The 1990s came back to life in an exhibit featured at the University of Michigan Museum of Art’s seventh annual “Late Night” event Thursday, hosted by the UMMA Student Programming and Advisory Council.
This year’s iteration of Late Night — where the art museum stays open until 11 p.m. instead of its usual 5 p.m. closing time — asked that students in attendance don traditionally ’90s garb as part of the night’s activities.
Throughout the evening, students ventured throughout the art museum, where they partook in a scavenger hunt, photo booths, stamp making and ’90s-themed trivia games. WCBN 88.3 FM, the University’s student-run radio station, piped in ’90s tunes for the duration of the event.
LSA senior Jean Rafaelian, one of the event coordinators, said one of the benefits of Late Night is that it works to “draw in people that might not normally come into this space.”
“Sometimes artwork feels elitist to people, and that it’s not easy for them to understand it, which I get because I’ve had to take classes to understand a lot of things,” Rafaelian said. “But that doesn’t mean that it’s not a cool place to come do homework, enjoy free programming, grab a coffee and soak up the art.”
Upstairs in the A. Alfred Taubman Gallery, an exhibit called “Come As You Are: Art of the 1990s” was the main attraction of the evening. According to the UMMA website, the collection is considered to be the museum’s first to examine art of the 1990s in its historical context.
“The exhibition … focuses on three principal themes — debates over ‘identity politics,’ the digital revolution and globalization — and explores a range of geopolitical milestones and social issues through the perspective of artists working at that time,” a description on the website reads.
The exhibit contains more than 64 pieces by 46 artists, and draws its name from the 1992 Nirvana song of the same title. Some say “Come As You Are” was the anthem of the ’90s. The featured artwork includes everything from classic oil paintings to glass jars with preserved crabs.
Art & Design freshman Kara Calvert said she was impressed by some of the pieces’ symbolism and the materials to create them.
“One of my favorite things about a new exhibit is that you’ll never know what you’re going to see,” Calvert said. “I really like ‘Lick and Lather’ pieces, by Janine Antoni. They’re really cool; this artist created two casts of her face — one of them was out of chocolate and the other out of soap, and to finish the piece she licked the chocolate and took a bath with the other one."
The event also featured pieces by famous photographers from the 1990s. LSA senior Robyn Green said some of the photos had appeared in courses she has taken, which made both the art and her classwork more relevant.
“Two of these were featured in my two separate courses,” Green said. “That gives me a broader context of the art and what it means to have the art featured in a space — which, in an odd way, gives it more agency to me.”
Green also said she appreciates UMMA’s efforts to offer late night programming.
“I think what they’re doing is great because I wouldn’t necessarily have time in my day to see this exhibit,” she said.