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Exhibitions/ Delirious: Art at the Limits of Reason, 1950–1980

Delirious: Art at the Limits of Reason, 1950–1980

September 13, 2017–January 14, 2018

Exhibition Catalogue

Richly illustrated, this provocative book invites readers to "think crazy" about the postwar work of more than 60 international artists.

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Exhibition Overview

Delirious times demand delirious art, or so this exhibition proposes. The years between 1950 and 1980 were beset by upheaval. Around the globe, military conflict proliferated and social and political unrest flared. Disenchantment with an oppressive rationalism mounted, as did a corollary interest in fantastic, hallucinatory experiences. Artists responded to these developments by incorporating absurdity, disorder, nonsense, disorientation, and repetition into their work. In the process, they destabilize space and perception, give form to extreme mental, emotional, and physical states, and derange otherwise logical structures and techniques. Delirious explores the embrace of irrationality among American, Latin American, and European artists.

Divided into four sections—Vertigo, Excess, Nonsense, and Twisted—this exhibition showcases roughly 100 works of art by 62 artists, including Antonio Berni, Dara Birnbaum, Tony Conrad, Hanne Darboven, Dean Fleming, Nancy Grossman, Philip Guston, Eva Hesse, Alfred Jensen, Yayoi Kusama, Sol LeWitt, Darcílio Lima, Lee Lozano, Anna Maria Maiolino, Ana Mendieta, Bruce Nauman, Jim Nutt, Hélio Oiticica, Claes Oldenburg, Abraham Palatnik, Howardena Pindell, Peter Saul, Mira Schendel, Carolee Schneemann, Paul Sharits, Robert Smithson, Nancy Spero, Paul Thek, and Stan VanDerBeek. About a third of the exhibition is drawn from The Met collection. Linked by a common distrust of reason, the featured works alternately simulate and stimulate delirium, straining the limits of both legibility and intelligibility. Ultimately, the exhibition asks if it is possible to understand a good deal of postwar art, even seemingly rational art, as an exercise in calculated lunacy.


Featured Media


Conversation on Delirious Art and Times


"Restless, daring show ... a nervy multimedia survey of postwar art." —New York Times

The catalogue is made possible by the Antoinette Kraushaar Fund and Marsha and Jeffrey Perelman.

Now at The Met

Delirious at The Met Breuer

In this Now at The Met interview, Publishing and Marketing assistant Rachel High discusses forms of delirium in art with exhibition curator Kelly Baum.

Anna Maria Maiolino (Brazilian, born 1942). In-Out (Antropofagia) [In-Out (Antropophagy)], from Fotopoemação [Photopoemaction] Series, 1973–74. Black and white analog photograph; original photos by Max Nauenberg. Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth © Anna Maria Maiolino