American Art of the 1980s exhibit opens today

The art world of the 1980s was a place of artistic diversity and aesthetic contention. Neo-expressionists jostled for theoretical (and commercial) position with abstract painters, installation and performance artists, appropriationists and others.

And little, upon reflection, was as it seemed.

This month, the Gallery of Art will revisit those years with American Art of the 1980s: Selections From the Broad Collections. The exhibition includes 14 large-scale paintings and sculptures by 11 celebrated and sometimes-controversial artists, including Jean-Michel Basquiat, Ross Bleckner, Eric Fischl, Jack Goldstein, Keith Haring, Jeff Koons, Sherrie Levine, Robert Longo, David Salle, Julian Schnabel and Mark Tansey.

Keith Haring's *Red Room* (1988), acrylic on canvas. Part of *American Art of the 1980s: Selections From the Broad Collections*, on display at the Gallery of Art Jan. 23-April 18.
Keith Haring’s *Red Room* (1988), acrylic on canvas. Part of *American Art of the 1980s: Selections From the Broad Collections*, on display at the Gallery of Art Jan. 23-April 18.

“Over the last four decades, Eli and Edythe Broad have built one of the world’s most important collections of modern and contemporary art, including works by some of our provocative artists,” said Mark S. Weil, Ph.D., the E. Desmond Lee Professor for Collaboration in the Arts and director of the Gallery of Art. “American Art of the 1980s presents a rare opportunity to explore themes and trends not otherwise available in St. Louis public collections.”

American Art of the 1980s will open with a reception from 5:30-8 p.m. today and will remain on view through April 18.

Also opening and on display through April 18 are a pair of complementary exhibitions curated from the Gallery of Art’s permanent collection: Painting America in the 19th Century and American Art on Paper From the 1960s to the Present.

“The decade of the 1980s is characterized by the coexistence of a diverse range of artistic practices,” said Sabine M. Eckmann, Ph.D., curator of the Gallery of Art. “Taken together, these different positions demonstrate the complete arrival of the postmodern in the art world.”

In the 1970s, Eckmann explained, artists challenged the primacy of traditional forms such as painting and sculpture, emphasizing instead the “anti-aesthetics” of conceptual art, process art and earth art. By the early 1980s, however, neo-expressionists such as Basquiat, Schnabel and Salle had returned figurative art to the aesthetic fray while injecting a new sense of ironic detachment — appropriating, rather than inhabiting, “authentic” painterly strategies.

For example, Basquiat’s Untitled (Skull) (1981) is at once a strikingly expressive semi-self portrait and a skillful catalog of painterly devices. Salle’s Pound Notes (1986) is a pastiche of found imagery that nevertheless suggests a dramatic, if fractured, narrative.

Schnabel’s massive Self-Portrait in Andy’s Shadow (1987), painted on the artist’s signature broken plates and crockery, offers nostalgic and ironic self-presentation while paying homage to cooly sardonic Andy Warhol, whose date-of-death is inscribed on the painting’s surface.

“Due to their figurative nature, these works appear easily accessible, yet in fact address the dilemma of establishing fixed meaning in the postmodern era,” Eckmann said. “They provoke us to reconsider the position, capacity and role of figuration at the end of the 20th century.”

Other works on view include Longo’s iconic Untitled (White Riot Series) (1982), Tansey’s deadpan Four Forbidden Senses (Taste, Sound, Smell, Touch) (1982), Haring’s massive Red Room (1988) and Koons’ ornate stainless steel busts Italian Woman and Louis XIV (both 1986).

Eli and Edythe Broad have been listed among the top art collectors in the world by ARTnews and Art & Antiques magazines. Since the early 1960s, they have built a personal collection of more than 400 modern and contemporary works.

The Broad Art Foundation, which they founded in Santa Monica, Calif., in 1984, has amassed more than 750 artworks by more than 100 artists.

The foundation operates an active “lending library” of its extensive collection and has loaned artworks to more than 400 museums and university galleries worldwide.

Eli Broad has been a patron and board member at more than 25 major museums and art institutions, and was founding chairman of the board of trustees of The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

Gallery of Art hours are 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Fridays; and noon-4:30 p.m. weekends. (The gallery is closed Mondays.) The exhibit is free and open to the public.

For more information, call 935-4523.

Leave a Comment

Comments and respectful dialogue are encouraged, but content will be moderated. Please, no personal attacks, obscenity or profanity, selling of commercial products, or endorsements of political candidates or positions. We reserve the right to remove any inappropriate comments. We also cannot address individual medical concerns or provide medical advice in this forum.