Though I liked a lot of the art at the New Museum show it was not actually about the art. As much as I liked the kooky dancing bee video for its low-budget, tres gay, faux MTV production value, Klaus Noami's video (with sound so lamentably under-amped), the Jack Smith AMAZING 1962 film -the show is about the scene and the people and not really about the art at all! Not too subtle about that either, since the whole upstairs gallery is devoted to 'class' pictures and headshots of the scenesters who are presented as such and not as artists. Probably the most interesting visual of the whole show is the display of gallery announcements.
What one comes away with from the show is that there was no really ground-breaking art, no history-shattering aesthetic advancements, as hard as the Vaisman/Bickerton et. al clique tried in the end. The only people that really moved forward were Levine, Simmons, and maybe Goldin -the photographers.
So what the show really documents and canonizes is that the EV 80's art boom was a gallery movement. Don't get me wrong, there is a lot of fun art to see at the show. The toughest piece though was Martin Wong's painting with the poem by the late criminal/saint/poet Miguel Pinero -and the photo of the duo in the museum's upstairs shrine is the edgeyist among the deadpan group shots and embarrassing headshots. Excepting out the charming Chi Chi and impossibly impish Daddy snap.
It is a mark of the level of vapidity of much of the art that the emphasis in this museum show is on the artists as personalities -as being wild bohemians- and their art is relegated to being an incidental aspect of their status.
I bet this show will not generate any substantial reviews about the ART, just loads of nostalgia about the people and the scene.
In an era that is the result of over 20 years of conservative villification of the arts it is also interesting to note that a museum will skew a major retrospective of a period towards emphasizing the personalities of the artists and stay away from presenting the art as being important for some reason that has significance and gravity for society in general.
Emphasizing the personalities of the scene and the nostalgia for it also says something about the whole art sector in New York City. How parochial.