Saturday, May 23 – Sunday, September 27, 2015*
Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and Monday, May 25 and Monday, September 7
Open: 12:00–5:00pm

*During the River To River Festival we are also open Monday–Thursday
Thursday, June 18–Sunday, June 28
12:00–5:00pm daily

Arts Center at Governors Island
Building 110 near Soissons Landing

“This complicated and conflicted understanding of the relations between the public space of the street and the public sphere of representation was nascent at the beginning of the decade. For many artists, the street represented a site outside the structures of power (however ‘true’ or phantasmatic such a concept may have been); the idea of the street, in other words, retained an antithetical relation to the space of the museum and television.” – Helen Molesworth, This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s

The wide-ranging responses enacted throughout Lower Manhattan highlighted in the exhibition include the institutionally-supported erection and eventual removal of Richard Serra’s large-scale sculpture Tilted Arc; Keith Haring’s radiant subway drawings in the space of everyday transit and their lasting impression on street art culture; and Jenny Holzer’s conceptual texts focusing on social and political commentary wheat pasted in heavily populated public spaces, among others. The exhibition’s title is informed by Michael Warner’s concept of “counterpublics,” which are communities that form around relationships in conflict with the standards and norms of their existing environment. A resonant idea for the represented decade in art, each exhibited work relates: questioning the record of the historical past, critiquing the contemporary circumstances of the present, or gesturing towards alternatives for the future.

The exhibition features artwork and documentation of public art, performance and interventions by Tseng Kwong Chi, Agnes Denes, Eiko & Koma, Guerrilla Girls , Keith Haring, Jenny Holzer, Tehching Hsieh, John Kelly, William Pope.L, REPOhistory, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, the collaborative co-creators of Electric Blanket (Allen Frame, Frank Franca and Nan Goldin), and more.

Curated by Alex Fialho & Melissa Levin.





Featured Image Photo Credit: Agnes Denes, Wheatfield – A Confrontation: Battery Park Landfill, Downtown Manhattan – The Harvest, 1982

Caption: Two acres of wheat planted and harvested by the artist on a landfill in Manhattan’s financial district, a block from Wall Street and the World Trade Center, summer 1982. Commissioned by Public Art Fund, New York City. Copyright Agnes Denes, Courtesy Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects, New York.


This event is free and open to all. For information about the Governors Island ferry, click here. May include sensitive material.

William Pope.L, Thunderbird Immolation, 1978
Tehching Hsieh, Tehching Hsieh 1978 – 1999 (one-year long performances from 111 Hudson Street), 1978-1999
Jenny Holzer, Inflammatory Essays, 1979-1982 
Eiko & Koma, Event Fission, 1980
Keith Haring, subway drawings with photographs by Tseng Kwong Chi, 1980-1985
Agnes Denes, Wheat field – A Confrontation, 1982
Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Ceremonial Arch & Social Mirror, 1983 & 1988
Guerrilla Girls, Pop Quiz & Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?, 1989 & 1990
Electric Blanket (co-created by Allen Frame, Frank Franca and Nan Goldin), 1990
John Kelly, Love of a Poet with photographs by Paula Court, 1990
REPOhistory, Lower Manhattan Sign Project, 1992-1993

Also included is a 1989 documentary The Trial of Tilted Arc by Shu Lea Cheang about Richard Serra’s 1981 work Tilted Arc, and a press release highlighting a temporary public sculpture by Felix Gonzalez-Torres, “Untitled”, 1989.