The New Museum of Contemporary Art on the Bowery seems to be all about Gen X art and artists. Most exhibits I’ve seen since the awesome and universally praised building opened in Sept. features artists in the 30 to 40-ish range, and some of the exhibits address Gen X culture explicitly. I saw Double Album last weekend, an exhibit of work by two artists, one from Mexico City (Daniel Guzman, born 1964) and the other, Steven Shearer, from Vancouver, BC (1968). Both artists address boyish adolescence, teen idols and classic rock of the 1970s. One of the funnier pieces by Shearer is a collage of Leif Garrett pictures from his teen-idol years (his current mug shots related to a drug abuse problem wouldn’t make for nearly as interesting a collage). I had to admit to my partner’s young teenage daughters that Garrett was indeed a heartthrob when I was their age. I had forgotten how big androgyny was then. I suppose to young teens, the sexually ambiguous look is less scary when you’re feeling anxious about such things. Alas, the exhibit itself has about as much impact as a Leif Garrett disco song (watch a video of Garrett performing “I was made for dancing” in which he doesn’t dance at all!). The Times review pretty well sums it up:
“Oh, grow up!” would be a reasonable response to “Double Album: Daniel Guzmán and Steven Shearer,” an intermittently interesting but ultimately disappointing exhibition at the New Museum. Organized by Richard Flood, the museum’s chief curator, it introduces two artists in their 40s who … seem mired in creative adolescence themselves.
While I’m all for never really growing up, at some point the art itself needs to mature and ripen if it’s going to have any relevance beyond a VH1 “I love the ’70s” kind of show.