Delirious times demand delirious art, or so this exhibition proposes. The years between 1950 and 1980 were beset by upheaval. Around the globe, military conflict proliferated and social and political unrest flared. Disenchantment with an oppressive rationalism mounted, as did a corollary interest in fantastic, hallucinatory experiences. Artists responded to these developments by incorporating absurdity, disorder, nonsense, disorientation, and repetition into their work. In the process, they destabilize space and perception, give form to extreme mental, emotional, and physical states, and derange otherwise logical structures and techniques. Delirious explores the embrace of irrationality among American, Latin American, and European artists.
Divided into four sections—Vertigo, Excess, Nonsense, and Twisted—this exhibition showcases roughly 100 works of art by 62 artists, including Antonio Berni, Dara Birnbaum, Tony Conrad, Hanne Darboven, Dean Fleming, Nancy Grossman, Philip Guston, Eva Hesse, Alfred Jensen, Yayoi Kusama, Sol LeWitt, Darcílio Lima, Lee Lozano, Anna Maria Maiolino, Ana Mendieta, Bruce Nauman, Jim Nutt, Hélio Oiticica, Claes Oldenburg, Abraham Palatnik, Howardena Pindell, Peter Saul, Mira Schendel, Carolee Schneemann, Paul Sharits, Robert Smithson, Nancy Spero, Paul Thek, and Stan VanDerBeek. About a third of the exhibition is drawn from The Met collection. Linked by a common distrust of reason, the featured works alternately simulate and stimulate delirium, straining the limits of both legibility and intelligibility. Ultimately, the exhibition asks if it is possible to understand a good deal of postwar art, even seemingly rational art, as an exercise in calculated lunacy.