Critics’ Picks

David Robbins, Talent, 1986, eighteen gelatin silver prints, each 10 x 8".

David Robbins, Talent, 1986, eighteen gelatin silver prints, each 10 x 8".

New York

“25 Years of Talent”

Marianne Boesky Gallery | 509 West 24th Street
509 West 24th Street
May 2–June 16, 2012

“25 Years of Talent” attempts to show where the artists represented in David Robbins’s Talent, a sardonic 1986 grouping of hip-list artist head shots, are today in their varied art practices. Curated by artist Michelle Grabner, who was a graduate student in art history when Robbins debuted Talent, this exhibition takes a simple curatorial organizational scheme (one just as tied to popular notions of celebrity as Robbins’s initial head shots): “Where are they now?” The question presents a restrictive protocol, a kind of readymade mode of exhibition making—with each artist represented by at least one work, most from the past decade or so. The three photographic registers of Robbins’s work are expanded throughout the three floors of Marianne Boesky’s Upper East Side brownstone gallery.

Ascending or descending through the space, one realizes how heterogeneous these artists’ practices have become. A tight yet formal aluminum abstraction by Steven Parrino is at odds with a diminutive and brightly colored Michael Byron painting. The real subject, then, is not what these artists share, but what continues to distinguish them from the rest of the Talent pool. As if to highlight the (admittedly tongue-in-cheek) homogenizing violence Robbins’s initial work enacts through representing each artist with only a generic studio head shot, Grabner has placed a small Jenny Holzer silk screen, reproducing a wish list of “alternative interrogation techniques” that a US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent had asked permission to use, directly opposite Robbins’s Talent—an “open hand strike” being a different kind of head shot. Is it any wonder that Jenny Holzer is one of the only artists in Talent who does not play to the camera with an inviting smile?

Reunions are so much fun.