Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s

Feb 11–Jun 3, 2012

This display of photographs, publications, and exhibition materials (brochures, opening announcements, press clippings and releases, and so on) traces MCA Chicago’s history from 1979 to 1992, the same period explored in This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s. This was a vibrant period for the MCA, during which the museum showcased not only the work of major artists of the decade but also the work of younger artists who would go on to become influential. Artworks by many of these figures, whether stars of the 1980s or artists who now seem equally important, appear in This Will Have Been in the adjacent galleries.

The year 1979 marked the MCA’s twelfth year. At the time, the museum was located at 237 East Ontario Street, housed in a much smaller building than the one in which you stand (see the 1979 Annual Report for a visual). The preceding decade had been transitional, progressing from the most exciting expressions of the avant garde—with installations by Dan Flavin, Christo, and Gordon Matta-Clark, among others—to a “pluralism” that saw increased activity by women artists as well as artists who used video and other emerging media and who explored issues of personal identity.

In contrast to the activity of the 1970s, which saw artists exploring a wide variety of styles and media, the art presented at the MCA in the 1980s seemed sharply focused. Painting—done largely by men such as Gerhard Richter, Julian Schnabel, David Salle—and “pictures” (photographs)—done mostly by women such as Cindy Sherman and Barbara Kruger—dominated the exhibition schedule. Yet the MCA also cast a wider net, mounting significant exhibitions of sculpture as it emerged from the domination of Minimalism, including solo presentations by Jannis Kounellis and Jeff Koons and group exhibitions featuring artists such as Franz Erhard Walther.

The MCA also presented important collaborative and media-driven art that responded to the social and political realities of the era, particularly gay rights, women’s rights, and the AIDS epidemic. The museum featured projects by artists as diverse as Alfredo Jaar, Keith Haring, Robert Mapplethorpe, Betye and Alison Saar, and Lorna Simpson , and presented performances by Marina Abramovic and Ulay and the collaborative Disband, among many others.

This presentation is organized by MCA Curator Lynne Warren and Curatorial Assistant Karsten Lund.