Complaining about absurdly high rent, questioning humanity, desiring community, waiting for happy hour to begin, and feeling like life is shit is just another average day for an NYU student. Our highs and lows span such a broad range of emotion we often “just can’t” and “don’t even know.”
These realities—our realities—are expressed in Energy that is All Around, the newest exhibit in the oft-forgotten Grey Art Gallery. The two floor exhibit features paintings, sculptures, and photographs created in the ’90s and early 2000s by The Mission School, a group of five young, college-aged students living in the Mission District of San Francisco.
In the first floor of the exhibit, a display case features an eclectic number of items including worn baseballs, a small ceramic bowl, and a pile of polaroids, among other things. One of these other things is a formal letter addressed to one of the artists, Ruby Neri, in which officials at the San Francisco Art Institute warned her to quiet down or else she would get kicked out of her dorm room.
This letter—a small, easily overlooked item amongst everything else featured in the exhibit—symbolizes the outside restraints placed on members of the Mission School, and gets at the larger purpose of the artwork displayed in the gallery: these artists were young people living in San Francisco, watching the city transform into a place full of wealthy professionals working in the tech industry, and using art to express their views on the world they saw around them.
According to the official description of the exhibit, “All [the members of The Mission School] moved easily between representation and abstraction, the street and the studio, and worked in various media including painting, sculpture, drawing, collage, and installation. Although each developed a distinct artistic style and philosophy, they all were drawn to the radical and the political.”
Though we’re always being told how cheap and easy it is for us to go to museums using our student discount, visiting this gallery is one of the best opportunities to do so. Admission is free, it’s in the same building we take many of our classes in, and it’s strikingly relevant to the things we see and do ourselves.
And with such a mix of work, there’s probably something there you’ll enjoy–even if it is just the giant painting of a psychedelic pink unicorn.
[Image via the author]