Shaken by international and domestic turmoil, the art-going public of the ’70s must have needed a reprieve as much as we do now. To paraphrase Eklund during the show’s press preview: In times of anxiety, it’s even more important to be able to laugh. While New York was initially skeptical of them, it was this band of somewhat-affiliated outsiders that pioneered the ironic appropriation tactics and preoccupation with media that would come to define the following decade, once more reshaping our understanding of art and the visual world. Wegman went one step further, uncynically but doggedly insisting on a practice in which commercial work was not a side gig, but indeed fed off and enriched unsponsored content. That decision, while sometimes derided, now feels eerily, brilliantly prescient.
At any rate, if Eklund’s exhibition indicates anything, it’s that art is best advanced in places where its modes haven’t yet calcified into dogma.