Defamation of Character

Oct 29, 2006–Jan 15, 2007


P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center is pleased to present Defamation of Character, an international group exhibition exploring the iconoclastic impulse as an engine of recent creative progress. It draws primarily from work created in the post-punk era by approximately thirty artists, and explores the relationships between face and fame, notoriety, disclosure, and erasure. Some of the artists mine popular culture to produce scathing or defamatory indictments of consumer mores; others take the moral corruptions of public and political acts as their defamed subject; and others practice détournement—using elements of well-known media to create new work with a different or opposing message—to elevate injury and injustice into the realm of high art. Defamation of Character will be on view in the first floor Main Gallery from October 29, 2006 through January 15, 2007.

The cradle of much of this aesthetic impulse is England, where pop culture and anti-establishment attitudes have thrived concurrently. The progenitor of this position may be the British artist Richard Hamilton (b. 1922) whose body of work created in response to the so-called "dirty protests" in Northern Ireland speaks to the political defamations of the notorious Maze prison in the stylized language of pop. Fed through the language of punk and the graphic design of Jamie Reid (b. 1947) such attitudes became the form of the Young British Artists generation, represented here by works from Jake and Dinos Chapman (b. 1966/62), Sarah Lucas (b. 1962), and recently Adam McEwen (b. 1965).

In America much of this confrontation took place with modernism itself. Key moments include Andy Warhol's oxidation paintings, when the artist took a piss on the flat mantle of Modernist abstraction; Richard Prince's (b. 1949) painted jokes, which made a literal clichéd joke of painting; and Christopher Wool's (b. 1955) self-effacing erasures of his own facility. Incorporating the perspective of feminism in their work Sue Williams (b. 1954), Kathe Burkhart (b. 1958), and Karen Kilimnik (b. 1962) take celebrity and the name of the celebrated father in vain.

Defamation of Character also features Matthew Barney's (b. 1967) Vaseline portrait of Julianne Moore as a Mirabella magazine zombie, Hélio Oiticica's (1937-80) cocaine Hendrixes and Glenn Ligon's (b. 1960) dead neon America. Documented actions and interventions such as Gordon Matta-Clark's (1943-78) BB gun window blow out, Gianni Motti's (b. 1958) appearance at the VIP box of the French Open wearing an Abu Ghraib-style hood, and Chris Burden's (b. 1946) TV hijack, will be seen alongside works by Dan Colen (b. 1979) and Nate Lowman (b. 1979) whose hijacked landscapes have become vehicles for the slanders and libels of a malignant culture of pollution, racial slurs, and tarnished reputations.

Defamation of Character is organized by P.S.1 Curatorial Advisor Neville Wakefield.


Installation images

How we identified these works

In 2018–19, MoMA collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab on a project using machine learning to identify artworks in installation photos. That project has concluded, and works are now being identified by MoMA staff.

If you notice an error, please contact us at [email protected].


If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

All requests to license audio or video footage produced by MoMA should be addressed to Scala Archives at [email protected]. Motion picture film stills or motion picture footage from films in MoMA’s Film Collection cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For licensing motion picture film footage it is advised to apply directly to the copyright holders. For access to motion picture film stills please contact the Film Study Center. More information is also available about the film collection and the Circulating Film and Video Library.

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication, please email [email protected]. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to [email protected].


This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to [email protected].