Michael Ashkin travels MEAN STREETS

April 24, 2010

Art department assistant professor Michael Ashkin is part of a group exhibition titled MALLES CALLES / MEAN STREETS, currently on display at the Valencian Institute of Modern Art / Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno in the Centre Julio Gonzalez, in Valencia, Spain.

The exhibition is a compilation of works in a variety of media — including photography, video, and drawings — that present a global, interdisciplinary view of how public spaces, city streets, and squares have evolved in Western cities during the last century. 

MEAN STREETS starts at the beginning of the 21st century and tracks back to the first decades of the 20th century. The journey is divided into four stages that highlight different states of mind, spirit, attitudes, and patterns of behavior that organized and structured city life.

Part 1: The Game is Over

The first section of the exhibition compiles artistic expressions from recent years, which bear witness to urban isolation and loneliness. Ashkin’s installation of 133 silver-gelatin prints taken in New Jersey between 2001 and 2002, along with work by Rem Koolhaas, Gabriel Basilico, and Peter Eisenman (B.Arch. ’55) — among others — reflect a fragile and hopeless view of life in cities.

Part 2: The Street Belongs to Us

The next part focuses on work that portrays the desire of different social groups to make themselves visible and occupy city streets and squares. Cindy Sherman, Martha Rosler, and William Kentridge, are included among the artists and architects whose work is displayed.

Part 3: Between Utopia and Disenchantment

Urban development from the 50s and 60s is presented, drawing attention to both to the visionary architecture of projects that understood cities as organisms free from any ties and also noting more pessimistic and disenchanted proposals. Works by Guy Debord, Vito Acconci, Edward Ruscha, and Gordon Matta-Clark (B.Arch. ‘68) are included in this section of the exhibition.

Part 4: In the Middle of the Crowd

The final part represents the faith in progress and modernity that lay behind the construction of cities during the first half of the 20th century, as well as the presence of crowds in the streets. Photographs by Walker Evans and others establish a relationship with drawings and watercolors by various artists.

The different forms of artistic expressions included in the exhibit are complemented by a selection of films, literary works, and songs from each of the periods that offer a sweeping view of the artistic representation of life in city streets during the last century.

José Miguel García Cortés is the curator of MEAN STREETS and has texts included in the exhibition.

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