The art, love and politics of the 1980s

A new exhibition at the Walker Art Center takes a closer look at the artwork that came out of the 1980s. MPR’s Euan Kerr reports that while it may be difficult for people who lived through the 1980s to believe this, but scholars are increasingly seeing the decade of Reaganomics, Iran-Contra, and the end of Studio 54 as pivotal in the art world.


Walker Art Center Curator Bart Ryan stands in front of David Hammons piece “How Ya Like Me Now?” The piece bears the marks of sledgehammers by young African Americans upset that the Reverend Jesse Jackson was portrayed as being white.

MPR photo/Euan Kerr

The Reagan Era brought new prosperity to many people, and an end to the counter culture born in the 1960s, [Walker curator Bart] Ryan said. The mass media took on an ever more powerful cultural importance. Early evidence of globalization began to appear.

…The 80s were also a time of appropriation — artists taking work done by others, adapting it, sometimes only minimally, and then presenting it as their own commentary on the world. It scandalized the old guard.

And then there was identity art: the demand for recognition for people underrepresented in the media: woman, racial and ethnic minorities, the gay and lesbian community.

On top of that was a new and terrifying tide of HIV and AIDS on the rise.

“You have artists at very desperate times in their lives trying to come to terms with what was happening,” Ryan said.

Find out more about the exhibition here.

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