Ryan McGinley: The Kids Were Alright / Basquiat Before Basquiat / Wall Writers

Ryan McGinley: The Kids Were Alright / Basquiat Before Basquiat / Wall Writers

Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver

Ryan McGinley, Dash (Manhattan Bridge), 2000. C-print, 40 x 60 inches. Collection of Bart and Bryanna Spaulding.

February 17, 2017
Ryan McGinley
The Kids Were Alright
February 11–August 20, 2017
Basquiat Before Basquiat
East 12th Street, 1979-1980
February 11–May 7, 2017
Wall Writers
Graffiti in its Innocence
February 11–May 7, 2017
Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver
1485 Delgany St
Denver, CO 80202

The Museum of Contemporary Art Denver (MCA Denver) is pleased to announce the opening of Basquiat Before Basquiat: East 12th Street, 1979–1980, Ryan McGinley: The Kids Were Alright, and Wall Writers: Graffiti in its Innocence.

Basquiat Before Basquiat: East 12th Street, 1979–1980 includes a cache of works made by Jean-Michel Basquiat during the year he lived with his friend Alexis Adler in a small apartment in the East Village. This archival material provides rare insight into the artistic life of Basquiat before he was recognized as a prominent painter in the early 1980s. Through painting, sculpture, works on paper, a notebook, and other ephemera, as well as Adler’s numerous photographs from this period, this exhibition explores how the context of life in New York informed and formed Basquiat’s artistic practice. Spanning four galleries on the first floor of MCA Denver, the exhibition and book will sharpen and deepen our understanding of this artist at a vital yet mostly unknown, or at least under-discussed, moment of his career.

The accompanying publication includes essays that delve more deeply into particular aspects of this period. The writer and archivist Sur Rodney Sur explores the use of words and text in Basquiat’s work, looking specifically at the objects in Adler’s archive. Malu Halasa, a noted writer who also lived in downtown New York at this time, discusses the importance of Adler’s photographs as historical documentation of Basquiat’s early art and processes. Nora Burnett Abrams, curator at MCA Denver, places these works in the art historical context of Basquiat’s oeuvre and also the art of the Downtown scene. Dense with images and bolstered by critical texts, the publication presents the nuanced dynamic between Basquiat and his immediate context. Additional contributors include writers Luc Sante and Darryl Pinckney, musicians Michael Holman, Felice Rosser, and Jennifer Jazz, historian Bud Kliment, and filmmaker Sara Driver.

Ryan McGinley: The Kids Were Alright features early photographs by McGinley, whose pioneering, documentary-style approach captured the antics and daily activities of himself, his friends, and collaborators in lower Manhattan in the late 1990s. Occupying the entire second level of MCA Denver, the exhibition focuses on McGinley’s work from 1998 to 2003, from when he began taking pictures to the start of his rapid rise to national prominence. The photographs present intimate moments of both exhilaration and introspection, often within a mundane setting, and demonstrate a sweeping range of emotions. Additionally, the entire floor is wrapped with over 1,500 of McGinley’s Polaroids, which have never before been exhibited. Works by Dash Snow and Dan Colen, two of McGinley closest collaborators during this early period, complete the exhibition.

The exhibition is accompanied by a multi-author catalogue, co-published with Skira Rizzoli. It includes a critical essay by Nora Burnett Abrams, a conversation between McGinley and Dan Colen, and contributions by Tim Barber, Aaron Bondaroff, Donald Cumming, Leo Fitzpatrick, Marc Hundley, Amy Kellner, Teddy Liouliakis, Lizzy McChesney, George Pitts, Oliver Roberts, Agathe Snow, and Jack Walls. The book features over 1,500 of McGinley’s Polaroids as well as never-before-published photographs included in the exhibition.

Wall Writers: Graffiti in its Innocence explores graffiti’s eruption into mainstream society during a period of social turmoil in the late 1960s and early ’70s, and takes a closer look not only at early graffiti’s place on the wall but also at its place in the culture of the time. The exhibition is curated by Roger Gastman. A documentary and major publication of the same title will also be available as part of the exhibition.

Ryan McGinley: The Kids Were Alright is made possible by support from Gucci and SimplyFramed.com

Basquiat Before Basquiat: East 12th Street, 1979-1980 is supported by presenting sponsors Henry and Lorie Gordon and a generous gift from Daniel Benel and Lena Fishman. 

MCA Denver exhibitions are also sponsored in part by the Director’s Vision Society. MCA Denver also thanks the citizens of the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District.

About MCA Denver
The Museum of Contemporary Art Denver (MCA Denver) explores the art and culture of our time through rotating exhibitions and public educational programs. Featuring international, national, and regional artists, MCA Denver offers a wide range of exhibitions promoting creative experimentation with art and ideas. Through adult and youth education programs and other creative events, the museum serves as an innovative forum for a culturally engaged community.

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Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver
February 17, 2017

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