The ’50s! The ’60s! The ’70s! Surveying distant decades can remind us of our better selves. More often, though — like adults looking back at a collective adolescence — we find ourselves laughing at earlier naiveties. We look at the ’50s, for instance, and tend to mock that decade’s powerful drive to conformity, its complacent postwar confidence. We remember the ’60s and snicker at that decade’s astral idealism.
What, then, were the naiveties, the misapprehensions, the idiocies of the ’80s? “This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s” at the Institute of Contemporary Art presents us with a chance to reflect on the question. Organized by ICA curator Helen Molesworth for the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, where it was mounted earlier this year, it’s a tremendously ambitious show — just the kind of gutsy, rambunctious, debate-churning exercise the ICA needs, and for which Molesworth was hired almost three years ago.