For the longest time, I’ve admitted to not knowing anything about art. I stick to celebrating the unsung style that garbs today’s art-loving cabooses while fully admitting to being an ignoramus when it comes to actual art history. With all my cards on the table, my steerage through the art world’s fringe has been a lot more bearable.
Lucky for us, writer, photographer and all around power-babe, Cedar Pasori is our first contributor with the kind of art juice in her bones necessary for weaving together the website’s first ever, totally amazing “art review.”
Last week, Cedar sampled the pleasures of the highly anticipated ‘NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star’ exhibit at the New Museum. But instead of taking the obsessively scrupulous approach to art criticism by arguing the impossible and dissecting the minute, Cedar has prepared for us a delightfully unserious take on art commentary.
Read (and listen) to the first ever Babes At The Museum art review by Cedar, after the jump.
The last paper I wrote in college was a 30-page essay on Théodore Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa. That was the worst mistake I ever made. The second to the last paper I wrote was about the Whitney Biennial of 1993, which is the second worst mistake I ever made…or so I thought.
What I minimally understood then, and what I have a firmer grasp of now, is that 1993 was probably the most culturally formative year of the ’90s for the visual and sonic landscape we have today. You might disagree, but at least in the art world, shit was reallllllly, rapidly going in a new, “we’re not gonna take it” direction, and it felt more rebellious, disorganized, and offensive than ever before. People came out of the 1993 Whitney Biennial feeling insulted, accused, mystified that THEY FORGOT PAINTINGS (in favor of installations), and disgusted at the vomiting, body sores, and nudity present in the art. The reviews (many which are online) are almost unanimously disapproving, with Roberta Smith’s “watershed” description being the exhibition’s most famous critical euphemism.
Every movement in art seems to dispute the one that came before it, and 1993 was about giving the middle finger to the flashiness of the ’80s in favor of the polarizing, highly politicized preoccupations of the ’90s: AIDS, conflict in the Middle East, gay rights, gun control, and healthcare, among others. Take all of this and smash it together with identity and body politics, and you get art that’s as raw and honest as it is crude and unforgiving. You also get the beginning explorations of topics that are as relevant today as they were then (if not more), and after you see it, you’ll realize that the New Museum’s current NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star exhibition couldn’t have come at a better time.
The exhibition’s title, named after the Sonic Youth album, Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star, gives the show a musical foundation from the start. There are multiple standout audio and video installations—most memorably, Kristin Oppenheim’s hypnotic Sail on Sailor playing on the 4th floor and Lutz Bacher’s My Penis on the 3rd floor. After seeing the 5th floor’s multi-television, monthly chronology of the various pop culture, art, technology, and music moments of 1993, I knew I had to highlight the music somehow.
So here we are.
Upon the self-imposed task of trying to be a little less corny about reviewing this exhibition but also giving a beautiful gift to the mecca that is BABES AT THE MUSEUM, I made a playlist so that we could all sonically transport ourselves to this epic year in the history of our confused, dynamic, fiery, fucked up culture. I can hardly believe how much good music came out of 1993, and if you listen to every chord and lyric of my playlist and visit the exhibition, it will all make sense. It’s like every artist (both in fine art and music) was hyper-conversating with each other, saying everything from “CASH RULES EVERYTHING AROUND ME” to “WHAT IS LOVE? BABY DON’T HURT ME.” Janet Jackson’s Janet album killed the game, A Tribe Called Quest dropped Midnight Marauders, Wu-Tang Clan’s Enter the Wu-Tang came out, Nirvana gave us In Utero, and Stereolab, Sonic Youth, Radiohead, The Flaming Lips, Madonna, Mariah Carey, and 2Pac were just as generous. In 1993, Michael Jackson played the halftime show at the Super Bowl, Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” was #1 for 14 weeks, MTV Latin America launched, Tupac was arrested and charged for a shooting in Atlanta, Suede received the Mercury Prize, and Janet Jackson became the first female artist to debut at No. 1.
It was an unbelievably important year of creation, and 20 years later, can we even compete? I’m not sure if I can say yes, but maybe if we get a little louder and reject the emptiness of technology and reality television, we can make something properly dysfunctional and/or real to look back on in 2033. Without a doubt, the music and art that came out of 1993 has been a major influence on all your favorite designers, rappers, filmmakers, and artists.
Instead of doing a mix like I originally planned, I made a Spotify playlist so that I can see the thumbnails of people who subscribe and avoid getting sued or blacklisted by the former record labels where I used to work. It’s a win-win, unless you don’t have Spotify, in which case, let this be a reason to get with the times, you know?
Did I miss the most important song of 1993? Did I make the best playlist of all time? Either way, email me at email@example.com or tweet me @cedar to keep the conversation going. I’m just another music-loving, art-loving museum babe like you.
Cedar Pasori runs the Art+Design channel of Complex.com , contributes to Dazed & Confused and Iconograph, and takes a lot of photographs for fun and for $$$. She can typically be found at a museum, at a concert, or at home watching YouTube videos.