Tonight, Matthew Marks Gallery opens the New York edition of “What Nerve! Alternative Figures in American Art, 1960 to Present” simultaneously at its three 22nd Street Gallery locations. Curated by Dan Nadel, the show focuses on four groups of artists–Hairy Who, Destroy All Monsters, Forcefield, and Funk Art–that worked largely outside of New York and Los Angeles, often operating at the intersection of art, comics, and counterculture. The show makes an argument for a new cannon of American art and culture since the 1960s.
“What Nerve!” made its debut in Providence, Rhode Island, last fall at the RISD Museum, and shortly thereafter Nadel received an email from Matthew Marks. “He said, ‘Wow sounds like a great show, it so happens that I own work by Jim Nutt and Christina Ramberg and Forcefield and [William N.] Copley and I never really made the connection between them,'” Nadel told ARTnews over the phone. The dealer wanted to live with the work in his gallery; Nadel was game. “It began that simple, then it got complicated,” Nadel joked.
The New York City version of the exhibition deviates in many ways from the Providence incarnation. For one, a group of six intersectional artists–including the aforementioned Ramberg and Copley–are nixed from the program, shining the focus more directly on the four core artist groups mentioned above. “Talking to Matthew about it, it felt like there’s only so much room… he didn’t want to overhang the show,” Nadel said. (Nadel added that for those interested, “the larger picture is available in book form,” referring to the exhibition’s fully illustrated 368-page catalogue, published by the RISD Museum and D.A.P.)
Additionally, the New York “What Nerve!” will include some new work from Forcefield, an added six pieces from NoCal cult figure Jeremy Anderson, and some long-forgotten chairs courtesy of Jim Nutt. Unlike in Providence, the work will not be separated by group; eras and styles are intermingled. “You get these wonderful kind of connections, ” Nadel said. “It’s quite a difference.”