PRINT October 1995


the Class of ’95

DAMIEN HIRST, GARY HUME, Sarah Lucas, and Fiona Rae. London’s Goldsmith’s College launched a whole generation of internationally acclaimed artists in the late ’80s. Back then, conceptual artist and Tate Gallery trustee Michael Craig-Martin nursed Goldsmith’s future art-stars through their degree course. He left the college in 1985, but now he’s back as Millard Professor, heading up a staff that includes Simon Linke, Lisa Milroy, and Liam Gillick—all successful Goldsmith’s alumni who’ve gone back to school to help out with the new undergraduates.

This year the mood of the degree show alternated between fuck-me sexiness and fuck-you aggressiveness. Taking its lead from trash art and grunge, the graduating class of 1995 cops the authority of street style to redirect its fear and loathing of Modernism. While the late ’80s graduates looked to the clean-cut conceptual work of the ’60s and ’70s for inspiration, the current crop of Goldsmith’s originals boast pedigrees that are decidedly less grand, turning to the upbeat side of street-smart culture: television, glossy magazines, and wannabe lifestyle.

Humble means, however, don’t preclude big ambitions—and the high-impact work made the most of its low-budget style. The best works of the 100 artists on show had a kind of quirky, homemade look that traded on the myths that brought their makers to art school in the first place. For Jun Hasegawa that meant glamour; her giant cutout female figures, painted in gloss paint on board, successfully mixed the flat color and graphic lines of Japanese manga comic-book art with the innocent, sexy frivolity of fashion magazines.

For Alexis Harding it was the romance of the garret. He produced shattered grid paintings, their messy, crinkled surfaces like unmade beds or overused cushions, in an attempt to convince us he’s a yob with a poet’s soul. Teresita Dennis looked to the good life: her paintings combined a technical finesse she picked up from an interior-decorating handbook with the frantic energy of an earnest art student, adding a twist to a popular British theme: the domestication of abstraction.

Meanwhile, at least two students, Dirk Lambert and Yael Feldman, produced hip-lifestyle video works. Lambert danced lazily in front of a black and white grid, referencing Agnes Martin and Cy Twombly, while updating Eadweard Muybridge’s studies of movement for the disco era. Feldman’s three short films packed the punch of television commercials. Her friends dressed up and lip-synched to Thelma and Louise and Breakfast at Tiffany’s while the artist mimed to a Vivien Leigh love scene. For art students, it seems, hair, clothes, and makeup still hold the same allure they always did.

Leisure, alternative lifestyles, and hanging-out hedonism are the refreshingly unaffected concerns of the new batch of Goldsmith’s students. Despite the art school’s international reputation, the class of 1995 have gone their own way—without miming in any obvious ways the styles or strategies of their celebrated forebears. The success of the work is in the students’ quest to tell the world who they are, or who they want to be, not in style or technique. I admire their confidence.

Martin Maloney is an artist, curator, and writer. He contributes regularly to The Burlington Magazine and Flash Art. He is currently curating a series of shows of new British artists at Lost in Space in London.