Reveal

Cady Noland Untitled 1989.

Her entire project has the feel of incomplete research and unfinished construction—and that seems the point. As surveyed by Noland, America ap­pears a country driven delirious by its own sense of mission. Committed to a destiny that won’t reveal itself, it must contend with all the doubt and para­noia that intervenes in revelation’s absence, must endure an ambivalence it can’t abide. And yet the only thing perhaps more terrifying to America than its own symbolism is the secret desire to let that sym­bolism die.” Lane Relyea on Cady Noland, Parkett, 1996.

In the early 1990s before her disappearance Cady Noland was quite simply The Boss. Her installations are a devastating and sharp critique of American history and culture, of American hubris, and ultimately of American Modernism. These installations are smart, thorough, in-your-face and matter-of-fact all at once. And in today’s political and social climate her work is still absolutely relevant. Many painters may not understand what they might find in this work that’s relevant to painting, but vision, especially the best visions, have always contained mind games – think Velasquez or Goya. 

“In the United States at present we don’t have a “language of dissension.” You might say people visit their frustrations on other individuals and that acts as a type of “safety valve” to “have steam let off.” People may complain about “all of the violence there is today,” but if there weren’t these more individual forms of venting, there would more likely be rioters or committees expressing dissatisfaction in a more collective way. Violence has always been around. The seeming randomness of it now actually indicates the lack of political organization representing different interests. “Inalienable rights” become something so inane that they break down into men believing that they have the right to be superior to women (there’s someone lower on the ladder than they) so if a woman won’t dare them any more they have a right to murder them. It’s called the peace in the feud. In this fashion, hostility and envy are vented without threatening the structures of society.” Cady Noland in conversation with Michèle Cone, JCA, 1990.

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