In the 1990s, as the culture wars raged, many artists turned to representing themselves and their communities through alternative modes of portraiture, asserting their identities and presence. Photography and video allowed for a diaristic approach, capturing change over time, and life as an ongoing performance. In painting, artists suffused art-historical images with a sense of their own selfhood, making the past startlingly current. Sculpture became a means of exploring the body under pressure. With the rise of the Internet, cable television, and the 24-hour news cycle, national and international traumas—such as the Los Angeles riots, the rampant global spread of the AIDS epidemic, and the first Iraq war— became public theater. In this context, the self became both a reflection of and a defense against the culture in which it was produced, prompting artists to collage public and private concerns. Epitomizing the spirit of the time, Chris Ofili stated, “I try to bring all that I am to my work.”
Organized by Roxana Marcoci, The David Dechman Senior Curator, Department of Photography and Paulina Pobocha, Associate Curator, Department of Painting and Sculpture, with Giampaolo Bianconi, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Media and Performance.