The End is Here: New Museum Exhibition Looks at Art at the End of the Millennium
Showcasing the most widely recognized and significant American and European artists of our time, Art at the End of the Millennium: Contemporary Art from the Milwaukee Art Museum, on view at the Akron Art Museum June 19 through September 5, provides an extraordinary overview of recent developments in art.
Unusual among major American museums, the Milwaukee Art Museum possesses near encyclopedic holdings of contemporary art. While closed for renovation, Milwaukee has allowed Akron to present 29 dynamic large-scale paintings, sculptures, mixed-media and photo-based works from their noted collection.
Many different voices and styles have occupied the limelight in recent art, sometimes succeeding each other but often co-existing and even cross-fertilizing. Many of the artists who emerged in the 1980s produced work that fell into two very different camps. This exhibition clearly contrasts the energetic, paint and emotion-laden canvases of neo-expressionists such as Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke and Susan Rothenberg with the cooler conceptually-based works of Scott Burton, Christopher Wool and Lorna Simpson.
Artists who initially gained fame in earlier decades, such as Jasper Johns, Philip Guston, Nancy Graves and Elizabeth Murray, are included in this exhibition because their later work has continued to challenge and influence younger artists. Painting in particular enjoyed a renaissance in the early and mid 1980s, as young American artists such as David Salle and Europeans such as Francesco Clemente and Anselm Kiefer took as their subjects the expressive potential of their medium and the power of the human figure.
From the funky and humorous California aesthetic of Robert Arneson and William Wiley, to the "neo-geometric conceptualism" of Peter Halley and Haim Steinbach, numerous themes have emerged in the artwork of the last two decades. Jenny Holzer's piece from The Survival Series, derived from and composed of electronic LED signs, and Felix Gonzalez-Torres's work, a sample of which the visitor can take home, comment on the influence of mass media and consumer culture, while Ross Bleckner's observation of the AIDS crisis, Outstanding European, reminds us of the importance contemporary artists place on making social and political statements.
Art reflects the society in which it was produced, often interpreting the past while setting a new course for the future. As we approach the 21st century, Art at the End of the Millennium offers an excellent opportunity to gauge how contemporary artists have traveled this path in recent years.
This exhibition was organized by the Milwaukee Art Museum. Its presentation in Akron is made possible by a generous gift from an Anonymous Donor and with proceeds from the 1999 Akron Wine Auction. Media Sponsorship is provided by PBS 45 & 49.