Fast Forward

1980s painting at the Whitney Museum

Art page: The Three Graces: Art, Sex and Death (1981) by Robert Colescott. Acrylic on canvas 84 × 72 inches. Gift of Raymond J. Learsy. Above: Hope (1982) by Julian Schnabel. Oil and velvet on velvet 110 × 158 inches. Purchase with funds from an anonymous donor.

    BY: Liz MacDonald

    Friday, February 10, 2017

In the 1980s, when performance art, installation art and video were just coming into their own, painting could have easily given way to these new avenues for artistic expression. Instead, what happened was a painting renaissance, an explosive reinvention of the medium that used media, pop culture references and appropriation to re-invent what painting could be. Fast Forward: Painting from the 1980s presents a detailed and thoughtful look at painting from this decade, with works drawn entirely from the Whitney Museum’s permanent collection. The exhibition includes work by the names often identified with the eighties such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Sherrie Levine, David Salle, Julian Schnabel and Christopher Wool, as well as many lesser-known painters who exemplify the breakthrough aesthetic of this period.

As the title Fast Forward infers, the best painters of the 1980s used the media-saturated culture and the experimental potential of video, installation and performance art to push painting into an entirely new, bold expression of the figurative and abstract. This was painting deconstructed—taken apart and then put back together in a way that gave a fresh perspective on making and looking at art. Painters like Eric Fischl, Kenny Scharf and Ross Bleckner upended the expected idea of their paintings (the concepts of realism, pop, abstraction) and in so doing opened up their work to a reinvigorated potential for expression and innovation. The groundbreaking results are on clear to see in Fast Forward.

Fast Forward: Painting from the 1980s is on view at the Whitney Museum through May 14. PROVOKR members can see highlights of the show, above and below.

 

LNAPRK (1982) by Jean-Michel Basquiat. Acrylic, oil, oil stick, and fiber-tipped pen on found paper on canvas and wood, with rope 72 1/4 × 66 5/16 inches. Gift of June and Paul Schorr in honor of the 60th Anniversary of the Whitney Museum of American Art.
LNAPRK (1982) by Jean-Michel Basquiat. Acrylic, oil, oil stick, and fiber-tipped pen on found paper on canvas and wood, with rope 72 1/4 × 66 5/16 inches. Gift of June and Paul Schorr in honor of the 60th Anniversary of the Whitney Museum of American Art.

 

The Three Graces: Art, Sex and Death (1981) by Robert Colescott. Acrylic on canvas 84 × 72 inches. Gift of Raymond J. Learsy.
The Three Graces: Art, Sex and Death (1981) by Robert Colescott. Acrylic on canvas 84 × 72 inches. Gift of Raymond J. Learsy.

 

When the Worlds Collide (1984) by Kenny Scharf. Oil and spray paint on canvas 122 5/16 × 209 5/16 inches. Purchase with funds from Edward R. Downe Jr. and Eric Fischl.
When the Worlds Collide (1984) by Kenny Scharf. Oil and spray paint on canvas 122 5/16 × 209 5/16 inches. Purchase with funds from Edward R. Downe Jr. and Eric Fischl.

 

A Visit To/A Visit From/The Island (1983) by Eric Fischl. Oil on canvas 84 × 168 inches. Purchase with funds from the Louis and Bessie Adler Foundation Inc., Seymour M. Klein, President.
A Visit To/A Visit From/The Island (1983) by Eric Fischl. Oil on canvas 84 × 168 inches. Purchase with funds from the Louis and Bessie Adler Foundation Inc., Seymour M. Klein, President.

 

Norman, OK Sextant in Dogtown (1987) by David Salle. Oil and acrylic on canvas 96 3/16 × 126 1/4 inches. Purchase with funds from the Painting and Sculpture Committee.
Norman, OK Sextant in Dogtown (1987) by David Salle. Oil and acrylic on canvas 96 3/16 × 126 1/4 inches. Purchase with funds from the Painting and Sculpture Committee.

 

NY Z (19890 by Peter Cain. Oil on canvas 58 1/4 × 70 1/8 inches. Purchase with funds from the Painting and Sculpture Committee.
NY Z (19890 by Peter Cain. Oil on canvas 58 1/4 × 70 1/8 inches. Purchase with funds from the Painting and Sculpture Committee.

 

Count No Count (1989) by Ross Bleckner. Oil and wax on canvas 108 × 72 1/8 inches. Purchase with funds from the Painting and Sculpture Committee.
Count No Count (1989) by Ross Bleckner. Oil and wax on canvas 108 × 72 1/8 inches. Purchase with funds from the Painting and Sculpture Committee.

 

Good Government (1984) by Terry Winters. Oil on linen 101 1/4 × 136 1/4 inches. Purchase with funds from The Mnuchin Foundation and the Painting and Sculpture Committee.
Good Government (1984) by Terry Winters. Oil on linen 101 1/4 × 136 1/4 inches. Purchase with funds from The Mnuchin Foundation and the Painting and Sculpture Committee.

 

Portrait of a Fingerprint (1988) by Moira Dryer. Casein on plywood 48 1/8 × 61 1/4 × 4 inches. Gift of Barbara and Eugene Schwartz.
Portrait of a Fingerprint (1988) by Moira Dryer. Casein on plywood 48 1/8 × 61 1/4 × 4 inches. Gift of Barbara and Eugene Schwartz.

 

Membership (1984) by Julia Wachtel. Oil on canvas 66 × 81 inches. Purchase with funds from the Painting and Sculpture Committee.
Membership (1984) by Julia Wachtel. Oil on canvas 66 × 81 inches. Purchase with funds from the Painting and Sculpture Committee.