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Installation view of Bad Habits. Photograph by Tom Loonan.

Bad Habits

Friday, July 10, 2009
Sunday, October 4, 2009

1905 Building

.. . . arguing, begging, belching, biting, bragging, cheating, complaining, cursing, drinking, farting, fighting, gambling, gossiping, hating, hitting, hoarding, indulging, interrupting, littering, loitering, lying, mocking, overspending, smoking, speeding, spitting, stealing, vandalizing, whining, yelling . . . (1)

And so begins an infinite list of the bad habits humans enact on a daily basis, behaviors that society deems unseemly and uncouth, unnatural and unacceptable, or abnormal and unattractive. In some cases, bad habits are excesses of peculiarity and misbehavior with truly negative ramifications. In other cases, they are simply behavioral activities outside of accepted mannerisms and traditional norms. One need only look at other cultures to see that one society’s poor manners can be another’s good graces.

A meditation on vice and naughtiness in contemporary art, Bad Habits presented a selection of the more subversive objects in the Albright-Knox’s collection. Taking its name from a suite of prints by the artist Lisa Yuskavage, the exhibition highlighted an important strain of contemporary art focusing on compulsion, perversion, eroticism, anger, greed, trickery, and other vices associated with the underbelly of human existence. Such tantalizing subject matter has been fodder for art through the ages, but in the context of contemporary art, its deviant art-historical roots burst through the soil in the mid-1970s in Los Angeles when artists such as Mike Kelley, Paul McCarthy, Lari Pittman, and Charles Ray created scatological, messy, politically incorrect art exploring violence, sexuality, politics, and perversion. This movement inspired the playful and loose thematic grouping of works seen here, in homage to its originators and their bastard children, as well as a myriad of more subtle interpretations of the exhibition’s theme. Bad Habits included works by artists in a range of media, including, in addition to Yuskavage, Janine Antoni, Matthew Barney, Lynda Benglis, Louise Bourgeois, Robert Brinker, Cecily Brown, Robert Colescott, Gregory Crewdson, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Jeanne Dunning, Gilbert & George, David Hammons, Nikki S. Lee, Glenn Ligon, Robert Melee, Cathy de Monchaux, Shirin Neshat, Tony Oursler, Jason Rhoades, Thomas Ruff, Kiki Seror, Jeff Wall, and Andro Wekua.

This exhibition was organized by Curator Heather Pesanti.

(1) These verbs were culled from self-help research websites on “How to get rid of bad habits.”

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