John Ahearn, Anne Collier, Nancy Grossman, Nate Lowman, Walter Robinson, Andy Warhol, Martin Wong
Jul 06 — Sep 23
On the occasion of the consolidation of the British and US Marlborough Contemporary, Street Hassle is convened as an ambassador of New York grit. A multi-generational exhibition, the works included exude a toughness and humor that has long defined New York City, but appears to finally be dissipating and refracting into something else. This is not a lament, but a street-level argument about an evolving city and aesthetic that will have particular resonance transplanted to polished Mayfair.
Taking its title from Lou Reed’s late-1970s story-song which mixes the mundane and harrowing details of New York life, the exhibition brings together works that mingle poetics and blunt material fact. Andy Warhol provides a natural starting point and is bookended by Nate Lowman’s I’m With Balzac ->, 2016 establishing a particular aesthetic diaspora and lineage. Anne Collier’s Valerie, 2011 photograph of stacked S.C.U.M. Manifestos adds the reality-check of tabloid violence to this narrative. Walter Robinson’s pulp paperback subjects and booze bottle paintings further mine this hardscrabble vein of pop with surprisingly good humor after being long-embedded in the New York art world.
To limit this tone to mere irony is to miss the strong undercurrent of desire and longing inherent in the works—a romanticism that extends from people, to monuments, to buildings. A case in point are the neighborly investigations of Martin Wong and John Ahearn whose deep immersion in Lower East Side and Bronx communities has produced some of the most poignant depictions of the city and its people from the late 1970s on. The elegance of Nancy Grossman’s sculpture and collage works is tied up with their toughness. It’s an attitude that feels emblematic of the scrappy Soho 70s but that has only increased in resonance and influence. Like the city, Grossman thwarts nostalgia by persevering and always being ahead of her time.