The year 1969, subject of a current exhibition spanning the entire second floor at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, provides a compelling starting point for examining artistic production and contemplation, then versus now. With every work dating from the year in question, minus a few select contemporary works by younger, emerging artists, the show serves as a kind of thermometer for the vast range of avant-garde thought and practice emerging in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Nearly every work comes straight from the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, of which P.S.1 is an affiliate, revealing patterns of acquisition that mark an institution both ahead of its time and flawed. The show was organized by Neville Wakefield, P.S.1 Senior Curatorial Advisor; Michelle Elligott, MoMA Archivist; and Eva Respini, MoMA Associate Curator of Photography 1969 counters the surface, buoyant stance on artistic practice exemplified in the Whitney’s 2008 ‘Summer of Love: Art of the Psychedelic Era.’ The tone of 1969 is of a darker, more restrained hue, reflecting not just the instability and turmoil of that year, but the marked change in what was considered avant-garde—absence of color, de-materialization of the art object, an ever-closer merging of art and life. Throughout the show we are taken on a journey through the predominant narrative of 1960s art history, as told by the institution that has dictated modern art as we know it. As a result, it is unsurprising that female and black artists are under-represented—particularly absent are Eva Hesse, Adrian Piper, and the late Nancy Spero.

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