The Times’ Roberta Smith explains Ryan Trecartin’s art

The New York Times critic Roberta Smith loves the Ryan Trecartin exhibit at PS1 too — she calls it game-changing — but, unlike Peter Schjeldahl of the New Yorker whom I wrote about earlier, she at least tries to persuade us of its merits.  Here is Smith:

Mr. Trecartin (pronounced tra-KAR-tun), who is 30 and made his New York gallery debut in 2007, is definitely overexisting. His PS1 spectacular is his first major museum show in New York; it reveals an immense but not fully developed talent that seems bound for greatness. At the risk of oversimplification, his art could be said to combine the retinal extravagance of much 1980s art with the political awareness of the ’90s and the inclusiveness and technological savvy of the postmillennium. This exhibition shreds the false dichotomies and mutually demonizing oppositions that have plagued the art world for decades — between the political and the aesthetic, the conceptual and the formal, high and low, art and entertainment, outsider and insider, irony and sincerity, gay and straight. Queerness here is not a cause; it is a constant condition that has now permeated the culture at large.

Maybe that bit about combining ’80s excess with ’90s politics and postmillennium technology is what Schjeldahl meant when he proclaimed Trecartin the most consequential artist since Jeff Koons — who came up in the ’80s as the king of art excess — but Smith at least has made a lot more compelling case for it.  Granted, I am unpersuaded.  When I’ve seen the exhibit myself [update: which I now have, click here to read about how much worse it was than I’d ever imagined] I may understand better how Trecartin’s glib gender-bending and ADD vision builds upon, rather than just belatedly follows, the work of artists like Robert Mapplethorpe, Gilbert & George, and Matthew Barney, who have been engaging similar themes for decades, but I can attest now that I am grateful for Roberta Smith’s delineation of what makes the Trecartin exhibit worth seeing.  Hers reads like art criticism; Schjeldahl’s, by comparison, looks like mere preening.  As for Trecartin, well, since his work makes frequent reference to technology and social media perhaps the most damning verdict is that his trailer for this PS1 exhibit (below) which he posted on the video-sharing site Vimeo has received a grand total of only 41 ‘likes‘ — this, for a “game-changer” in the art world.

Update (19 July 2011): Click here to read my own gentle evisceration of the Ryan Trecartin exhibit following a visit to PS1.


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