Take It or Leave It
The Hammer Museum presents Take It or Leave It: Institution, Image, Ideology—the first large-scale exhibition to explore intersections between the artistic strategies of appropriation and institutional critique in the work of American artists who emerged from the late 1970s to the early 1990s.
On view February 9 – May 18, 2014, the exhibition traces shared impulses between artists associated with the imperatives of institutional critique—confronting the structures and practices of institutions to scrutinize their role within society—and those who are commonly identified with artistic strategies of appropriation—the borrowing and recasting of existing images, styles, and forms from popular mass-media and fine art sources. As means of critical interpretation, institutional critique and appropriation can be understood as overlapping methodologies, and indeed they share a number of fundamental concerns.
Ironically, while hardly ever discussed in conjunction with each other, institutional critique of the late 1980s and early 1990s—as utilized by artists such as Tom Burr, Mark Dion, Andrea Fraser, Renée Green, and Fred Wilson—and appropriative strategies of artists who came to prominence in the late 1970s and early 1980s—including Gretchen Bender, Dara Birnbaum, Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger, and Sherrie Levine—have almost universally been described by critics and art historians as growing out of and expanding upon the ideas and practices of those associated with early institutional critique from the 1960s. Despite this ostensibly mutual foundation, the cross-pollination between artists recognized for their use of appropriation and those who adopted institutional critique in the 1980s and 1990s has been little explored. The majority of the works shown in the exhibition are from the 1980s and 1990s, a particularly ground-breaking moment in American art in which artists examined critical questions about identity and representation via practices that were deliberately politically and socially engaged. While Take It or Leave It is a historical show focusing on a period in the recent past, it nonetheless also includes very recent work, arguing for the continued relevance of these artists’ practices today and also revealing their sustained commitment to strategies of appropriation and institutional critique. While the artists borrow from a vast array of sources and evaluate a wide range of social and cultural institutions, they share the belief that art can and should participate in the most critical debates of our time.
Take It or Leave It showcases 36 artists who came to prominence between the late 1970s and early 1990s, with works in a wide variety of mediums, including photography, film, painting, sculpture, installation, and performance. Although many of the selected artists are well known, others remain under-recognized, and many of the artists represented in Take It or Leave It have not had their works shown together before. The exhibition is organized by the Hammer Museum and co-curated by Anne Ellegood, Senior Curator at the Hammer Museum, and Johanna Burton, Keith Haring Director and Curator of Education and Public Engagement at the New Museum