New York

Adam Helms

Marianne Boesky Gallery | 509 West 24th Street

Despite the increasing visibility of young artists engaged with the deleterious side of contemporary American culture—whether parsing subcultural responses to it or directly expressing political grievances with it—relatively few of them engage deeply with specific moments in this country’s history. Contemporary artistic accounts can make it seem as if the upheavals of the 1960s were a Big Bang, before which nothing here existed: no hardscrabble Puritanism, no founding-father solidarity, no Transcendentalism, no “patriotic gore,” no international projection of power through the first half of the last century, to cite just a few chapters from the American annals to which artists rarely look for inspiration. Contemporary artists’ tendency to avoid this history may partly explain why recent exhibitions like “The Uncertain States of America” and “USA Today” have seemed much more “contemporary”

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