“Just Pathetic”

In the ’90s stretch of a time line featured in the handy primer Art Since 1960, the steady march of mini-movements—YBA, “art post-medium,” “live art,” “context art”—is rudely interrupted by an upstart newcomer, “abject/slacker art.” As the volume’s author, Michael Archer, plots it, the tendency first showed up at the butt end of the ’80s and burned out by about ’96, though the influence of its lax affect is felt still. Centered stylistically around a shabby-chic variant of Pop, abject art marked a transition (at least in the art world) from the ’80s careerism of American Psycho (Bret Easton Ellis’s book hit stores in 1991) to the jaded slackerdom of Kevin Smith’s 1994 movie Clerks.

The label “abject art” suggests a fittingly belated use/abuse of Julia Kristeva’s essay on the scatological impulse, “Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection” (first translated into English in 1982), and curator/

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