"A/Drift." (Art Exhibition)

By Rimanelli, David | Artforum International, February 1997 | Go to article overview

"A/Drift." (Art Exhibition)


Rimanelli, David, Artforum International


BARD COLLEGE

As an undergraduate, I took a survey course in art since 1945. The course followed a predictable, almost teleological progression, as Abstract Expressionism was succeeded by Color Field painting, Pop, Minimalism, Conceptualism, and . . . and then, sometime in the '70s, everything fell apart. Suddenly, just as the course was coming to an end, just as we were breaking upon the present, the satisfactions of identifiable stylistic and intellectual currents wore out. Our professor characterized this moment as one of pluralism, introducing it as the consequence of our contemporary condition (postmodernism in its "weak" sense, as opposed to the "strong" version associated with Pictures artists, etc., a subject left out of this course's purview). And pluralism was a big downer.

"A/drift," an "exhibition-as-allegory" in the words of its curator, Joshua Decter, cast a wide net in what seems like an attempt to come to terms with weak post-modernist stylistic proliferations in the context of strong postmodernist theoretical elaborations, however tenuous their application. So, what precisely did "a/drift" allegorize? Decter, in a brief curatorial statement, said that the show "employ[ed] the idea of drifting to suggest the increasingly porous quality of today's cultural life." He then adumbrated eight "fluid zones": "Elasticity," "Carnal Matters," "Almost Dumb, Distracted and Apathetic Enough," "A Lovely Entropy," "Lifestyles of the . . . ," "TV Heads," "Where Is the Identity?," and "From Reticence to Smart Anger, Nihilism to Hope and Back Again." While some of these "zones" bear rather ungainly titles, the field of reference with respect to recent art is quite easy to parse: the omnipresence (omnipotence?) of the mass media, the body and sex, abjection, a crisis in stable identity formations and a supplementary art of (affirmative) identity politics, etc. Decter's introduction to "a/drift" also explicitly extended the visual field to movies, television, pop music, and fashion - which is to say, the exhibition belonged as much to the domain of "visual culture" as it did to art per se.

The porousness of which Decter spoke necessarily abrogates or at the very least (ironically) brackets the distinction between art and other cultural products. So in one rather pedestrian sense, "a/drift" simply reenacted the high/low antimony for the zillionth time. That it did so in a manner that was often visually compelling and entertaining was the exhibition's greatest strength. Decter assembled an impressive array of famous as well as relatively obscure contemporary artists, most of whom could be said to belong to the Pop/Conceptualist dispensation. With some ninety-four artists working in painting, sculpture, photography, video, and mixed-media installation, the exhibition was certainly ambitious, its scope quasi-synoptic. (Decter even opened his own curation to "porous" interventions from other critics, viz. Olivier Zahm and Elein Fliess of the Parisian magazine Purple Prose.) The exhibition's design, by Judith Barry and Kenneth Saylor, was very handsome. While "a/drift" was perforce pluralist in its inclusions, it avoided a messy, unhappy look. And the look, as we shall see, was key.

So then, why was this show so annoying? …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

"A/Drift." (Art Exhibition)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.