Chris Burden’s show at the New Museum “Extreme Measures” is great. I did a warm, lengthy interview with him that will appear in next month’s “Brooklyn Rail” and found him generous, thoughtful and fun. The only question I asked that didn’t go anywhere was about the gendered aspects of his work. The exhibition is full of materials and forms explicitly coded “male”: motorcycles, Erector set bridges, cop uniforms, war toys. I think the most important aspects of his work examines the performance of a certain type of straight-white masculinity, and with the toys, how people are socialized into those larger infrastructures. He makes this explicitly not “easy” to consume, stage, confront.
Last night I had dinner with a lovely new friend who mentioned the artist Jordan Wolfson. I said I have a problem with his brand of performative jock-jam white adolescent boy art that defines the most celebrated contemporary art of my nascent generation. She recalled asking him about it:
HIM: “I’m interested in speaking to the perspective of white straight men.”
HER: “like everything ever made?!?”
HIM: “well that is my perspective, what else am I supposed to do”
HER: “fair enough.”
NOT FAIR ENOUGH!
Roberta Smith’s review last year of Wolfson’s show had all the awkward adulation of watching someone’s mom flirt with your high school friends. I am currently working on a book of interviews with the artists I find most interesting in my generation and it is no coincidence that almost all of them are women, queer, artists of color and are not legible within the official spaces of the art world—are instead making interesting things happen in other places—while the majority of my generation getting both commercial and critical attention are unproblematically preforming a type of extended adolescent straight white masculinity—people like Wolfson, Daren Bader, most “Net Art” like Parker Ito.
I’m not saying there is anything intrinsically wrong with these artists or their work, but I am saying that no one is talking about how obviously their success is predicated on exploiting certain tropes of a privileged subject position at the neglect of other forms of representation, and that is wrong and the reason why the most interesting things artists are doing now are largely invisible to the wider, older, art world who depend on commercial galleries, museums, art magazines to get their sense of what is going on.
-Contributed by Jarrett Earnest