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Dan Cameron

Curator, “East Village USA” at The New Museum of Contemporary Art

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“‘East Village USA’ [is] a motley, incomplete but remarkable exhibition.”
—Roberta Smith, New York Times

Dan Cameron responds: I’ll confess that everybody in the art world secretly nurses the hope that Roberta Smith will someday use a word like “remarkable” to describe their work. Because my feet haven’t yet touched ground since that review came out, I’m exercising my right to remain oblivious to the other two adjectives in the sentence.

“Most of the work in ‘East Village’ is simply bad: bad sculpture, bad painting, bad ideas.”
—Lance Esplund, New York Sun

DC: Bad became the new good so long ago that I’m certain the writer intended this as a compliment. In fact, since the New Museum was where Marcia Tucker staged the legendary “ ‘Bad’ Painting” exhibition in 1978, I’d assumed it was an astute art-history reference, which someone in the copy room botched by lowercasing “Bad.”

“By the very nature of the gallery space, which favors smallish works, the overall impact of the movement feels neutralized, if not neutered.”
—James Gardner, New York Post

DC: I find that comment a bit odd, since one of the exhibition-design motifs I’m happiest with is our effort to simulate the tenement-storefront scale of many of the original East Village galleries, which had a tendency to get pretty tight at openings.

“The total effect suggests that you had to be there. This is a reunion for old-time scenesters and those who swarmed on the periphery.”
—Ariella Budick, Newsday

DC: That pretty accurately sums up the opening party, which did have its ghoulish dimensions (and proudly so). But I would respectfully suggest that the writer has missed the point about the art, which has influenced and continues to influence a number of young artists today, without the proper acknowledgment. I think the consensus among artists who are too young to have experienced this work the first time around is that the East Village is definitely alive and kicking.


Related:

  • Archive: “Blastback
  • From the Jan 17, 2005 issue of New York
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