There’s a mini-era of years in the early 1980s in New York City when Andy Warhol, Grace Jones and Afrika Bambaata were each their own hot streak of underground influence and cultural relevance.
Warhol the uber-successful pop artist now in the latter part of his enormous career, as iconic himself with his shock of white hair as his Campbell’s Soup cans 20 years earlier.
Grace Jones, an androgynous alien born of art and post-disco club music, who was a Bond villain and a model.
Afrika Bambaataa, the genius behind one of early commercial hip-hop’s most influential, ground-breaking tunes, “Planet Rock,” and true pioneers of the genre from its Bronx roots through to the MTV music video era.
At the time, each was very much a product of NYC and helped define the look, style and sound far-reaching beyond its immediate place and time.
These are cultural heroes. In SoHo, downtown NYC, somebody ephemerally enshrined them as images on old, worn, black wooden door.
Ok, that’s cool.
But there’s something nostalgic about this. No doubt, the greatness and bona fides of these pop-cultural icons of cool is timeless and legit, and it’s great to know these influences and appreciate them, but the shrine feels like a momentary lapse of facile nostalgia, which, frankly, saddens us.
The Warhol-Jones-Bambaataa street art shrine feels suddenly like a cheap, all-too-easy artwork as wistful signifier of a deliriously idealized memory trigger of good times, of doing lines of coke at a SoHo loft party filled with downtown art-scene celebrities and a television showing MTV music videos with the sound turned down. A party where the DJ in the corner is playing Duran Duran records, while the actual members of Duran Duran mingle with the actual Andy Warhol off to the side a few feet away. It feels like escape from the present and pining for a “better” time.
That’s sounds like it would have been a fun party. But we want to focus on the 2017, and we want new art to speak to the present and the future, even with all the scary, crazy political weirdness going on in America right now. In fact, we need to focus on the present and future BECAUSE of the all the scary, crazy political weirdness going on.