From November 15, 2023 to January 27, 2024 Hauser & Wirth’s new exhibitionRETROaction will be on display in New York. Followed by its run in Los Angeles from February 27, 2024 to May 5, 2024.
New York…In the early 1990s, a new generation of artists in the United States were using exhibitions to share their outlooks on the social and political turbulence of the time. Two of those exhibitions—which opened in the same year—were the 1993 Biennial Exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, and Theater of Refusal: Black Art and Mainstream Criticism, curated by artist Charles Gaines at the University Art Gallery (UAG), University of California, Irvine.
On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of these landmark shows, Hauser & Wirth is pleased to present RETROaction, a two-venue project that will begin at its Upper East Side location in 2023 and continue at its Downtown Los Angeles gallery in 2024. Many of the artists who participated in the seminal exhibitions that inspired RETROaction are today recognized as having established the terms of critical cultural debates in the early 1990s. Eight of these artists also now work with Hauser & Wirth.
Thirty years later, in a sociopolitical context that bears many similarities, RETROaction celebrates the impact those artists made and reflects their continued influence upon art and discourse while suggesting that our current moment is a time for retroaction—rather than retrospection—and that the past and present are in an active, ongoing dialogue.
Homi K. Bhabha, who wrote for the 1993 Whitney Biennial catalogue, explains the purpose of the exhibition at Hauser & Wirth, of which he is the co-curator:
“A conventional retrospective looks back from the summit of the present to synthesize the past by giving it a culminating shape. In contrast, the ambition of RETROaction is to configure the art of the past in a contemporary constellation of influences and interventions, rather than to synthesize it in the retrospective mode. RETROaction brings forth the legacies of the early 1990s to interact with the lessons and lesions of art today. This show traces the momentum generated by a group of artists who, 30 years later, continue to make a compelling case for their ideas and beliefs. RETROaction provides a double- frame. It takes a view of the present in all its decolonizing tumult—racial violence, pandemics, climate catastrophe, migration and displacement—pinpointing a critical moment of transition in the 90s from which to move forward.”
RETROaction has been curated by Kate Fowle in collaboration with Homi K. Bhabha, Charles Gaines and art historian Ellen Tani.
On the first and second floors of its Upper East Side location, Hauser & Wirth will present works by Ida Applebroog, Charles Gaines, Mike Kelley, Zoe Leonard, Glenn Ligon, Cindy Sherman, Gary Simmons and Lorna Simpson. Selected in collaboration with the artists where possible, the works, made between 1986-1994, capture the spirit of cultural debates of the early 1990s, provoking relevant questions about the roles of racial address in a museum or gallery display, activist art and critical theory, sexual difference and the body politic.
On the third floor, works by New York-based artists Kevin Beasley, Torkwase Dyson, Leslie Hewitt and Rashid Johnson comprise an updated iteration of Theater of Refusal, which in its original 1993 incarnation juxtaposed the contributions of eleven contemporary Black artists with published texts that critically discussed their work. Curated by Gaines and Ellen Tani, this current revisitation of the original show is entitled Theater of Refusal: Black Art and Reconstitution. Featuring artists who are committed to both abstraction and materiality, the presentation will also include critical texts and raise important questions about the premise of the original exhibition while ‘rethinking structures of artistic knowledge and the critical discourse that surrounds it,’ as Gaines describes. When RETROaction travels to Hauser & Wirth Downtown Los Angeles in 2024, this section of the exhibition will feature works by Los Angeles-based artists.
On January 27, 2024, Hauser & Wirth will host two live roundtable discussions at the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College in New York City, looking more closely at the 1993 Whitney Biennial and Theater of Refusal with some of the artists and curators who initiated and participated in these shows. The roundtable events will explore the cultural and social issues of the 1990s in relation to our present moment.
CULTURE (counter, pop, and otherwise) and the people who shape it.