press release

The exhibition Good Morning America casts light on how, in the late 1970s and the 1980s, an important group of American artists invented a new form of artistic language, often referred to as ‘Appropriation art’, by borrowing existing photographs, objects, aesthetics, ideas and clichés found in American art and consumer culture.

The exhibition includes works by Cindy Sherman, Richard Prince, Jeff Koons, Robert Gober, Felix Gonzalez-Torres and Charles Ray. Each has created a very personal form of artistic expression to tell a story of American society at the time.

The incorporation of collage by the Cubist artists Picasso and Braque – the latter of whom was the first, in 1913, to introduce fragments of wallpaper into his paintings – was a radical move, creating a new definition of what could be considered a work of art. The invention of the ‘Readymade’ by Marcel Duchamp in the same year was even more of a rupture with traditional art history and in fact a new beginning. However, it took time for a consensus to form around the revolutionary idea of readymade art. This avant-garde concept remained more or less dormant for decades, until artists at the end of the 1950s and early 1960s reintroduced it into their works. Even though collage and the readymade were invented in Europe, it was mostly in America where these artistic concepts became a dominating force. Neo-Dadaists like Robert Rauschenberg, and Pop artists like Andy Warhol worked in ways that were close to Duchamp’s initial idea by introducing ordinary objects into their art. The Pop artists in general took these ideas further by creating a new kind of aesthetic, which they borrowed from popular culture, the media and the world of advertisements.

Duchamp’s readymade was a philosophical act, stripping the artwork of all aesthetic or narrative intention, while dealing with the notion of authorship and the role of the viewer. This resonates in the writing of the French critic Roland Barthes of the 1950s and 60s, who famously heralded the ‘death of the author’. Such ideas had an important impact on American critics and intellectuals, as we can see in the magazine October, which was very influential for the artists related to Appropriation. A large part of their analytical approach was based on French ‘post-structuralism’, and in particular the ideas of Barthes, whose intolerance of stereotypes, especially in terms of narrative structures, in the worlds of culture and art was accompanied by a call for rupture, subversion and invention.

After two decades of Pop, Minimalist and Conceptual art, which took artists further away from traditional art-making in the first person, young artists in New York in the 1970s and 80s proposed a new artistic approach, which was termed Appropriation art, Neo-Pop or Neo-Conceptualism. The basic idea was to appropriate existing forms and figures to create a new kind of meaning. Their art certainly had roots in Pop art, but the mechanisms, logic and theoretical discourse of Conceptualism are just as important, since most of these artists were students in its heyday. Even though the point of departure for all the artists in this exhibition was the readymade, collage and appropriation in one way or another, they have all developed their own artistic languages, introducing different characteristics and their chosen thematics in order to emphasise different aspects of the human condition.

Altogether, these artists present fragmented images of society from the 1970s to the 1990s, pointing towards the spectacle of consumer culture in general at the same time as revealing their own personal engagement with American culture in particular.

Curators: Gunnar B. Kvaran and Therese Möllenhoff