Delirious times demand delirious art. If we go back to the years between 1950 and 1980, many would remember them as the times of upheaval; around the world, there were military conflicts and socio-political unrests that left a mark, on art too. In fact, the way artists responded to these developments was by incorporating absurdity, nonsense, disorder, repetition and disorientation into their work, giving form to extreme emotional, mental and physical states. This notion of irrationality, spanning some three decades, will now be surveyed by The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, with over 60 artists living in Europe, South America and the United States being showcased in an exhibition titled Delirious: Art at the Limits of Reason, 1950-1980.
Generally defined as a clinical disorder, “delirium” will have an interesting meaning in the context of this exhibition. It will serve as an umbrella over artworks which includes a range of analogous experiences, all of which lie on the border with the irrational. Here, delirium is delivered through the adoption of particular techniques or specific effects that defy logic. According to Sheena Wagstaff, Leonard A. Lauder Chairman of the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art, Delirious reconstructs a historical phenomenon of great importance. ”It is the first exhibition to consider the fascination with irrationality in a holistic way and to ground it in contemporaneous social and political developments.”
Simulating and stimulating delirium, roughly 100 artworks on view will be divided into four sections: Vertigo, Excess, Nonsense and Twisted, straining the limits of both legibility and intelligibility. The artworks’ form, style and technique vary, intertwine and describe highly individual perspectives and points of view of some of the most important artists of the post-war period. These include Antonio Berni, Dara Birnbaum, Tony Conrad, Hanne Darboven, Nancy Grossman, Philip Guston, Dean Fleming, Eva Hesse, Alfred Jensen, Yayoi Kusama, Sol LeWitt, Lee Lozano, Anna Maria Maiolino, Ana Mendieta, Bruce Nauman, Jim Nutt, Hélio Oiticica, Claes Oldenburg, Abraham Palatnik, Howardena Pindell, Mira Schendel, Peter Saul, Carolee Schneeman, Paul Sharits, Robert Smithson, Nancy Spero, Paul Thek, and Stan VanDerBeek. Their visions aim to precipitate vertiginous, hallucinatory states of being in viewers.
Delirious: Art at the Limits of Reason, 1950-1980 at The Met will be on view at The Met Breuer’s Floor 4 from September 13th, 2017, through January 14th, 2018. The Press Preview is scheduled for September 12th. It is curated by Kelly Baum, Cynthia Hazen Polsky and Leon Polsky Curator of Contemporary Art in The Met’s Department of Modern and Contemporary Art, and will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and supported by the Antoinette Kraushaar Fund.
All images via metmuseum.org.