Around 1984: A Look at Art in the Eighties

May 21–September 3, 2000

Around 1984: A Look at Art in the Eighties highlights the work of  select group of international artists working in the 1980's. It is the first in a series of 'decade' shows that P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center will present to its audience. Each exhibition will offer various "points of view" on the decades.

Around 1984: A Look at Art in the Eighties
is curated by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev. Senior Curator at P.S. 1, and will run from May 21st through September, 2000. This exhibition is a snapshot in time, reflecting many overlapping narratives of art, some in full swing by 1984, some merely beginning.

Around 1984: A Look at Art in the Eighties
will include work by:
Dennis Adams, Judith Barry, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Ashley Bickerton, Dara Birnbaum, Alighiero Boetti, Sophie Calle, Clegg & Guttmann, Francesco Clemente, Tony Cragg, Enzo Cucchi, Richard Deacon, Eugenio Dittborn, Jimmie Durham, Katharina Fritsch, Robert Gober, Group Material, Peter Halley, Keith Haring, Mona Hatoum, Jenny Holzer, Ilya Kabakov, Anish Kapoor, Tadashi Kawamata, Mike Kelley, Mary Kelly, William Kentridge, Anselm Kiefer, Jeff Koons, Barbara Kruger, Wolfgang Laib, Bertrand Lavier, Sherrie Levine, Reinhard Mucha, Matt Mullican, Juan Muñoz, Luigi Ontani, Adrian Piper, Richard Prince, David Salle, Julian Schnabel, Thomas Schütte, Cindy Sherman, Ettore Spalletti, Haim Steinbach, Thomas Struth, Rosemarie Trockel, Jan Vercruysse, Jeff Wall, and Krzysztof Wodiczko, among others.

In today's globalized world there is a many-faceted inter-cultural dialogue being forged. In the eighties, however, European and American art prevailed in the discourses of the West. Postmodernist artists overlapped images and meanings, questioning the notion of originality and linear progress. In later years, this contributed to opening art-historical thinking to perspectives from around the world. These methods served as a path to many creative practices of the present.

"To look at art in the 1980s implies observing one of the last periods during which the 'center' was both the platform for and the object of discussion," states Caroljn Christov-Bakargiev. "At the same time, much of what is happening today has its roots in the work of the 1980s. Postmodernist relativism in fact was a theoretical legitimization for opening Western art historical narratives to other possible narratives and 'histories.'"

The 1980s began with an explosive re-energized atmosphere in the art centers of America and Europe. In that period, new painters combined, re-used, and overlapped images and styles. Other artists critically addressed issues of contemporary life in a new, media-saturated technological environment. They explored fiction, the cinematic gaze, pleasure, and power from the perspective of gender difference in society, anticipating some of the most interesting art of today.

Stemming from these premises, by the mid-1980s a group of young artists developed "appropriation art," which questioned systems of meaning, display, and commodity. Beyond these artistic practices, the mid-1980s were also characterized by the continuation of arte povera and other 1960s art practices. These works dealt with politics, metaphor, and identity through assemblage, collage, performance activism, and photo-based work as well as public art and projections.

A publication accompanies the exhibition, designed by Mary Blackstock/Cyber Diva Media, Inc., under the creative direction of Peter Halley.

  • Jeff Koons
    Three Ball 50/50 Tank
    , 1985
    Glass, painted steel, water, plastic, and three basketballs
    The Museum of Modern Art, New York
    Fractional gift of Werner and Elaine Dannheisser, 1991
    Photo credit: E. Costa

  • Anish Kapoor
    Untitled (Blue 4 Parts)
    , 1983
    Pigment on Styrofoam
    Courtesy of the Carol and Arthur Goldberg Collection
    Photo credit: E. Costa

  • Jenny Holtzer
    Olympian Sign (Selections from the Living series, Truisms, and the Survival series), 1986
    Electric LED (light-emitting diodes) sign, programmed with a text by the artist
    The John L. Stewart Collection
    Photo credit: E. Costa


Around 1984: A Look at Art in the Eighties is made possible thanks to the generous support of Michel Zaleski. Additional supporters include Etant donnés, the French-American Fund for Contemporary Art; the Institute Italiano di Cultura; and the Consulate of Italy, New York.