In keeping with the spirit of critique, “Take It or Leave It” suggests
that we not place the concept of Institutional Critique too neatly inside a box, that is, to think of it not as a defined style with only one history but instead as a way of practicing art with many histories leading up to the present. To this end, the exhibition presents a diverse body of work that ties Institutional Critique as much to Conceptual Art as it does to other practices such as Appropriation
and the political struggles surrounding Feminism
, and sexual identity
For instance, Mary Kelly’s expansive work Post-Partum Document (1973-79), which consists of 165 pieces, rigorously documents the first six years of the artist’s son’s life. The work’s systematic idea and execution take their cue from the cerebral tendencies of Conceptual Art. However, Kelly inserts an intensely emotional element into her process that is visible in the final result. Her work shows us that despite the scientific appearance of museum displays, including those of Conceptual Art, it is impossible to write off the psychological qualities of objects, memories, and space.
Since the early 1990s, Fred Wilson’s work has investigated the back-histories of museum acquisition and display. A provocative series of close-up photographs of dolls pulled from museum displays highlights the shifting value systems of art institutions as well as the politics of putting race up on view.