Think of the 1980s and art and what comes to mind? Possibly Nagel, neon colors, jagged diagonals and geometry, paint splashes. Maybe the squiggles of Keith Haring, or the attack of Basquiat, or Jeff Koons’ kitsch. But for Julie Joyce, who curated this new show at the Museum of Art, it was a time of excitement for galleries, of a new trust in materials and finance, and lots of black. “Totally 80s: Gifts to the Permanent Collection” only nods to the clichéd idea of the decade in its title. There’s one example of neon. But there’s lots of black. (There’s more, too, in the other show she helped set up: the photos of John Divola, in the gallery around the corner).
Recent exhibitions from the Museum’s permanent collections have been too much of a muchness, with too much repetition of recently shown work. But “Totally ’80s” avoids that, thanks to recent gifts from the Broad Art Foundation in L.A. and Laura-Lee W. Woods and Robert J. Woods, Jr. There are only two familiar pieces here: Charles Arnoldi’s rough-hewn and brutal wood canvas, “Landfisher” and Al Held’s “Brughes II” that used to hang in the atrium, neon hoops and green building girders — an example of the brief “neo geo” movement.