Presented by Gagosian and Jeffrey Deitch

November 30, 2020–January 31, 2021

I always look for things that are out in the future, ’cause, heck, that’s where we are going to spend the rest of our lives.

Ed Ruscha

In Ed Ruscha’s hand-rendered work on paper The Future (1999), the two titular words have been manipulated—stretched vertically and compressed at both sides of the composition—transforming the communicative component of language into a series of lines reminiscent of a bar code or digital circuit board. Produced in 1999, at an anticipatory moment before the start of a new century, Ruscha’s work exposes our fears and desires during periods of transition about what is to come. We might not be able to clearly see the future, Ruscha seems to suggest, but it’s always there, waiting in the shadows as an inescapable—yet often imperceptible—presence that perpetually slips just out of reach.

By its very nature, the future cannot be precisely defined, accurately described, or attached to a particular date, as it moves along a continuum: it encompasses both tomorrow and one hundred years from now, and even yesterday’s perception of today. As such, art that speculates about futurity in some capacity—whether in terms of process, subject matter, or concept—exposes as much about the present. For that reason, it is a particularly apt theme for The Future, this year’s collaborative exhibition by Gagosian and Jeffrey Deitch, which occurs at a global moment of uncertainty, anticipation, and hope regarding what might lie ahead.

Some of the artists in the exhibition consider different temporal models of the future. This includes reflections on moments of abrupt historical transition, such as Tom Friedman’s poignant take on the 2001 terrorist attacks, which radically transformed the future when the planes made contact with the Twin Towers, and Chris Burden’s meditations on key events in recent American history that shattered assumptions about our society and, in turn, the futures we had collectively imagined for ourselves. Commenting on bygone visions for the future that have since been complicated or rendered obsolete, Cindy Sherman addresses accumulations of consumer waste, while Derrick Adams references past hopes for the potentially liberatory effects of broadcast television. Other artists, including Mehdi Ghadyanloo and Katharina Grosse, explore models of a future that functions as an inescapable feedback loop, never advancing, or as a piling up of time that obliterates the concept altogether. The state of eternal recurrence is exemplified by Piero Golia’s unceasingly spinning roulette wheel that never results in a winning number.

Certain artists in The Future reflect on, interrogate, or present alternatives to a variety of topical concerns, ranging from the environmental to the technological. Tauba Auerbach explores the visual beauty derived from heat recordings of the Earth’s surface, despite the devastating implications such rising temperatures will continue to have on the planet’s inhabitants, and Alicja Kwade creates a breathtaking work on paper by arranging watch hands and precisely sized segments of rulers—tools used to gauge precipitation levels, which are in constant flux today due to climate change—to resemble rainfall showering a flat surface. By transforming representational photographs into an abstract image of cascading foliage, Urs Fischer communicates a non-anthropocentric environment in which nature encroaches on human subjects. In contrast, Woody De Othello and Jeff Koons both dramatize our growing reliance on technological interfaces to engage in human communication, as in Othello’s sculpture of a figure whose physical form has melted, leaving behind the ubiquitous one-handed grip typically used to scroll on a phone, or Koons’s painting of a couple whose bodies become nearly imperceptible due to various interventions that suggest digital technologies but were in fact painted by hand. Still others break rank and mine the unknowns embedded in the future, envisaging unorthodox prospects that might exist in parallel or adjacent universes to our own: Takashi Murakami’s mushrooms that have gained consciousness, Andreas Gursky's world of superhero salvation, and Sterling Ruby’s hybridized beasts that are both familiar and extraordinary at once.

It might be said that 2020 marked the start of another future: previously unimaginable, with the result being a permanently changed historical trajectory. Being in it, living through it, trying to make sense of it—the artworks in the exhibition put forth varying artistic perspectives engaged with undertaking such an endeavor. We present this online exhibition space as a kind of workshop, a site for speculation on the futures that await our arrival or those that might remain forever unrealized.