Subtitled “Alternative Figures in American Art, 1960 to the Present,” this remarkable survey, curated by Dan Nadel, focuses on the work produced by artists in various milieus (both loosely affiliated and collaborative) in Chicago, Detroit, Providence and San Francisco. Stirring Surrealism and folk elements into a Pop Art stew, these groups—the Hairy Who, the Bay Area Funk Art movement, the art-punk band Destroy All Monsters (which launched the careers of Mike Kelley and Jim Shaw) and the collective Forcefield—created offbeat approaches to contemporary figurative art.
Nadel’s show sprawls through all three Matthew Marks locations. The largest mixes Forcefield’s sci-fi mannequins with trippy paintings by the Hairy Who’s Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt and Karl Wirsum, along with colorful Funk Art sculptures by Roy De Forest, Robert Hudson and Ken Price. Examples of ephemera—Hairy Who comic books and vintage issues of Destroy All Monsters Magazine—are given their own space, as is Forcefield’s ritualistic film installation, Tunnel Vision.
Chock-full of quirky gems, this show exposes an entire strain of American art that should be seen more often.—Paul Laster