The Museum of Contemporary Art will debut its next feature exhibit, “ReFocus: Art of the 1970s,” from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday with a street festival along Laura Street at Hemming Plaza.
The exhibit is the second in a series designed to showcase three of the most important decades of contemporary art from the 1960s through the 1980s.
In terms of U.S. and world history, the decade of the ‘70s is remembered for the end of the Vietnam War, the resignation of President Richard Nixon in the wake of the Watergate scandal, the revolution in Iran that put the Ayatollah Khomeini in power, the oil crisis and long lines at gas stations and discos.
In terms of art, the decade built on what had been created in the 1960s, said Ben Thompson, MOCA curator.
“Art became much more diverse. The ‘60s opened a lot of doors in how the public regarded and understood art. The ‘70s blew the doors open and pushed the boundaries,” he said.
The exhibit includes more than 120 paintings, drawings, photographs, sculptures and videos. Performance art is also represented through documentary works and artifacts related to artists and their contributions to the decade.
Many of the objects were loaned for the exhibition, while others were selected from MOCA’s permanent collection. Many have never been shown to the public, Thompson said.
The tone of the exhibit matches the tone of the period, noticeably less colorful and vibrant than the pop art of the 1960s.
“It was a darker time, so the art is somewhat subdued compared to the ‘60s,” Thompson said.
It also was a time of expanding technology, which led some artists to experiment with video and new modes of photography.
“The ability to make unlimited copies made video attractive to artists. The idea that technology could produce multiple copies changed art for artists, museums and collectors. It increased an artist’s ability to reach people,” said Thompson.
“More artists were competing for the market’s attention,” making the 1970s a difficult period for art historians to define and categorize, he said.
A series of complementary programs is scheduled, beginning May 17 with a lecture by MOCA Director Marcelle Polednik on the subject of photorealism.
Poet Al Letson’s play “Summer in Sanctuary” is scheduled June 1-3.
At 8 p.m. and midnight July 28, the cult classic film “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” will be screened in the museum’s theater.
The three-part series will conclude in the fall with an exhibit of work from the 1980s, offering the community a look at three of the most influential decades in contemporary art that led to what is being done today by artists.
“The idea is to build a foundation to better understand the art of our time,” said Thompson.
For more details about the exhibit and MOCA membership information, visit mocajacksonville.org.