M+B is pleased to present Bedtime for Bonzo, a group exhibition curated by Matthew Porter with participating artists Walead Beshty, Gil Blank, Matthew Brandt, Andrew Bush, Eduardo Consuegra, Moyra Davey, Arthur Ou, Matthew Spiegelman, James Welling, Hannah Whitaker and Mark Wyse.
Like a river that returns every year to its floodplain, our politics and entertainment can be expected to return to the preceding decades for material. In particular, much of the recent rhetoric from the mid-term elections echoed the eight years of Ronald Reagan’s presidency. Viewing Jimmy Carter’s famous 1979 “Malaise Speech” as a herald of the 80s, this show presents a selection of images that, when stripped of their original contexts, serve as both index and icon for a decade best defined by a sententious leader. They can also be seen, in the decade before the Internet, as a late-century analog swansong. This is the Eisenhower era in color, with a technological upgrade. The confection-coated green and silky whites of the suburbs look saccharine next to rust-belt towns in decay—evidence of the simultaneous achievement and dismantling of the American dream.
Bedtime for Bonzo is a 1951 film starring Ronald Reagan as a moralizing pedagogue intent on meliorating a chimpanzee’s understanding of right and wrong. If the images on the walls feel equally didactic, remember that this is a show about the 80s, when subtlety was traded for over-dramatic hyperbole.
This exhibition runs December 11 – January 29, 2011
By Jim McKinniss