The exhibition “The 80s” at ALBERTINA MODERN presents over 160 works by artists who not only defined this decade, but whose work reaches far into the art of the 21st century.
Shrill and colorful
The 1980s: It is the age of (neo-)liberalism, which has now finally arrived in society, politics and the economy. Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan rule the Anglo- American world with conservative forces. The advent of the first PCs, video games, globalization, the opening of national borders and increasing mobility suggest a world in relative harmony. Cinema attendance records, technical progress and the lure of consumption promise a rosy future. There is also talk here and there of the end of history, of a saturated, Western-dominated world view.
And yet: the end of the Second World War is only a young human life away. A generation is pushing forward that has had enough of the post-war stuffiness. A generation for whom prosperity and comfort are by no means enough. Those who are not too distracted recognize a world in East-West conflict, feel the pressure of permanent nuclear armament or are shaped by the peace movement and German reunification.
It is a decade of rebellion, electro music with senseless lyrics resounds from the radios, wave and punk openly show their displeasure to society. An avantgarde emerges from the underground, experimenting, questioning and holding up a mirror. The art of the 1980s is colorful and multifaceted. It can be anything, but not one thing: boring.
In the eighties, everything suddenly became possible. The great social and political upheavals are also clearly visible in art. Groups of artists break with the entrenched art establishment, dethrone the avant-garde: the “Junge Wilden” rediscover the visual arts and exhibit – as self-confident as they are socially committed – under the term “Heftige Malerei” (fierce painting).
Celebration of diversity
Not one story, but many small narratives define the 1980s. Diversity in thought and action, knowledge and belief are booming. Boundary expansions in many respects and networking are among the essential characteristics of this time. Like hardly any other decade, the eighties have burned themselves into the memory of those who experienced this decade. But the shrill retro visions that experience a revival at cyclical intervals continue to inspire younger generations today. After the barren years of conceptual art and minimalism, the Neue Wilde are now expressing themselves in colorful and, above all, highly experimental ways. Discovery and the joy of the new are in the foreground. An experimental laboratory that is not afraid of kitsch and pathos. Even more: as a sure sign of self-reflection, perhaps also as a wink, the finger is put where the mass-produced society takes itself a little too seriously.
In the visual arts, the “Anything Goes” of the anarchist-minded Austrian Paul Feyerabend makes itself felt through stylistic richness. The so-called hunger for images that heralded this decade, reflected in the expressive gestures of the Junge Wilde on large-format canvases, can only be understood as a countermovement to the minimalist and conceptual currents of the 1960s and 1970s.
Art proliferates, begets shoots and filiations, forms nodes and ramifications,wrote the editor of the then hip art magazine Wolkenkratzer Wolfgang Max Faust.
Now abstraction stands next to tangible figuration, emotion next to rational coolness. The new media, the dawning digital age bring forth a new art of cipher, fiction and copy.
Cradle of today’s art
The 1980s, ranging from Jeff Koons and Jenny Holzer to Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring to Cindy Sherman and Richard Prince, are the cradle of today’s art. Questions of appropriation and authorship are discussed as well as criticism of consumer culture.
The oeuvre of Austrian artists such as Brigitte Kowanz and Erwin Wurm, Herbert Brandl and Maria Lassnig, Franz West and Peter Kogler is effortlessly integrated into the canon of an international star line-up in the exhibition The 80s.
Representatives include Jean Michel Basquiat, Jeff Koons, Keith Haring, Robert Longo, Cindy Sherman, Sherrie Levine and Jenny Holzer. Their art marks an important turning point in recent art history.
But not only the main representatives of the American Picture Generation and Approbiation Art are shown in the exhibition about the 80s, but also the most important exponents of the Italian Transavantgarde, such as Francesco Clemente and Sandro Chia, and also the German contribution of this decade, Martin Kippenberger and Albert Oehlen, which is still influential today, as well as the most important Austrian artists of the 80s, Brigitte Kowanz and Isolde Joham, in addition to Brandl, Schmalix, Scheibl and Moosbacher.
As the main representatives of the Neue Wilden, Rockenschaub and Peter Kogler as representatives of Neo Geo and installation art. Individual figures such as Franz West, Erwin Wurm and Maria Lassnig will play a prominent role in this overview of a decade whose significance for contemporary art cannot be overestimated.
THE 80s. Art of the Eighties
Exhibition duration: 17 October 2021 – 13 February 2022
Exhibition venue: ALBERTINA MODERN | Karlsplatz 5 | 1010 Vienna
Curator: Angela Stief
Assistant Curator: Martina Denzler