The Ultimate Culture Guide 2009: O

Only the Young

Just about every contemporary art institution with any ambition these days has its own biennial-type exhibition. As part of its expanded profile on Manhattan’s Bowery, the New Museum of Contemporary Art is putting on “The Generational: Younger Than Jesus,” a triennial survey of international artists under the age of 33. To assemble this latest barometer of who’s hip now, curators Massimiliano Gioni, Laura Hoptman, and Lauren Cornell asked more than 200 curators, critics, scholars, and artists for recommendations. From the 500-plus names submitted, 50 artists from 25 countries were chosen for the show. Here we offer up our own very short list of ones to watch. On view through June 14

Shilpa Gupta

Gupta, who lives in Mumbai, is already known internationally for her videos, online artworks, and large-scale color photographs, which often merge quintessential youth imagery (think ads for American Apparel or iPods) with allusions to South Asian history and culture, globalization, and cultural and religious conflict. The untitled photo here—of a child in military fatigues, his or her eyes covered by another child’s hands and pointing his fingers like a gun—suggests the (blind, naïve?) violence that pervades our complicated, highly interconnected world.

Tala Madani

The Iranian-born and U.S.-raised Madani paints alternately humorous and disturbing worlds where bearded men in dreamlike rituals perform absurd, often violent or sexual acts—in some cases with girly cakes, candles, bows. The works (such as Dazzle Men, below) are sly criticisms of Iran’s male-dominated society and its sponsorship of terrorism. Says Gioni, “In Madani’s work, authority, and manhood always appear rotten and corrupted, slightly demented.”

Liu Chuang

Imagine someone on the street approaches you and offers you cash for everything you have on you—everything. That’s exactly how Liu, who lives in Beijing, created his Buying Everything on You, made up of three simple, cataloguelike arrangements (one shown above) of a person’s clothes, jewelry, the contents of his wallet and pockets, all laid out on a table. Gioni compares the assemblages, which have never been shown in this country, to “strange sarcophagi with relics—they have a sacred atmosphere.” Liu reminds us just how much we are defined by what we own.

Matt Keegan

Brooklyn-based Keegan makes art involving memory and conceptual links. For his installation Hands Almost Across America (including the image here), he created works relating to the 1986 Hands Across America fund-raiser route, as a way of looking at how far we’ve come in dealing with hunger, homelessness, gay rights, and AIDS in the past two decades.