1980s painting at the Whitney Museum
In the 1980s, when performance art, installation art and video were just coming into their own, painting could have easily given way to these new avenues for artistic expression. Instead, what happened was a painting renaissance, an explosive reinvention of the medium that used media, pop culture references and appropriation to re-invent what painting could be. Fast Forward: Painting from the 1980s presents a detailed and thoughtful look at painting from this decade, with works drawn entirely from the Whitney Museum’s permanent collection. The exhibition includes work by the names often identified with the eighties such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Sherrie Levine, David Salle, Julian Schnabel and Christopher Wool, as well as many lesser-known painters who exemplify the breakthrough aesthetic of this period.
As the title Fast Forward infers, the best painters of the 1980s used the media-saturated culture and the experimental potential of video, installation and performance art to push painting into an entirely new, bold expression of the figurative and abstract. This was painting deconstructed—taken apart and then put back together in a way that gave a fresh perspective on making and looking at art. Painters like Eric Fischl, Kenny Scharf and Ross Bleckner upended the expected idea of their paintings (the concepts of realism, pop, abstraction) and in so doing opened up their work to a reinvigorated potential for expression and innovation. The groundbreaking results are on clear to see in Fast Forward.
Fast Forward: Painting from the 1980s is on view at the Whitney Museum through May 14. PROVOKR members can see highlights of the show, above and below.