|Installation view of Almost 30 featuring photographs by Sarah Anne
Johnson (left) and paintings by Adam Sipe (right)
January 19 - February 26, 2006
Please find me
I am almost 30
-- Leonard Cohen
Cohen etched this poem on the wall of a restaurant in Cyprus during the late '50s.
He wrote it in response to a woman who had rebuffed his advances several years prior
by telling him to "come back when you're 30". Cohen was punctuating this awkward late
20s phase--he was stuck between his adolescence and maturity, scrawling his life on
The poem inspired my father, the Arab-American writer Joseph Geha, to title his coming-of-age
short story Almost 30 and in turn this story has prompted me to organize an exhibition of young artists
also titled Almost 30. So what is it about this age that has people writing poems, short stories, and curating
shows? My father wrote the story when he was 26, exactly my age. It details the life
of a young man coming to grips with his father's death, growing up, and realizing
that turning thirty is the ending of his adolescence but also the beginning of something
else, adult life. My dad reminded me of this story when I was talking with him on
the phone last year discussing my new job as a curator, living alone, paying back
school loans, buying my first car, and the basic responsibilities of being a grown-up.
I was spinning my wheels, feeling simultaneously anxious and excited about my future.
It was this anxiety that I had in mind when putting together this show of young American
artists straddling this age while searching for a career in the heady art world. I
had, after all, considered subtitling the show "Or How I Learned to Relax and Love
Art" because for this show I wanted to simplify my job and allow myself to closely
follow my instincts--showing young emerging artists whose work I wholly believed was
important and deserved to be shown in a museum setting.
|Installation view of Almost 30 featuring "Revolving Landscape
with Stationary Sky (In Action)", a 2005 mixed-media sculpture by
"That is no country for old men . . ." Or so says my 72-year-old friend Mira, quoting
Yeats. And perhaps she is right to remind me of this. While it's true that mid-career
artists receive major museum exhibitions, it is also true that younger and younger
artists are getting wider exposure these days. It's not uncommon to see artists straight
out of graduate school holding court at solo shows in New York and L.A. Age has changed
in my generation and not just in relation to the art world. People get married later,
have babies later, move to the suburbs later and, seemingly, find success earlier.
Our parent's model is not our model. My friends and I went to college, tried on different
relationships, struggled to find the right jobs, and then returned to school. As if
school could prolong the inevitable--a scary stagnant grown-up-world, a time of reconciling
who we wanted to be when we grew up with who we actually are.
Installation view from Almost 30 featuring paintings by Adam Sipe
(back wall) and Stacie Johnson (right)
And who are we actually? If we look at the work displayed in the show it would seem
that we are beautiful and we are weird. Larissa Bates' carefully detailed creations
depict wrestler boys fighting amidst an apocalyptic world. Jeff DeGolier's wonky kinetic
sculpture sits next to his sumptuously slick photographs. Sarah Anne Johnson's photographs
question fact and fiction: detailing in the real and the imagined, the rite of passage
that is a summer spent planting trees in Winnipeg. Stacie Johnson's paintings of strangely
decorative outdoor and indoor landscapes are tempered only by the tension between
the detailed and the abstract. Renee Lotenero's magnificently cluttered sculptures
point to the entropy inherent to the everyday. Adam Sipe uses his awkward paintbrush
to paint awkward things creating work that is at once naÔve and sophisticated. In
all, these six artists prove that contingency can actually be quite graceful.
|Installation view of Almost 30 featuring sculpture by Renee
Lotenero (foreground) and works by Larissa Bates
When I was almost twenty, I interviewed the writer Douglas Coupland for the University
of Iowa literary magazine. Coupland is best known for documenting his almost thirty
life in the novel Generation X, heralding the slacker cultural phenomenon of the 90s. In our interview, I distinctly
remember him telling me how great turning thirty would be: "Oh your twenties are awful."
he said. "It's like there's this green goo spread all over you making you feel uncertain
and unhappy." It seemed so strange to me at the time but makes more sense now, six
years later--after all, at the end of my father's story the once dance-shy protagonist
stands up and joins the Arab folk dance with his family, at last able to accept himself
and where he came from. Perhaps at thirty we, too, can know ourselves, our place in
this unsettled world. Perhaps we can finally grow up.
|Installation view of Almost 30 featuring sculpture by Renee Lotenero
(foreground) and paintings by Stacie Johnson (back wall)
--- Katie Geha
Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art