Art exhibition examines what mass culture tells us about 21st-century society

Varnette Honeywood, Let's Party, 1980. Collage on board; 30 x 40 in (76.2 x 101.6 cm). Courtesy the Eric Firestone Gallery and South Etna Montauk.

Long before Andy Warhol started screen printing duplicates of Marilyn Monroe, philosopher Siegfried Kracauer was among the first 20th-century thinkers to seriously contemplate mass culture.

One of the founders of the Frankfurt School of sociopolitical thought, he examined the ways popular activities, such as amusement parks, shopping arcades, dance halls and cinema, contained more profound revelations about the nature of society. Now a new art exhibition in Montauk, New York transposes his ideas to the 21st century.

Curated by Alison M. Gingeras in collaboration with artist Katie Stout, Mass Ornament: Pleasure, Play, and What Lies Beneath, features the work of a diverse group of artists and designers, including Derrick Adams, Thomas Barger, Louis Fratino and Terri Friedman.

The works shown here favour maximalism: seductive surfaces, brilliant colours, exuberant patterns, and baroque forms. Paintings and vessels, sculptures and lamps, drawings and chairs all take ‘pleasure and play’ as their subject and, in many cases, camouflage more subversive intentions and messages.

The exhibition at South Etna Montauk, 6 South Etna Avenue, is open to the public Thursday through Sunday from 11-6pm and by appointment. Social distancing is being observed in accordance with guidelines to ensure the health and safety of both staff and visitors.

Gaetano Pesce, Pratt Chair #7 1984/2018 (Red), 2019. Polyurethane resin, Smooth-On pigment; 37 x 19 x 20 in (94 x 48.3 x 50.8 cm). Courtesy the artist, Salon 94, and South Etna Montauk.

Gaetano Pesce, Pratt Chair #7 1984/2018 (Red), 2019. Polyurethane resin, Smooth-On pigment; 37 x 19 x 20 in (94 x 48.3 x 50.8 cm). Courtesy the artist, Salon 94, and South Etna Montauk.

Brian Rochefort, Paint Can #5, 2019. Ceramic, glaze; 9 1/2 x 10 x 10 in (24.1 x 25.4 x 25.4 cm). Courtesy the artist and South Etna Montauk.

Brian Rochefort, Paint Can #5, 2019. Ceramic, glaze; 9 1/2 x 10 x 10 in (24.1 x 25.4 x 25.4 cm). Courtesy the artist and South Etna Montauk.

Derrick Adams, Floater 88, 2020. Acrylic paint, pencil, fabric on paper collage, on paper; each: 50 x 50 in (127 x 127 cm) overall: 50 x 100 in (127 x 254 cm). Courtesy the artist, Salon 94, and South Etna Montauk.

Derrick Adams, Floater 88, 2020. Acrylic paint, pencil, fabric on paper collage, on paper; each: 50 x 50 in (127 x 127 cm) overall: 50 x 100 in (127 x 254 cm). Courtesy the artist, Salon 94, and South Etna Montauk.

Terri Friedman, Laughter is Carbonated Holiness, 2020. Cotton, chenille, wool, acrylic fibers; 41 x 54 in (104.1 x 137.2 cm). Courtesty the artist and South Etna Montauk.

Terri Friedman, Laughter is Carbonated Holiness, 2020. Cotton, chenille, wool, acrylic fibers; 41 x 54 in (104.1 x 137.2 cm). Courtesty the artist and South Etna Montauk.