Late Nights at the Whitney
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Inspired by the moment in which Glenn Ligon rose to prominence, this panel contextualizes the art of the late 1980s and early ’90s in the U.S. This era marked a shift in social and cultural life from a money-driven, individualistic ethos of the Reagan and Bush years, to a foregrounding of collective identities of communities that had been pushed to the margins, a period commonly cited as the rise of identity politics. Correspondingly, the visual arts found itself in the midst of the “culture wars,” and a field that had been, in many ways, an extension of free-market excess and conservative values shifted, as artists explored a visual vocabulary of progressive possibility. This panel examined the multifaceted political, social, economic, and cultural forces that provided the conditions of possibility for a generation of artists who take up questions of power, representation, gender, race, and sexuality, to gain prominence and define a new mode of artistic practice. Panelists included art historian Douglas Crimp, artist and writer Catherine Lord, political historian and theorist Linda Nicholson, and cultural historian Tricia Rose.