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Selected works from the
38th Annual Fine Arts Exhibition
This Will have Been: Art, Love,
& Politics in the 1980s
Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Chicago
February 11 - June 3, 2012
General Idea, AIDS Wallpaper, 1989

General Idea, AIDS Wallpaper, 1989
Image courtesy of AA Bronson.

Eric Fischl, Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man, 1984

Eric Fischl, Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man, 1984
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Gift of Collectors Forum in honor of the 50th Anniversary. © Eric Fischl.

Gerhard Richter, Schädel (Skull), 1983. Musée Departemental d'Art Contemporain de Rochechouart, Haute-Vienne, France. Photo: Freddy Le Saux. Laurie Simmons, Coral Living Room with Lilies, 1983. Courtesy of the artist Sherrie Levine, Chair Seat: 7, 1986. Collection of Barbara Lee, Cambridge, MA. © 1986 Sherrie Levine. Image courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York. Robert Mapplethorpe, Ajitto, 1981. © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Jeff Koons, Rabbit, 1986. Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. © 1986 Jeff Koons. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
The 1980s -- from the election of Ronald Reagan to the fall of the Berlin Wall -- were a transformative decade for culture and society. The Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Chicago presents an ambitious new exhibition, This Will Have Been: Art, Love, & Politics in the 1980s, with over 130 works that represent the diversity and complexity of art produced during this tumultuous decade when the art
world shifted between radical and conservative, lighthearted and political, sincere and irreverent. This Will Have Been offers an overview of the artistic production in the 1980s, divided into thematic sections, while situating our contemporary moment within the history of the recent past. Guest curated by Helen Molesworth, Chief Curator of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, for the MCA, this exhibition is on view from February 11 to June 3, 2012.

At the deepest level, This Will Have Been is shaped by two phenomena that frame the 1980s: feminism and the AIDS crisis. Within these larger outlines, the exhibition finds desire - rather than cynicism or irony - to be the real tenor of the decade. Desire is not reserved for only bodies and objects; one also finds the desire for a break with the past, for a principled and just government, and for the greater acceptance of difference. Through it all, the exhibition shows artists striving to articulate their wants, needs, and desires,
in an increasingly material world.

The exhibition re-examines this influential decade nearly 30 years later, contending that during this time the art world navigated a series of ruptures that permanently changed its character. For example, Reaganomics led to a dramatic expansion of art as a luxury commodity; while conversely, the rise of postmodernism shifted artists’ sense of their role in society and further questioned the very status of representation. People of color, women, and gay artists actively sought an end to cultural hegemony; photography challenged the primacy of painting and sculpture; the toll of the AIDS/HIV crisis politicized a broad cross-section of the art community; and the rise of globalism sounded the death knell of New York’s status as the sole “center” of the art world.

The exhibition is further divided into four thematic sections:

The End Is Near looks at discourses about the end of painting, the end of the counter culture, and the end of history. Artists include: Dotty Attie, Robert Colescott, Robert Gober, Jack Goldstein, Peter Halley, Mary Heilmann, Candy Jernigan, Mike Kelley, Martin Kippenberger, Louise Lawler, Sherrie Levine, Christian Marclay, Allan McCollum, Matt Mullican, Peter Nagy, Raymond Pettibon, Stephen Prina, Martin Puryear, Gerhard Richter, David Salle, Doug + Mike Starn, Tony Tasset, James Welling, and Christopher Wool.

Democracy shows artists investigating the dynamics of the street and the mass media in works such as Gran Fury’s Kissing Doesn’t
Kill
. This section also notes the pervasive commitment to the political that shaped the art of the era, and the increasing prominence of artists of color. Artists include: Charlie Ahearn, John Ahearn, Gretchen Bender, Dara Birnbaum, Black Audio Film Collective, Jennifer Bolande, Gregg Bordowitz, Eugenio Dittborn, General Idea, Leon Golub, Gran Fury, Group Material, Guerrilla Girls, Hans Haacke, David Hammons, Jenny Holzer, Alfredo Jaar, Barbara Kruger, Louise Lawler, Cildo Meireles, Donald Moffett, Lorraine O'Grady, Paper Tiger Television, Adrian Piper, Lari Pittman, Tim Rollins and K.O.S., Christy Rupp, Doris Salcedo, Juan Sanchez, Tseng Kwong Chi and Keith Haring, Carrie Mae Weems, Christopher Williams, and Krzysztof Wodiczko

Gender Trouble elaborates on the implications of the feminist movement. While posing new ideas about sexuality and the body, the work in this section expands gender roles or questions their construction. Artists include: Charles Atlas, Leigh Bowery, Tony Cragg, Jimmy De Sana, Carroll Dunham, Jimmy Durham, Eric Fischl, Alex Gerry, Robert Gober, Nan Goldin, Mike Kelley, Paul McCarthy, Annette Messager, Cady Noland, Albert Oehlen, Richard Prince, Cindy Sherman, Lorna Simpson, Julian Schnabel, Rosemarie Trockel, and Jeff Wall.

Desire and Longing re-examines how artists use appropriation techniques by viewing them in light of notions of desire. Contextualized by the AIDS crisis and the emergence of queer visibility, these works ultimately link desire to longing - and to feelings of loss. Artists include: Judith Barry, Ashley Bickerton, Deborah Bright, Sophie Calle, Marlene Dumas, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Peter Hujar, G. B. Jones, Isaac Julian, Rotimi Fani Kayode, Mary Kelly, Silvia Kolbowski, Jeff Koons, Louise Lawler, Sherrie Levine, Jac Leirner, Robert Mapplethorpe, Richard Prince, Marlon Riggs, David Robbins, Laurie Simmons, Haim Steinbach, and David Wojnarowicz.