March 11 - July 23, 2017
The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presents Eternal Youth, a survey of works drawn mostly from the MCA’s collection that explores the concept of coming-of-age as a crossroads in art history. This exhibition examines the different ways youth are portrayed—as simultaneously innocent and desirous—revealing the treatment of young bodies as sexualized, radical, and medicated objects. In particular, since the 1990s, images of youth in the western world have elicited both desire and fear, responding to social, cultural, and political shifts such as HIV awareness and gender bending transition. On view from March 11 to July 23, 2017, Eternal Youth is curated by Omar Kholeif, MCA Manilow Senior Curator, with Grace Deveney, MCA Curatorial Assistant.
At the beginning of the exhibition, audiences are greeted by a major new acquisition, Eddie Peake's Destroyed by Desire. Also at the start of the exhibition are photographs by Larry Clark from his now infamous Kids series, and from the set of the seminal movie of the same name, which was released in 1995. Written by Harmony Korine and coproduced by Gus Van Sant, the film tells the story of a single day in the life of a group of sexually active teenagers in New York City, and offered breakout roles for actors Chloë Sevigny and Rosario Dawson.
Other important works gathered for this exhibition—by Dawoud Bey, Mona Hatoum, Thomas Hirschhorn, Jack Pierson, Wolfgang Tillmans, and Francesca Woodman— stretch from analog culture into the utopic digital age, and are grouped around five thematic sections:
Fountain of youth | This section features early works created prior to the development of consumer culture geared toward young people and created before the HIV/AIDS crisis. Collectively, these works depict the struggle for self-definition at the heart of adolescence and young adulthood, as well as the universal themes of experimentation, desire, and play that recur throughout the exhibition
Desirous youth | This section considers the youthful body as a site of desire, epitomized by Herb Ritts’ iconic photographs of Mark Wahlberg for Calvin Klein—which helped shape how the youthful body was portrayed. More recent works in this section demonstrate the relationship between internet platforms, such as Instagram, and the creation of “desirable” personas that deliberately play into societal standards of beauty.
Portraits of youth | This section explores photographic portraits of youth, which were also affected by major cultural shifts of the 1990s, including growing prosperity and spending power, the beginnings of digital technology and media saturation, and the rise of cultural forms such as grunge and hip-hop music.
Marketing youth | This section features several artists who create images that use the photographic language of advertising, while not selling any particular product. This section encourages viewers to reflect on the language of advertising and the strategies it uses to seduce consumers.
Irreverent youth | This section explores the themes of play, sarcasm, and humor with photographers such as Melanie Schiff and Xaviera Simmons who capture young women in the midst of cheeky gestures and performances.
Eternal Youth also marks the debut of new works by Paul Heyer, a major work by Ryan Trecartin, The Re'Search; photos by Chicago artist John Neff; and paintings by Andrew Holmquist.