As the name implies, this evening turns on the dark side of creativity at the end of an era of partying and excess that is now the stuff of legend—when downtown culture felt the body blow of losing friends and colleagues to AIDS on a daily basis. Artist, model, and dandy-at-large Monrow is joined by Sur Rodney Sur, archivist and co-director of Gracie Mansion Gallery; Tom Breidenbach, poet and author of Double Whammy with illustrations by Donald Baechler; exhibition co-curator and Some Serious Business founding director Susan Martin reading excerpts from Dean Rolston’s memoir, Remembering Dying; and poet, playwright, performance artist, and translator Ariana Reines.
Bohemian Swansong by Tom Breidenbach
The mid-1980s were marked by the militaristic Pollyannaism of Ronald Reagan’s Morning in America and the twin scourges of AIDS and (prominent among other hard drugs) crack cocaine. From this volatile amalgam emerged an art whose apocalyptic vitality was born of desperation, an art distinguished by a noir streak as unsparing in its vision as the popular political culture was smugly deluded in its. While Reagan-ism initiated a ratcheting up of Western imperialism, along with a betrayal of the social commitments of a prior generation, the art of downtown New York registered the costs of all this—personal, civil, as well as spiritual—which continue accruing around the nation and world. Lurid, scathing, and lyric by turns, the poetic chronicles of the period express the lament of a sensibility bound up in the atrocities collective blindness abets. The visceral nature of this work, including its gallows humor, reflects that valor born of dejection, a loyalty to the ideal even amid devastation.
Featured photo: Rene Ricard, PLEASE HOLD ME THE FORGOTTEN WAY, 2004. Courtesy of the Lee Arthur collection.