New York University’s 80WSE Gallery presents DENIM, an exhibition curated by David Rimanelli, visiting assistant professor of art history and Artforum contributor. Featuring an eclectic mix of historical and contemporary artists—including Knut Åsdam, Tom Burr, VALIE EXPORT, K8 Hardy, Hanna Liden and Klara Liden, Jack Pierson, Rob Pruitt, Michael Smith, Andy Warhol, and Karlheinz Weinberger—the exhibition is on view until March 12 at the gallery, located on Washington Square East (between Washington Place and West Fourth Street).
The artists in DENIM explore the multifarious connotations of a material that began its life as a fabric for work clothes, but has become, over the past few decades, a material for fashion, both instant and high-end couture. For Rimanelli, denim not only refers to fashion but also functions as a psychic material, sheathing ideas that range from the erotic to the implicitly revolutionary.
Denim’s cult status as a rebel uniform emerged in the public mind largely through classic Hollywood cinema—for instance, Marlon Brando in The Wild One, James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause, and Marilyn Monroe in The Misfits, and later as the preferred style for certain subcultures, for example gay subculture, as can be seen in Kenneth Anger’s Scorpio Rising and Kustom Kar Kommandos; or, returning to Hollywood, William Friedkin’s controversial Cruising.
In DENIM, these cinematic references commingle with denim’s “high-art” associations, which have become ingrained through the ‘60s image of the “artist-worker,” exemplified by minimalists like Robert Morris, or by Carl Andre, habitually attired in overalls. Andy Warhol is a key figure in this respect, both in his own sartorial inclinations but particularly in his art and films.
80WSE Gallery is directed by artist-in-residence and clinical associate professor of art Peter Campus. It is an extension of the NYU Steinhardt program in studio art.