Magazine article Artforum International

Art Club 2000

Magazine article Artforum International

Art Club 2000

Article excerpt

IN THE YEAR 1993 you were about twenty years lighter, and everything was that much cooler. People were weirder and partied more (and better). We all stayed out a little bit later. Which is surely why that year got picked up as the ostensible subject of "NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star," opening at the New Museum in New York this month, in which the most interesting or important (in the curators' eyes, of course) art from that date will be installed, syncretically, throughout the building.

OK, maybe this all seems a bit arbitrary, but the show's broad if procrustean scope will certainly hit some marks. In 1993, "quality-of-lifers" went ahead and elected Rudolph Giuliani mayor, which in some ways spelled the beginning of the end of "old New York." It was a touchstone year for identity politics, with a legendarily fraught Whitney Biennial. A twenty-six-year-old New York artist (Matthew Barney) took the Europa 2000 Prize at the Venice Biennale. It was also the year Colin de Land rounded up Art Club 2000--seven "snotty" Cooper Union art students he buffed into a potently glib, media-savvy collective--and gave them their first show, "Commingle," at his American Fine Arts, Co. The exhibition was "about" the Gap, the store's bland ubiquity and its consequences for a New York landscape soon to be tranquilized, but it was also "about" institutional critique and the art world's fetishization of youth and contrived generations. The brilliance of this ambivalent aboutness lay in its quicksilver, have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too attitude, the idea that the work could combine, in one smart package, being a thing and critiquing it. "Commingle" took up, maybe admired, and certainly parodied textbook strategies of institutional critique, but it was the stagey photos, featuring the AC2K recruits in matching Gap outfits (purchased and then--zing!--returned to the store post-shoot), that defined the show and much of their collaborative careers. For "NYC I 993," AC2K is showing ten of the original photos, some of which were in fact published in a February 1994 Artforum portfolio.

From here, 1993 looks about as far away as 2000, maybe even as far away as 2012, depending on who you're talking to. In this case, we're talking to Daniel McDonald and Patterson Beckwith, two original members of the now defunct Art Club 2000, in a spare and compact second-floor gallery near Astor Place, a stoner's throw from the school where they met and around the corner from the furniture store (no longer in business) that provided the prefab loft setting for the group's most iconic photo, Untitled (Conran's 1), 1992-93. Downtown. Or something like it. Where else? A cigarette is lit, a window opened. The recorder runs, and the rest is herstory.

--David Velasco

THIS CAN BE YOUR CLOSER: These pictures were done pretty much behind Colin's back, and he hated them. But not because he didn't like the photos or the way we made them or the critique they employed: He thought they would be consumed in the wrong way. And that's why he made us print them small and put them in the second room of our first show, because he knew what would happen. And then that's what happened. Although it wasn't necessarily our goal, the pictures immediately and inescapably branded us generationally.

And that's why now we're doing a show with these photos. Not just because they're from the year 1993, but because this is what we're known for. And you know, ironically we did many, many shows after that, all of which had more thought put into them, more maturity, and a little more bite than what gets carried with just these pictures.

The initial impetus for--well, not just for our club but for a lot of things Colin did--was his frustration with what people were getting away with, the status quo of the art world. We had been precocious art students studying with some of his artists at Cooper Union, and we'd gone to American Fine Arts and demanded to see slides and stuff. …

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