, 1993
Chalk and slate paint on fiberboard with oak frame
Hort Family Collection
 
This work, from Simmons's Erasure Series, centers on the most stereotypically racist iconography of African Americans: the cartoonish "watermelon grin" once legion in American popular culture, sketched in white on a black chalkboard. With scathing irony, Simmons depicts the grins surreally disembodied, and lustfully directed toward a floating bag of cookies. His unusual technique?in which he covered the blackboard with a drawing, which he then selectively erased to highlight just a few key images?refers to the violently reductive nature of his imagery. While symbolizing how the African American experience, and indeed fundamental civil and human rights, have historically been "erased" from United States culture, the imagery of the schoolroom blackboard also speaks to how racism is often instilled from the youngest age.
 
 
Kara Walker (born 1969, USA)
Untitled, 1993-4
Paper on prepared canvas
Stuart & Sherry Christhilf
 
Kara Walker's work examines African American history, particularly the violent legacy of slavery in the United States. She began making her celebrated cut-paper works, fashioned from black paper and affixed either to canvas or directly on a white wall, in the early nineties. Using the vocabulary of eighteenth-century silhouette portraits, these mural-like compositions at first glance appear nostalgic, but upon closer examination depict rapes, beatings, lynchings, and other horrific acts of violence to which enslaved African Americans were regularly subjected. This work depicts a formally dressed man, whom one imagines to be a plantation owner, with a small child, presumably a slave, tucked under his tailcoat and seemingly about to perform a sexual act.
 
 
Fred Wilson (born 1961, USA)
Portrait of S.A.M. (Europeans), 1993
Six color photographs
Collection of Peter Norton
 
Fred Wilson created this work as part of a site-specific project for the Seattle Art Museum (SAM). Invited to make a work using the museum's collections, Wilson discovered in its storage these stylized porcelain figures, meant to depict people from around the world. The artist photographed "portraits" of each figure, then grouped them geographically: Native Americans, Africans, Asians, and here, Europeans. These tongue-in-cheek portraits satirize the racial and ethnic stereotypes perpetuated by the porcelain figures, while pointing to the problem of how racial and ethnic difference is represented in visual culture. His project also raises questions about the museum's collecting history, and how these problematic works function within the institution. The project thus constitutes an important example of the "institutional critique" of the era?in which artists investigated the social, economic, and political functions of the art world?of which Wilson is a leading practitioner.
 
 
Jeanne Dunning (born 1960, USA)
Leaking 3, 1994
Laminated Cibachrome prints and frames
Collection of Hannah Higgins and Joe Reinstein
 
Dunning achieved early success with her highly finished, lush photographs, among which this diptych was one of her most widely exhibited. Juxtaposing a close-up of a skinned tomato with a portrait of a grinning young woman, juice running out of her mouth, this work invites the viewer to ponder how women are traditionally represented in art. While women have typically been portrayed as voluptuous objects of (male) sexual desire?to be gazed upon and coveted?this image shows a female artist experiencing a gleefully sensual moment. In this way, it belongs within the strain of feminist art that was particularly prominent in the 1990s, during feminism's "third wave."
 
 
Ellen Gallagher (born 1965, USA)
Tally, 1994
Oil, pencil, and paper on canvas
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The Living New England Artist Purchase Fund, created by the Stephen and Sybil Stone Foundation
 
Gallagher's early painting often paired found imagery -- focusing on stylized images of African Americans -- with the tradition of monochrome abstraction. This work updates the vocabulary of minimalist painting with a near-monochrome palette that, when examined more closely, incorporates collaged, found elements. These include lined grade-school paper, which the artist underlined with pencil and overlaid with thin oil paint, juxtaposed with cut-outs of red lips and eyeballs. These fragments, still recognizable as exaggerated facial features, refer to nineteenth-century minstrel shows, in which white performers in blackface impersonated African American characters. Blending an investigation of racial prejudices with one of the history of painting, Gallagher creates works of exquisite formal rigor that also engage incisively with the most complicated social and historical issues.
 
 
Diana Thater (born 1962, USA)
Ginger Kittens, 1994
Two digital videos, two BrightSign players, two monitors
Courtesy of 1301PE Gallery, Los Angeles
 
The Los Angeles-based artist Diana Thater creates complex digital video installations exploring the natural and animal worlds. One of an influential group of artists to study at Art Center College of Design in the late 1980s, she was an early innovator in the use of digital video projection, often within unconventional spaces. She notes that this work, a synchronized two-channel digital video, is a particularly versatile piece that she "keeps in her pocket" to use in experimental ways. Installed differently each time it is exhibited, it presents lushly saturated scenes of figures moving in and out of a field of sunflowers: a celebration of the natural landscape, refracted through the lens of digital technologies.
 
 
Andrea Zittel (born 1965, USA)
Personal Panel, 1994
Rayon, satin and leather
 
Personal Panel, 1994
Synthetic suit fabric and suspenders
 
Study for Personal Panels, 1994
Gouache on paper
 
Study for Personal Panels, 1994
Gouache on paper
Courtesy of Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York
 
Zittel's body of work is devoted to the avant-garde ideal of "art into life," or the possibility that art objects can help bring about social reform. Her A-Z Administrative Services -- begun in New York in the early 1990s and relocated to the California desert, as A-Z West, in 2000 -- encompasses everything from room-sized machines-for-living to clothing, all created according to the principle of better life through better design. Among these projects is a series of uniforms, which the artist regularly wears herself. The Personal Panels (1994) are simple, geometric cloth panels that, when draped together in pairs and fastened across the body, become everyday clothing. Inspired by garments made by Russian constructivists in the early twentieth century, they are part conceptual art, part utilitarian object. Because of Zittel's interest in redefining how individuals live within their communities, her work has at times been considered "participatory art."
 
 
Doug Aitken (born 1968, USA)
Monsoon, 1995
Color film, sound, transferred to digital video
6:43 min. loop
Courtesy of 303 Gallery, New York; Victoria Miro Gallery, London; Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich; Regen Projects, Los Angeles
 
One of the most internationally successful artists to emerge in Los Angeles during the 1990s, Doug Aitken was instrumental in developing the use of digital technologies to create complex film and video installations. His work often addresses the alienating effects of the technological advancements and increased mobility in the age of globalization. For this work, a film transferred onto digital video, Aitken travelled to Jonestown, Guyana, where twenty years earlier the cult leader Jim Jones led almost one thousand followers in a mass suicide. A monsoon was predicted to hit Jonestown during the time Aitken was filming. The video, silent except for a low drone and the hum of birds and insects, captures the deserted landscape, alternating between footage of the jungle and traces of human presence, including an empty road and an abandoned truck. The rains, however, never arrive, leaving the viewer with a sense of unresolved tension and loss.
 
 
Alex Bag (born 1969, USA)
Untitled Fall '95, 1995
57 min, color, sound
Courtesy of Team Gallery and Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York
 
Alex Bag was not long out of art school at Cooper Union when she created this video, in which she plays multiple roles, primarily a student attempting to make sense of her experience at New York's School of Visual Arts, interspersed with set pieces of a London shop girl-cum-punk musician, a Ronald McDonald doll attempting to pick up a Hello Kitty doll, and the Icelandic singer-artist Björk, explaining how television works. The artist notes that she made this work at a moment when the tropes of reality television, with its "head and shoulders, confessional shots," were just becoming part of the pop culture lexicon, and when the twenty-four-hour cable-news cycle had, with the O. J. Simpson murder case, just started to take hold of the public imagination. This work's ironic commentary on media culture uncannily presages the YouTube videos so ubiquitous today.
 
 
Shirin Neshat (born 1957, Iran)
Untitled, 1995
Gelatin silver print and ink, edition 10 of 10
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum purchase funded by Mary Lawrence Porter
 
Born in Iran and living in the United States intermittently since 1974, Neshat rose to international prominence with her Women of Allah series of hand-altered photographs, created between 1993 and 1997. In this and related works, she presents portraits of traditionally dressed Muslim women, many of whom hold weapons; she overlays sections of these images with passages of Arabic calligraphy quoting the Iranian woman poet Tahereh Saffarzadeh. According to the artist, "Women of Allah visualizes personal and public lives of women living under extreme religious commitment. A majority of the photographs deal with the concept of shahadat or martyrdom. One finds a strange juxtaposition between femininity and violence. Ultimately, the shaheed or martyr stands at the intersection of love, politics, and death."
 
 
Laura Owens (born 1970, USA)
Untitled, 1995
Oil, acrylic, enamel, marker and ink on canvas
Private Collection
 
Owens played a key role in the resurgence of painting during the 1990s, and was active in the Los Angeles art scene of that period. This rarely-seen work exemplifies her explorations of established painting conventions, combined in unexpected ways that offer fresh insights into their histories. Its foreground initially appears abstract, a vast neutral field marked with red lines, yet those lines also refer to the Renaissance technique of single-point perspective, used to create the illusion of three-dimensional space. Untitled's spatial perspective is dramatically skewed, making it far from a traditional illusionary painting; moreover, its background is representational, showing a wall full of pictures, each in a different art historical style. With her striving for innovation and fascination with tradition, idiosyncratic combinations of abstraction and representation, and knowing nods to the art of the past, Owens is one of the most inventive painters of this era.
 
 
Elizabeth Peyton (born 1965, USA)
Princess Kurt, 1995
Oil on linen
Collection Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
T.B. Walker Acquisition Fund, 1995
 
Peyton is known for her painted portraits that humanize well-known historical and contemporary cultural figures, including musicians, artists, and her own friends and acquaintances. In the early nineties she began making paintings and drawings based on photographs from mass media sources. Updating the historical genre of portraiture for the digital age, these works pay homage to their subjects while also calling attention to the often destructive culture of fame. This work is from a series of paintings Peyton made of Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain in the months following his 1994 suicide, at the age of twenty-seven; it depicts the singer dressed in drag at a 1993 concert in Brazil. An elegy, this work reflects the sense of melancholy and loss that ran throughout much of nineties culture.
 
 
Mark Tribe (born 1966, USA)
Traces of a Constructed City, 1996/2014
Archival inkjet print
Courtesy of the artist
 
This digital print represents an Internet artwork by the same title, which is accessible through the exhibition's mobile website. After living in San Francisco in the early nineties, when Silicon Valley was just taking off, Tribe moved to Berlin in 1995; like many international artists, he was attracted to that city's wide-open creative opportunities, including in digital media; burgeoning arts scene; and low rents in the years immediately following the fall of the Wall. His first Internet artwork, this work mapped the proliferation of new building projects then under way in reunified Berlin, drawing a connection between the rampant new construction throughout Berlin and that occurring simultaneously on the Internet. At the same time, it represents Tribe's desire, shared by many early digital artists, to take advantage of the accessibility of the Internet to create a new, inherently democratic art form.
 
Access to the original work: http://tracesofaconstructedcity.net
 
 
Karen Kilimnik (born 1955, USA)
Beppi at Schuykill Park, 1996
Oil on canvas
Erie Art Museum, Gift of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters
 
The Toy Soldier, 1999
Water-soluble oil color on canvas
Courtesy Greene Naftali, NY
 
Mary Shelley in London before writing Frankenstein, 2001
Water-soluble oil on canvas
Philadelphia Museum of Art: Purchased with the Adele Haas Turner and Beatrice Pastorius Turner Memorial Fund, 2002
 
Kilimnik's varied practice helped set a standard for the multimedia approach embraced by many artists emerging during the nineties. Both her "scatter art" installations and her faux-naïve paintings combine well-known images from ballets, fairy tales, celebrity tabloids, and art history. Beppi at Schuylkill Park plays on the aristocratic tradition of portraits of pets, while The Toy Soldier evokes military portraiture, yet the joke is that it depicts a doll rather than an actual officer. Kilimnik also paints images of eminent personages, both living and dead, as in Mary Shelley in London before writing Frankenstein. As the digital revolution accelerated during the mid-nineties, many artists turned to the past, in both form (the ancient medium of painting) and content (the age-old genres of still life, landscape, portraiture, and history painting), updating these traditions for a new era, while expressing a yearning for continuity during a time of rapid change.
 
 
Sharon Lockhart (born 1964, USA)
Untitled, 1996
Framed chromogenic print, edition 6 of 6
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; purchase, Neuberger Berman Foundation Gift and Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 2004
 
The Los Angeles-based filmmaker and photographer Sharon Lockhart's early photographs, of which this is among the best known, employ narrative strategies influenced by avant-garde film, particularly the French New Wave, to convey open-ended stories and character studies. Lockhart runs her photo shoots as she does those for her films, with elaborate mises-en-scène, and the resulting photographs have a monumental scale reminiscent of the cinema. In this image, a weary-looking young man, whose shaggy haircut and grunge style typify a certain nineties look, gazes around a high-rise hotel room, seen only in reflection in its windows. This deceptively simple scenario evokes a clash between the alternative culture suggested by the subject's appearance, and that of global commerce, symbolized by the starkly anonymous hotel room, which, like the landscape below it, could be anywhere in the world.
 
 
Vik Muniz (born 1961, Brazil)
Big James Sweats Buckets, 1996
from the series Sugar Children
Gelatin silver print
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Anonymous Gift, 1997
 
Jacinthe Loves Orange Juice, 1996
from the series Sugar Children
Gelatin silver print
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Vik Muniz and Marion A. Tande, 1997
 
Valentine, the Fastest, 1996
from the series Sugar Children
Gelatin silver print
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Anonymous Gift, 1997
 
This Brazilian-born artist first exhibited his 1996 photographic series Sugar Children in the Museum of Modern Art's 1997 New Photography exhibition, helping launch him to international fame. To make them, he created drawings made from sugar, which he then photographed. The subjects were all children whose parents or grandparents worked in sugar plantations on St. Kitts, where Muniz had visited and was struck by the contrast between these children's happiness and the sadness of their hardworking parents. In the larger sense, these images comment upon the disparity between poor countries, where products such as sugar are produced cheaply and often with exploitative labor practices, and rich countries leading the global neoliberal economy, where products such as sugar are sold, and which ultimately profit.
 
 
Shahzia Sikander (born 1969, Pakistan)
Uprooted Order I, 1996
Vegetable colors, dry pigment, watercolor, tea on hand-prepared wasli paper
Collection of A. G. Rosen
 
Uprooted Order II, 1996
Vegetable colors, dry pigment, watercolor, tea on hand-prepared wasli paper
Collection of A. G. Rosen
 
Cholee Kay Pechay Kiya? Chunree Kay Neechay Kiya?( What is Under the Blouse? What is Under the Dress?), 1997
Vegetable color, dry pigment, watercolor, tea on hand-prepared wasli paper
Marieluise Hessel Collection, Hessel Museum of Art, Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York
 
Sikander was trained in traditional Persian miniature painting in her native Pakistan, before immigrating to the United States to attend the Rhode Island School of Design in the early 1990s. These works from the late 1990s employ this traditional vocabulary, but with an unmistakably contemporary, feminist twist. While the dynamic between the sexes is a standard theme for classical Persian miniature painting, Sikander depicts overtly sexual, and often fraught, scenarios in a surreal light, calling into question traditional notions of sexuality, gender, and especially femininity.
 
 
Michael Ray Charles (born 1967, USA)
(Forever Free) Have A Nice Day!, 1997
Acrylic latex, stain & copper penny on paper
Collection George Horner, Brooklyn, New York
 
This Austin, Texas-based artist's first series, Forever Free Post (1992-ongoing), was inspired by The Saturday Evening Post, which, he explains, "depicted a version of American life that was foreign to me, yet I knew existed, at least in some folks' minds. When I began researching Norman Rockwell's work, I thought about the form of the work and how I could use the Sambo image in a similar manner, to communicate the presence of past social beliefs and their influences today." Evoking the skull and crossbones, this work's central figure is depicted with grotesquely exaggerated features and red skin?yet, incongruously, appears to be a piggy bank, with a coin slot on top of his head. Evoking the most racist pop-culture depictions of African American men, this work's brutal irony is underscored by the trite salutation, "Have a Nice Day!"
 
 
Nikki S. Lee (born 1970, South Korea)
 
Punk Project (1), 1997
Fujiflex print, edition 5 of 5
Ann and Mel Schaffer Family Collection
 
Hispanic Project (25), 1998
Fujiflex print, edition 4 of 5
Ann and Mel Schaffer Family Collection
 
The Ohio Project (7), 1999
Fujiflex print, edition 2 of 5
Ann and Mel Schaffer Family Collection
 
This Korean-born artist was based in the United States during the 1990s and created a series of self-portraits in which she masquerades as women and occasionally men who typified various American cultural stereotypes. In her Punk Project (1997) Lee appears pierced and snarling, her hair dyed; in Hispanic Project (1998) she adopts Latina fashion; and in Ohio Project (1999) she poses outside trailers and on pick-up trucks, enacting the stereotype of "white trash." By morphing through these disparate identities, Lee examines issues of gender, race, and class, while demonstrating the arbitrariness of these stereotypes. In the spirit of artistic antecedents such as Cindy Sherman, and in line with the contemporaneous theories of gender such as those developed by Judith Butler, she explores how gender is constructed through images.
 
 
Jorge Pardo (born 1963, Cuba)
Vince Robbins, 1997
Plastic, steel, lightbulb, and electric wire
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Restricted gift of Carlos and Rosa de la Cruz 1998.29
 
The Cuban-born, Los Angeles­based artist Jorge Pardo creates works that hover between art and design. Engaging with the history of modernism, particularly midcentury Southern Californian design and architecture, he creates both objects and room-sized installations. (In 1998 he created an entire house for an exhibition at Los Angeles's Museum of Contemporary Art, into which he himself moved after the show closed.) This work is one of a series of hanging lamps that Pardo began creating in the mid-1990s; though often exhibited in a gallery setting, they are, like most of his work, fully functional. Pardo was also one of the co-founders, with his Art Center classmates Kenneth Riddle and Gayle Barklie, of Bliss Gallery, established in a house in South Pasadena in 1987. The inherent interactivity of Pardo's work has sometimes led him to be counted among the participatory artists of the 1990s.
 
 
Matthew Barney (born 1967, USA)
CREMASTER 2: The Queen's Exposition, 1998
Four gelatin silver prints in acrylic frames
The JPMorgan Chase Art Collection
 
Matthew Barney makes vastly ambitious, immersive films, shot and manipulated on digital video and accompanied by related installations, sculptures, and digital photographs. His career was unique in the 1990s, for he was among the first and most influential artists of the era to become a genuine global phenomenon. Named for the muscle that moves the testicles up and down, his Cremaster series of films blends science fiction and popular culture, folklore and mythology, literature, sports, and other sources to create fantastical narratives, often focusing on issues of gender and masculinity. This photographic series presents images from Cremaster 2 (1999), which was, contrary to its title, the fourth film in the series. It tells the stories of the magician Harry Houdini and the mass murderer Gary Gilmore, both figures of American popular mythology who may also have been related.
 
 
Mark Dion (born 1961, USA)
Department of Marine Animal Identification of the City of San Francisco (Chinatown Division), 1998
Mixed media
Courtesy of the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York
 
To create his large-scale, multimedia mixed media installations, Dion leads a team of researchers in an extensive investigation of a given subject, often relating to issues such as ecology, archeology, history, and economics. For this installation, which has not been exhibited since the year it was made, he and his team researched and identified the biological and geographic origins of the fish sold in San Francisco's Chinatown. The resulting installation takes the form of a laboratory, including fish samples, research files, and furniture. While tracing the scientific background of the fish, this work examines how people and things from across the world come together within the global economy, for which the Chinatown fish market stands as a kind of microcosm. Dion's active engagement with the communities in which he works represented a move toward participatory, socially engaged art during this period.
 
 
JODI
(Joan Heemskerk, b. 1968 Netherlands and Dirk Paesmans, b. 1965 Belgium)
Untitled-Game (A-X, Q-L, Arena, Ctrl-Space), 1998­2002
untitled-game.org
Quake Game-Mod
Courtesy of the artists
 
Headed by the Dutch-born Joan Heemskerk and the Belgian-born Dirk Paesmans, the Silicon Valley­based collective JODI was among the early leaders in the new genre of digital art. This game-based work typified their interventions into existing programs. In the Bay Area -- where Silicon Valley was leading the way in the technological revolution, with many artists working within or in relationship to it -- JODI provided a kind of salon for many artists to exchange ideas. They were also instrumental in bridging Internet art in the United States and Europe, where both had roots and where many of the first Internet art exhibitions and festivals took place.
 
 
Mariko Mori (born 1967, Japan)
Pratibimba #3, 1998-2002
Acrylic lucite with Cibachrome print
Ann and Mel Schaffer Family Collection
 
Born in Japan and based in the United States since the early nineties, Mori became known internationally in the mid-1990s for her elaborately staged, large-scale digital videos and photographs, in which she took on the guise of various fictional characters. Her work draws on multiple traditions bringing together East and West, high and low, and includes cultural references such as UFOs and other hallmarks of science fiction, Buddhist religious iconography, Japanese animé and manga, Marvel superheroes, and her own family history. Her work both celebrates and critiques these tropes, often focusing on common depictions of femininity within these traditions. This work is one of a series of three self-portraits, the title of which refers to a Sanskrit word for "reflection." In them, she dresses in costume as a fantastical combination of geisha, goddess, and manga-style cyber-heroine: a meditation on images of women in both ancient and contemporary culture.
 
 
Prema Murthy (born 1969, USA)
Bindi Girl, 1999
Web Site (http://www.thing.net/~bindigrl/)
Courtesy of the artist
 
This Internet-based work critiques stereotypes of South Asian women in the mass media. Sexually explicit, the work juxtaposes an avatar of a South Asian woman -- the titular Bindi Girl -- against Indian music; the girl enacts a series of provocative poses playing on elements of South Asian fashion and beauty traditions, with their inherent and perceived eroticism. The message of the work is summed up by Murthy's quotation of the Kama Sutra on the site's homepage: "Women are hardly known in their true light, though they may love men, / or become indifferent toward them; may give them delight, / or abandon them; or extract from them all the wealth that they possess."
 
 
Frances Stark (born 1967, USA)
Chinatown Poster, 1999
Print on paper
Courtesy of the artist and Marc Foxx Gallery, Los Angeles
 
Stark works in multiple media yet has produced a prodigious body of works on paper, a medium that lends itself particularly well to her recurring explorations of shifting technologies, verbal language, music, literature, and the histories of art, especially book arts. In 1993 she received her MFA from Art Center College of Design, and subsequently became active in L.A.'s community of young artists. This work commemorates this scene; she has commented:
 
The Black Flag bars spray-painted on the side of a Chinese bank managed to escape airbrushing on a Chinatown postcard. This was later highlighted in a silkscreened poster announcing an exhibition of mine at China Art Objects Galleries: WHAT PART OF NOW DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND? The graffiti indexes the punk scene in the neighborhood twenty years before its then new, and readily celebrated, resurgence in non-tourist (counter) cultural activity.
 
 
 
Laylah Ali (born 1968, USA)
Untitled, 2000
Gouache and pencil on paper
 
Untitled, 2000
Gouache and pencil on paper
 
Untitled, 2000
Gouache and pencil on paper
Collection of A.G. Rosen
 
Ali's allegorical Greenhead paintings (1996-2005) cite news images of international racial and ethnic conflict to address both the growing ubiquity of the global media and issues of difference at home and abroad. With their cartoonlike forms and green skin, the figures in these works represent blank-slate "others," enacting scenes of conflict that are culled directly from the news media. At once wrenching, and with their elegant compositions and aesthetically pleasing palettes, disarmingly beautiful, these works ask us to consider our relationship to the ever-more-relentless twenty-four-hour news cycle, as well as our preconceptions about difference. Selections from the Greenheads series were featured in the landmark 2001 exhibition Freestyle at the Studio Museum in Harlem.
 
 
Julie Mehretu (born 1970, Ethiopia)
Untitled, 2000
Ink, colored pencil, and cut paper on Mylar
Collection of Mr. Nicolas Rohatyn and Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn
 
Untitled, 2000
Ink, colored pencil, and cut paper on Mylar
Collection of Alvin Hall
 
Mehretu's layered, dizzyingly complex images of contemporary urbanism evoke cities and cultures around the globe, combining elements of geometric abstraction with references to maps, landscapes, and aspects of popular culture. Born in Ethiopia, she came to international attention when this series of drawings was included in the landmark 2001 Freestyle exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem. An influential example of how, at the turn of the twenty-first century, artists began integrating "new media" technologies into "traditional" fine art practices, Mehretu often uses cutting-edge digital-rendering technologies to help create her work. 
 
 
Mark Napier (born 1961, USA)
Riot, 2000
Archival inkjet print
Courtesy of the artist
 
Napier was one of the most prominent Internet artists to explore the implications of programming, code, and hacking. His work appeared in key early Internet art exhibitions including 010101: Art in Technological Times at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the 2002 Whitney Biennial. This work functioned on the model of an Internet browser, retaining information from sites that the user had previously viewed. The result is a scrambled, ever-shifting collage of texts, images, and links: a surreal glimpse into the burgeoning netscape. Like many Internet artworks whose technology has become obsolete, this site no longer functions online and is represented here by digital prints.
 
 
Marina Zurkow (born 1962, USA)
Braingirl, 2000-03
Nine-episode animated series created with Macromedia Flash and distributed on DVD.
Courtesy of the artist and bitforms gallery
 
Zurkow was a key figure in the New York Internet art community of the 1990s. After working in film, she began creating digital art at the beginning of the decade, collaborating with Razorfish and other early commercial sponsors in the city's Silicon Alley tech corridor. She was also active in the growing community of women in technology, fostered through institutions such as Echo NYC and Word.com. She created this work as a nine-episode, science fiction-inspired animated series, designed for the Internet; the artist imagined that the website would be viewed surreptitiously from a personal computer at an office cubicle or school desk. One of a series of works in which Zurkow explored issues surrounding preteen girls, Braingirl is, according to the artist, about, "a mutant-cute girl who wears her insides on the outside, literally, exploring how cartoons manifest our secret fears and desires upon the body."
 
 
Mendi + Keith Obadike (born 1973, USA)
Blackness for Sale, 2001
Screen capture from archived website
Courtesy of the artists
 
This work, by the artist team of Mendi + Keith Obadike, was an intervention into the online auction site eBay. The "sale," held in late August through early September 2001, invited viewers to bid on the hue of Keith Obadike's skin, provoking a dialogue on and critique of the meaning of skin color in contemporary racial politics. One of the first Internet art projects to engage with web "institutions" such as e-commerce sites (eBay itself was then only six years old), this work was also one of the first web phenomena of any kind to "go viral," receiving a record number of hits. It was removed by eBay as "inappropriate" material after only four days (the sale was originally intended to run for eight). Although the controversy surrounding it died down suddenly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, it remains one of the most influential early Internet artworks.
 
 
Glenn Kaino (born 1972, USA)
The Siege Perilous, 2002
Aeron chair, Plexiglas, wood and steel base, and mechanized component
Collection of Bill Cisneros
 
Kaino's large-scale installations often engage with issues surrounding postcolonialism, as well as the rise of digital culture. (Since the nineties, the artist has also maintained a parallel career in technology.) This work consists of an Aeron chair, spinning rapidly on its axis and encased within a Plexiglas vitrine. As the artist notes, Aeron chairs were often found in the offices of nineties-era Internet start-ups; this slyly humorous work positions the chair as an artifact and icon of that dizzying age. A fixture on the Los Angeles art scene since the late 1990s, Kaino co-founded (with Rolo Castillo, Daniel Joseph Martinez, and Tracy Schiffman,) the influential Deep River Gallery in Chinatown; intended to "move the dialogue of the periphery to the center," the gallery was designed from its inception to exist for only five years (1997-2002).

 

Return to Come as You Are: Art of the 1990s

Links to sources of information outside of our web site are provided only as referrals for your further consideration. Please use due diligence in judging the quality of information contained in these and all other web sites. Information from linked sources may be inaccurate or out of date. TFAO neither recommends or endorses these referenced organizations. Although TFAO includes links to other web sites, it takes no responsibility for the content or information contained on those other sites, nor exerts any editorial or other control over them. For more information on evaluating web pages see TFAO's General Resources section in Online Resources for Collectors and Students of Art History.


Search Resource Library for thousands of articles and essays on American art.

Copyright 2015 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights reserved.