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New exhibition of contemporary art investigates the visual dialogue of the 1980s
Robert Gober, Single Basin Sink, 1985, plaster, wood, steel, wire lath, semigloss enamel paint, gift of Robert H. Halff © Robert Gober.

LOS ANGELES, CA.- The Los Angeles County Museum of Art presents a new exhibition of contemporary art that investigates the visual dialogue of the 1980s. Ends and Exits: Contemporary Art from the Collections of LACMA and The Broad Art Foundation features more than fifty artworks—ranging from photography and painting to sculpture—and is drawn largely from two significant Los Angeles collections.

Emerging from modernism, artists in the 1980s broke away from traditional painting methods and questioned the notion of originality. The exhibition highlights a diverse group of artists who made significant and timely artworks associated with this challenging social and political period, including Jonathan Borofsky, Robert Gober, Hans Haacke, Jenny Holzer, Jeff Koons, Barbara Kruger, Sherrie Levine, Allan McCollum, Richard Prince, Meyer Vaisman, David Wojnarowicz, and more.

“Bringing together two comprehensive Los Angeles collections allows us to depict an era that began, in part, here in Los Angeles,” comments Franklin Sirmans, LACMA’s Terri and Michael Smooke Curator and Department Head of Contemporary Art. “In Ends and Exits we present a diverse scope of contemporary artists whose art captures the discourse of the 1980s.”

Since 2008, works from The Broad Art Foundation have been incorporated into many LACMA exhibitions, including Color + Form, Art of Two Germanys/Cold War Culture and most recently, a survey of works by artist Robert Therrien. Ends and Exits displays works that were acquired by Eli and Edythe L. Broad when they first began collecting in depth in the early 1980s.

In 1977, art historian Douglas Crimp organized an exhibition in New York that proclaimed “pictures” rather than paintings were important in the postmodern world, a sentiment that was celebrated as The Pictures Generation (1974-1984). On the West Coast, this attitude was prominent in the works of CalArts graduates under the tutelage of John Baldessari, who influenced the early work of many painters including David Salle, Troy Brauntuch, Matt Mullican, and Jack Goldstein.

Works in the exhibition address politics and identity and depict a tumultuous period in social history that includes the AIDS crisis and drug wars. Going beyond imagery, text became an integral part of artworks that sought to define perception as seen in the works of Barbara Kruger, Adrian Piper, Lorna Simpson, and Jenny Holzer. Artists like Keith Haring and Robbie Conal explored graffiti and other ephemeral acts, highlighting art in the streets. During this period, performance art emerged as a powerful medium with transformative works such as Lorraine O’Grady’s Mlle Bourgeoise Noire (1981). The exhibition also includes a dynamic video featuring performances by dancer Bill T. Jones and performance artist Laurie Anderson, in addition to the music of Brian Eno, Philip Glass, and Arto Lindsay; and a performance by Talking Heads frontman David Byrne.

Other exhibition highlights include David Salle’s image-driven Savagery and Misrepresentation (1981); Louise Lawler’s Livingroom Corner, Arranged by Mr. and Mrs. Burton Tremaine Sr. New York City (1984-85); David Wojnarowicz’s The Newspaper as National Voodoo: A Brief History of the USA (1986); Robert Gober’s Hanging Man/Sleeping Man (1989); Cady Noland’s Office Filter (1990); and David Hammons’s Untitled (Elephant Dung with Chain)(1985-1986).

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