ICA exhibit looks beyond the neon glow of the ’80s

General Idea’s “AIDS Wallpaper” may be a better representation of the 1980s than a Swatch watch. “This Will Have Been” starts today and runs through March at the ICA (100 Northern Ave.).

Most people have an impression of the 1980s that includes carefree pop music and loud neon colors, but for many the memories of the art, politics and social change of the era are both provocative and painful. These are the very memories explored in “This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s,” a boisterous new ICA exhibition and the first major American retrospective focused on a rapidly changing period where artists and nonartists alike seemed to feel like so much was at stake.

“The 1980s were a decade where a lot of artists feel like what they do and where and how they place it is what matters,” says Helen Molesworth, who is the ICA’s Barbara Lee Chief Curator.

The exhibit, first organized at the Museum of Contempo-rary Art Chicago, is ambitious and far-reaching. Its 100-plus pieces cover everyone from household names like Haring, Mapplethorpe and Basquiat, to dozens of lesser-known but revered artists across an exhaustive array of mediums. Selections depict how pivotal tides, from the AIDS epidemic, Reagan/Thatcher conservatism, social change for women and minorities, encroaching mass media and emerging globalism, became the framework that affected both the stories artists chose to tell and how they told them.

Some stories are like riddles, while others are more like conversations. Jeff Walls’ large, illuminated photograph “Picture for Women” greets visitors with the diffident portrait of a female model and a male photographer staging a photograph in front of a mirror. Another work, Nan Goldins’ “The Ballad of Sexual Depen-dency,” lets viewers absorb the unfiltered love life of the photographer through a 45-minute slideshow of personal photographs. But not all works are so readily personal. Jeff Koons’ meticulous stainless-steel sculpture of an inflatable toy, “Rabbit” (which you probably noticed on Metro’s front page today), is a needed reminder of the decade’s toxic frivolity.

Rather than assume the Herculean-feat of surveying the period historically, “This Will Have Been” succeeds as an equally heroic love letter to a decade where Molesworth, now 46, came of age as an artist and a gay woman. Her persistent memories of the needs for social justice, personal growth and egging on inevitable change in the art world give the collection continuity and grace.

The price is wrong

To appreciate the personality of “This Will Have Been,” it’s also important to understand what you won’t see. There’s video and music, but no MTV. You’ll get satisfyingly bold pieces of cultural appropriation, like General Idea’s “AIDS Wallpa-per,” but not much neon. If anything, the exhibit mocks com- mercialism, such as the de-cade’s massive art boom where neo-expressionists like Julian Schnabel became eccentric mul- timillionaires selling out of New York’s Mary Boone Gallery.


Mysterious white flags appear over Brooklyn Bridge

Two white flags mysteriously appeared over the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge yesterday in place of the American flags that are a traditional fixture.


Paint Nite: Get drunk and make a painting…

At Paint Nite, New Yorkers can drink and make a painting at a New York City bar.


Judge sets January start for murder trial of…

By Elizabeth BarberBOSTON (Reuters) - Former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez will be tried in January for the murder of semi-professional football player Odin…


Donut capers stymie police in Oregon

For more than a month, mysterious vandals have been smearing pastries on cars, depositing donuts in lawns and leaving cakes strewn about the streets.


Don't miss 'Charles James: Beyond Fashion' at the…

Have you been meaning to see "Charles James: Beyond Fashion"? There are only two weeks left to get to the Met and catch this amazing American fashion designer's collection.


Zac Posen talks 'Project Runway' and what it…

We talked to Zac Posen, judge and designer extraordinaire, about the new season of "Project Runway" and what keeps him coming back after three seasons.


'Face Off' contestant David 'DOC' O'Connell sounds off…

David "DOC" O'Connell tells us about getting cast on Season 7 of Syfy's "Face Off," premiering tonight at 9.


PHOTO: Wildlife photographer Marc Mol captures amazing aerial…

This aerial image was taken by photographer Marc Mol who spotted the animals during an air safari in Zambia.


MLB Power Rankings: A's, Angels, Dodgers, Brewers lead…

MLB Power Rankings: A's, Angels, Dodgers, Brewers lead pack


2014 NFL season betting odds: Which team will…

2014 NFL season betting odds: Which team will win Super Bowl?


5 players to watch at Giants training camp

Metro takes a look at five players who will be on everyone’s mind when Giants training camp gets underway.


'Vicktory dogs' travel road to rehabilitation seven years…

Of the dozens of dogs groomed by Bad Newz Kennels, 48 were rescued and 22 of the pit bull terriers have emerged at Best Friends Animal Society.


Learn Braille with these gloves

U.S. scientists have designed high-tech gloves to help users understand Braille in a matter of minutes.


5 New Ikea products that will change your…

We round-up the latest must-have products.


Recipe: Wolfgang Puck's Buttermilk French Toast

We recently spent some time chatting with restauranteur/celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck at his Wolfgang Puck American Grille in the Borgata in Atlantic City. Puck wanted…


Go retro with your sneakers

The best of wacky new sneakers.