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New exhibit shows controversial NYC of 1993

Posted on February 14, 2013 | by Jonathan Keshishoglou

Click on the photo for more images from the exhibit.

A step inside a new exhibit at the New Museum will transport viewers back to 1993, an important year that few seem to remember.

“NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star” opened yesterday, and the exhibit seeks to explore a changing time in New York’s history through an enormous, five-floor show that spans the entire museum. Every piece of art from the 78 artists who contributed was made 20 years ago, and each one was handpicked to demonstrate the shifting values of the final decade of the 20th century.

“In 1993, the first blog was published, and the Internet was one-year-old,” said Massimiliano Gioni, associate director and director of exhibitions of the New Museum. “Palestine and Israel signed a peace treaty that rocked the two nations, and there was a shift from a grittier New York with an underground culture to a merging of the mainstream and underground.”

NYC 1993 makes full use of the evolving spectrum of media available during 1993, from photography to videography to music, to illustrate the social and cultural changes of the period. Almost every floor has a video component accompanying each work of art. One television screen shows Cheryl Donegan’s own video recording of herself drinking and spitting out milk to the tune of Sugar’s “A Good Idea” in a statement about exaggerated sexuality in rock music and MTV. Other videos are much simpler, like the “Drawing Restraint 7” by Matthew Barney, in which a man dressed as a satyr tries to catch his own tail.

“The show’s not focusing on any one big theme,”  said Gary Carrion-Murayari, the show’s curator. “There are many, such as race and gender-politics, pop culture and the ‘slacker aesthetic.’ It isn’t restricted to one particular approach, it’s a snapshot of everything.”

Many pieces deal with controversial themes, and a fair amount use shock value to catch their viewers’ attention. To deal with the censorship of pornographic materials, Cindy Sherman photographed two naked mannequins in vulgar acts as part of her series, “Sex Pictures,” that is visible on the third floor. Not too far away is Marlene McCarthy’s “In Honor of R. Allen Schindler,” a stylized collage of a soldier beating a fellow soldier to death.

“It’s almost unexpectedly grotesque, when I think about the ’90s I don’t think about all this, but I suppose it makes sense,” said CAS freshman Jillian Branchaud.

The exhibit also features tamer pieces, like illustrations taken from the bottom of skateboards and Janine Antoni’s “Like and Lather” that displays busts of women made from chocolate and soap.

“NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star” is open at the New Museum at 235 Bowery from Feb. 13 through May 26, 2013.

Jonathan Keshishoglu is a staff writer. Email him at 


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