Ryan Trecartin’s scintillating two-room installation involves a jet-plane interior, hanging suitcases, and videos of crazy kids of indistinct gender talking about tourism, time shares, and the credit crunch. Seeing it is like being patched into all of the computers in the world at once. Trecartin’s ecstatic poetics of overload, color, and density promise to influence a generation of artists (for evidence of this, see the haunting installation of the very promising Dineo Seshee Bopape).
Chu Yun hired women to come to the museum and sleep in the middle of the gallery all day. The sight of a sleeping girl is less like Manet’s confrontational sexuality than the soft perversion of artists like Bouguereau and Cabanel. (You decide if it’s sexist.) Jakub Julian Ziolkowski’s paintings aren’t about academic ideas of formalism, happy doodling, or mannered figuration; they’re visionary Bosch-meets-Ensor.
Finally, in The 24 Hour Roman Reconstruction Project, the Los Angeles artist Liz Glynn employed a gaggle of volunteers to build, over 24 hours, an enormous cardboard replica of the Eternal City. The first night, I watched kids fashion the altars and temples of Rome’s archaic period; by the next morning, when I returned, they’d been destroyed (“by fires,” said the artist), and I spied the beginnings of Classical Rome. Just before the opening, the whole city was again wrecked and left in ruins, as the Dark Ages began. Glynn is saying she’s not going to listen to the bromides that assert that change takes time. Artists like her are saying they’re ready to build Rome here and now. That’s exciting.
“Younger Than Jesus” indicates that the alchemical essence known as the sublime, the primal buzz of it all, is no longer in God or nature or abstraction. These young artists show us that the sublime has moved into us, that we are the sublime; life, not art, has become so real that it’s almost unreal. Art is being reanimated by a sense of necessity, free of ideology or the compulsion to illustrate theory. Art is breaking free. Even the New Museum itself, founded in 1977, is “younger than Jesus.” Since it reopened in December 2007, it’s become, despite its clinical spaces and a couple of misfires, the most consistently challenging, polemical art institution in the city. It, like the art in this show and everywhere, is being reborn.