Pablo Picasso once said, “It takes a long time to become young.” That wisdom is evident in the playful paintings and prints he made in his 80s and 90s, which are currently on view at New York’s Gagosian Gallery. Further downtown at the New Museum, a new group of artists is being celebrated for simply being young and, of course, talented. Presenting 50 artists under age 33 from 25 countries, The Generational: Younger Than Jesus explores work in a variety of media — ranging from painting, sculpture, and installation to photography, video, performance, and video games. Selected from a list of 500 artists; assembled by an international team of curators, writers, teachers, and critics; and fully documented in Phaidon’s accompanying Artist Directory, YTJ offers a surprising mix.
Notable painters include Poland’s Jakub Julian Ziolkowski, German-born, New York-based Kerstin Brätsch, the US’ Adam Pendleton, and Iranian-born, Amsterdam-based Tala Madani. Ziolkowski riffs on modernist abstraction, making oil paintings of hallucinatory figures. Brätsch exhibits abstract and figurative paintings on paper that blend lightly applied washes with impasto brushstrokes. Pendleton shows conceptual, black-on-black silkscreen, language-based paintings from his Black Dada series, which is also on view in a solo show at Haunch of Venison in Berlin. Meanwhile, Madani toys with humorous interpretations of Islamic cultural and sexual identity in her small paintings on wood.
Video represents one of the strongest elements of the exhibition. Lebanon’s Ziad Antar shows clever shorts of children singing along with a synthesizer and a pianist pounding silent keys. France’s Cyprien Gaillard screens Desniansky Raion, a video shot in Saint Petersburg, Paris, and Kiev that moves from chaos to order as gangs fight and buildings collapse. South Africa’s Dineo Seshee Bopape uses video as the central point of an installation. Her black-and-white video, Dreamweavrr, captures a bearded lady performing with a parasol, and is shown in a small room, transformed with reflective Mylar, painted synthetic plants, and disco balls. The US’ Ryan Trecartin also mixes monitors with objects in his massive, over-the-top installation. Teenage trannies throw tantrums and break glasses in six video monitors, displayed in the midst of found furniture, lampposts, fish tanks filled with sneakers, and sections of airplanes.
Nearby, America’s LaToya Ruby Frazier‘s black-and-white photographs of relatives living together in close quarters capture simpler realities, while China’s Cao Fei explores fantasy in her large color photographs of COSPlayers, who recreate scenes from anime and video game culture. Israeli-born, Los Angeles-based Elad Lassry use strategies from the Pictures Generation (currently being celebrated at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art) to make purposely banal photographs and photomontages of still lives, people, and pets. America’s Cory Arcangel uses photography to strikingly illustrate technology in Photoshop CS: 72 x 110 inches, 300 DPI, RGB, square pixels, default gradient “Spectrum,” mousedown y=1416 x=1000, mouse up y=208 x=42, a large picture of gradient color.
Arcangel’s field of color becomes the perfect backdrop for China’s Chu Yun performance piece This is XX, which has a young female participant sleeping under the influence of sleep medication in a bed in the gallery. It’s a compelling piece, as the subject seems so vulnerable under the gaze of the viewers and shutterbugs, who end up becoming voyeurs. Britain’s Ryan Gander also uses daily participants in a performance, but his guinea pig is the museum’s fourth-floor gallery watcher, who has to wear a white tracksuit, stained with embroidered blood.
The New Museum, which turns 33 next year, has a history of showing important artists when they were young. With 50 youthful artists currently in their galleries, odds are that a number of them will make a lasting impact, too.
Watch a video interview with the curators.
Image: Jakub Julian Ziolkowski, Untitled, 2007