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MoMA PS1 opens first survey exhibition in the U.S. devoted to the work of Julie Becker
Installation view of Julie Becker: I must create a Master Piece to pay the Rent, on view at MoMA PS1, New York from June 9–September 2, 2019. Image courtesy MoMA PS1. Photo: Matthew Septimus.

LONG ISLAND CITY, NY.- I must create a Master Piece to pay the Rent is the first museum survey exhibition devoted to the work of Julie Becker (American, 1972–2016), on view at MoMA PS1 through September 2, 2019. Inspired by the psychological, cinematic, and physical geographies of her hometown of Los Angeles, Becker produced a rarely-seen body of installations, sculptures, drawings, photographs, and videos immersed in the human psyche’s formulation of truth, fiction, and myth.

First presented at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London in 2018, the exhibition features an expanded presentation of Becker’s work, including the artist’s formative installation Researchers, Residents, A Place to Rest (1993-1996), a large architectural complex created while she was a student at Cal Arts. This major piece is joined by more than 60 photographs, works on paper, video installations, and sculptures. The exhibition also features the largest group of works to be shown together from Whole (1999–), a multimedia project that was still ongoing at the time of the artist’s death. These works center on a run-down home in the Echo Park neighborhood of East Los Angeles that the California Federal Bank let the artist rent cheaply on the condition that she remove the belongings of the former tenant, who had passed away from AIDS-related complications.

At turns embellishing or skewering the idylls of the 20th-century American dream, Becker’s singular aesthetic visions articulate the fantasies, nightmares, and dispossessions underpinning the social imaginary of late capitalism, with special emphasis on the loneliness and estrangement that results from social inequity. Drawing from sources as diverse as Stephen King’s The Shining, Kay Thompson’s children’s book Eloise, and Disney’s The Gnome-Mobile, Becker found inspiration in the Lifetime television network, and popular lore about the karmic convergences between MGM’s 1939 musical fantasy The Wizard of Oz and Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon.

Dream scenarios weave throughout Becker’s work, and her drawings feature fantastical inventions and landscapes. Her architectural spaces expand and contract, both realized at actual scale and in miniature. Becker’s work reflects her own personal experiences living in precarious spaces, both as the child of itinerant artist parents moving from one generic Los Angeles apartment complexes to another, or later as an adult living in a dilapidated building caught in the flux of real estate speculation. Within these works, the artist’s chosen cultural references collide, rendering interior space as psychically charged and provisional, conjuring sites that function both as refuge and escape.

Julie Becker lived and worked in Los Angeles. Her work has been featured in exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (2018); Greene Naftali, New York (1996–2016); Seville Biennial, Spain (2006); the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2003); the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2000); and the Kunsthalle Zurich, Switzerland (1997). Becker’s work is held in public collections including The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Bronx Museum, New York; Hessel Museum of Art, Annandale-On-Hudson, NY; the Denver Art Museum, Colorado; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and Migros Museum fr Gegenwartskunst, Zurich.

I must create a Master Piece to pay the Rent is organized by The Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), London. The exhibition is curated by Richard Birkett and organized at MoMA PS1 by Jocelyn Miller, Assistant Curator, MoMA PS1.

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