LACE is pleased to present Against the Grain, curated by Los Angeles-based artist Christopher Russell, as part of LACE's thirtieth anniversary celebration. Russell looks back on a seminal exhibition from LACE's history, Against Nature: A Group Show of Work by Homosexual Men (1988), curated by Dennis Cooper and Richard Hawkins.
Cooper and Hawkins' original show looked at decadent seclusion and syphilitic deterioration as modes of social rebellion and was informed by J.K. Huysmans' novel À Rebours. This exhibition exposed the margins of the already marginalized world of gay men. The curators translated Huysmans through the lens of AIDS in a politically and socially conservative era, and displayed rich, decadent and inherently morbid work. They reacted against aesthetics that seemed polemically overwrought, privileging activism over the individual.
Now, Russell looks at the influence of this lineage. Beyond the Fin de Siecle, beyond AIDS activism, he asks after the influence of radicality among a new generation of artists. Using Against Nature as a point of departure, Russell has selected 14 local artists that seek a similar critical position in our social climate today and undertake themes of decadence within a present day context.
There has been a lot of talk around the gothic and the decadent in contemporary art. However much of the current generation exploring these ideas has not made the historical connections that seem common among artists of the 1980's. This show attempts to draw a tighter line between varied approaches to the gothic and the decadent, pointing out recent, local connections but also establishing a lineage: Huysman's novel, A Rebours, translates not just to Against Nature, but also to Against the Grain.
Against the Grain Salon Events:
21 June 2008: Masked Ball
3 August 2008, 3pm: Artist Discussion with Tom Allen, Julian Hoeber, Brian Kennn and Kelly Sears. Moderator: John Knuth
9 August 2008 3pm: Artist Walkthrough with Brian Bess, Robert Fontenot and Ami Tallman
Against the Grain is an ArtForum.com critics pick.
Full color catalog available ($25). LACE members receive a 10% discount.
This exhibition has been made possible through the generous support of The Pasadena Art Alliance and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Additional support for LACE and its programs comes from the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, The Getty Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation, Jockey Hollow Foundation, Los Angeles County Arts Commission, Morris Family Foundation, Stone Brewing Co., and the members of LACE.
Download Against the Grain press release.