New Acquisitions
Nov 6, 2006 – Jul 23, 2007

Over the past several years, our acquisition attentions have principally focused on some of the "cornerstone" historical works for which we have been searching for years, including works by Lucio Fontana, Piero Manzoni, and Mario Merz that were on display in our previous installation of Italian art. At the same time, we have been actively buying the work of younger artists, perhaps more (and more voraciously) than we realized. Unlike the art of the 1950s, 60s, 70s, and 80s, which we have acquired with strategic thought and historical viewpoint, most of the art made in the last few years we have acquired primarily out of pure, untethered fascination, or pleasure, or because we found something to be inescapably, compellingly annoying.

Consider this a rough draft. Over the last several years, we have seen a number of "new painting" exhibitions that we found monodirectional and prepackaged. So we decided to install virtually all of the art by younger artists we have acquired over the last few years and see what it looks like. While this installation is designed so that each space explores a distinctly different aspect of contemporary art, no forethought was given to these distinctions during the collecting process. We do not have a fully formed notion of what the art of this new decade is about or who we believe to be the most significant artists. We simply wanted to look at and present what we have thus far acquired, as a step toward getting the Rachofsky Collection grounded in the new decade (century, millennium). Stay tuned for where it takes us.

Painting—its relevance and its future—remains one of the thorniest issues in art. If one looks at the trajectory of modern art as the increasing assertion of art- about- art, whereby art gets emptied of illusionism (which usually means representation) and the physical, intellectual, and contextual reality of art (or its objectness, content, and function) is asserted, then painting has been a particularly constant battlefield. Indeed, artists have been declaring its death for decades, and sculpture — real objects in real space—became the principal medium for artistic investigation in the late 60s and 70s. When narrative or figuration came back into the dialog, more often than not it was in the form of the "documentary" mediums of video, film, and photography, or through the temporal side-door of performance.

All this changed by the late 80s, after the transformative impact of the women's movement (which shifted focus from a formal value system to a real-life one), the devastating impact of the AIDS crisis (which redefined our notions of mortality), and an increasing anxiety in general about the impending threat of global conflicts, depleting natural resources, and the deterioration of the environment—all of which refocused the artistic dialog from art to life, aided and abetted by a popularization of art that no longer required art to exist in a sheltered preserve of its own validation.

So, whereas some of the most compelling painters of the 70s, 80s, and early 90s—from Gerhard Richter and Sigmar Polke to Richard Prince and Christopher Wool—maintained a healthy skepticism toward the medium while at the same time remaining committed to revitalizing it, painters who have emerged over the last ten years or so have developed their own strategies for rationalizing the relevance of working in a medium whose techniques and values might seem especially un-modern—in fact, they bask in it. The same point could be made about sculptors dealing with issues of representation, or, more often than not, self-representation.

Thus, the art in the entrance gallery and sitting room is made by artists who create their own worlds, or self-generated languages, in which to dwell, to explore pictorial dimensions and their place within the world. Moving from the entry to the kitchen brings us from gestalt to detail, where artists are using deliberately old-fashioned means of representation as a way both to create new personal narratives and to reinvent representation.

The works in the living room all explore portraiture—or, more accurately, self-portraiture, be it real or metaphoric. The library is devoted to the work of a single artist, Mark Grotjahn, who has found his own personal, exquisite, and often transcendent way of invigorating painting, while the painting, sculpture, and photograph in the back corridor display a pinpoint delicacy that is characteristic of this moment's comfort with subtlety, complexity, and the uncertain. The painters whose work is in the master bath and gym are working in ways that place equal value on representation and abstraction, and that favor the subtle and uncertain over the definitive and precise. And works in the master bedroom—even the representational one—search for ways to reinvigorate the medium of painting—pure painting—from the inside out.

A few of the artists here have been practicing for over a decade, but most have begun to exhibit only in the last three to five years; a few have yet to have solo shows. We look forward to exploring the ways in which this newer art will resonate with the time-tested art of earlier decades that we have tried with precision to collect. Or perhaps some of this new work will take us down a road that leads the collection to unexpected and meaningful places, which is, after all, the purpose and pleasure of collecting contemporary art.

Allan Schwartzman
Director of The Rachofsky Collection
August 2006