Too Old For Toys, Too Young For BoysCurated by Alex Gartenfeld
Curated by Alex Gartenfeld, this exhibition includes work by Ronnie Bass, Debo Eilers, Jay Heikes, Josh Kline, Barney Kulok, Donald Moffett, and Aura Rosenberg.
Two essays inform this exhibition. In Charlie White’s Minor Threat from 2008, the writer examines the depiction of children in popular media and art. He identifies Richard Prince’s Spiritual America (1983), a soft-core photo of a 10-year-old Brooke Shields appropriated from Gary Gross, as crucially identifying a complex network of prohibition and power. Following Prince, the threat White describes is not that children might be represented or even objectified, but rather that the power of the viewer is mutable, and forever diminishing.
Seth Price’s Teen Image (2009) describes forms and conditions that occur online. He compares the search engines whose vertical orientation suppresses their horizontal array and the children whose smooth flesh is optimally represented by the pixel. Price speculates that the erotic charge of child pornography (which possesses an ethical dimension) corresponds to a desire for simplicity. Yet, consider an alternative: that digital images of children recall pure technology, perennially new, rapidly consumed subjects that might forever be replaced with more agile producers.
The teenager is memorialized as the rebel without a cause, the post-war American subject liberated from work, left perilously indolent and apathetic. Successfully or satirically, the age group seems to connote resistance. Subsequently, the condition has been medicalized and exploited, commercially. By contrast, the designation “tween,” introduced into the fourth edition of the American Heritage Dictionary in 2004 to describe children aged 10-12 (with some variety in age and temperament), was always seen as a commercial demographic.
A Wikipedia entry stylishly describes some qualities of today’s tweens. A crowd-sourced definition is not intended as authoritative. Nonetheless, the generalization suggests a generation of young people who contradict the passivity presumed of children. These competitive consumers regard themselves as working parts in a community.
– Highly Participative – Tweens enjoy things that are fun and interactive.
– Highly Connected – Use of Internet, cellphones, etc. Seeing electronic devices as an extension of themselves rather than a medium of communication.
– Achievement Oriented – 80 percent of tweens say they feel stress/pressure, with the root of their stress coming predominately from themselves, followed by their peers and then their parents. Stress factors include grades, pleasing parents, having friends/fitting in/popularity, and looks.
– Will fight for social time.
Today, some 20 million people in the U.S. fit that description. The mere categorization of a child into some group raises old questions about representation and subjecthood; that this is, in part, a self-identifying group raises new ones. The characterization above could not differ more from the stereotypical, alienated postwar teenager. Today’s tweens, so eager to function, to compete, to make work, will use images to test the limits of their subjectivity.
DatesJune 30 - August 31, 2012
Opening ReceptionSaturday, June 30, 6-8pm
Location937 N. La Cienega Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90069
All images: Too Old For Toys, Too Young For Boys, 2012. Photography courtesy of Morán Morán