Animal Magnetism: A New Exhibition Channels Orwell (and the Eighties Art Scene)


In our increasingly Orwellian world, there’s something apropos about calling an exhibition “Animal Farm.” That, anyway, was painter Sadie Laska’s thinking when she was asked to curate a show at the Brant Foundation in Greenwich, Connecticut. And, given the
bucolic setting, it was a better fit than 1984. “My Amazon account kept suggesting this book,” she says of George Orwell’s 1945 allegory of a barnyard gone Bolshevik. “It seemed to really capture the anxiety everyone in my community feels at the moment.”

But the show isn’t meant to be a downer. Instead, Laska wants to put artists of her generation — like the painters Joe Bradley and Josh Smith — in conversation with major painters from the 1980s, like Julian Schnabel, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Keith Haring, who are all well represented in the foundation’s collection. “We were growing up when those guys were the most famous artists around,” she says. “I remember looking at them in Interview magazine. For me, it’s a way to create a path through the Brant Foundation to these younger artists.”

The show includes about thirty painters who have been reciprocally beneficial to one another’s careers.
In the 1980s, when Schnabel became famous for his plate paintings, he opened the door for artists like Thornton Dial (also in the show), who had long used found materials in his work. “The vibe of the show is very folky and funky,” Laska says. “I want people to feel good about the creative spirit” — a worthy mission for these Orwellian times.