Thursday, April 10, 2014

Give or take

The exhibition Take it or leave it at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles is our kind of show. Artists putting institutions - especially art institutions - up against the wall by provoking, mocking, testing and deconstructing them. The gallery spaces were packed with work (only the Cady Nolan boxing ring suffered seriously) but the show seemed small in ambition. It was American artists only so keystone political artists of the 1980s and 1990s like Hans Haacke were excluded.

The fascination of the exhibition was to be taken back to when the relationship between artists and institutions was anything but cozy. Today so many artists depend on funding from their universities and art institutions are so enmeshed with dealers for funding, exhibition support and facilitating loans, that anything uncomfortably critical is self-censured fast. Andrea Fraser demos how it was done stripping down to nothing when giving a thank-you speech at the opening of a survey of her work. Louise Lawler goes on the attack presenting copies of iconic photos as her own work. Fred Williams points an accusing finger at virtually every collecting institution in America. It was quite a time.

Image: Andrea Fraser in full flight