Kelly Falzone Inouye: MTV Generation

Highlighting our pandemic-induced tendency to re-examine the recent past and taking inspiration from cultural critics such as bell hooks and Marshall Macluhan, Kelly Inouye’s latest large-scale watercolor works reflect on imagery generated by Music Television (MTV) and its influence on contemporary culture.

Inouye’s watercolor icons wash in and out of realism, presenting specific moments from a collective experience that has shaped our world, for better or worse. The exhibition is presented in chronological order running from 1981 through 1989 selecting inflection point moments that have taken on new dimension with age. It is by no means a complete history.

It’s hard to overstate the level of influence MTV had on Inouye’s generation, Generation X. It was the center of the pop cultural universe for many kids who grew up in the 80s and 90s. MTV presented more diverse, accepting, explicit and ubiquitous content than any type of mass media that came before. For some, MTV made the 80s seem bright, sexy, creative, diverse. Others associate it with frivolous vacancy and commercial excess. It was all those things and more.

MTV was also born during a decade marked by racist and sexist violence, its own deadly pandemic (AIDS), and intense economic volatility; the culture it produced was an anecdote for reality that was so compelling that the public called into local cable television stations demanding “I want my MTV!”

At the time, it was argued that Gen X had no discernable identity compared to previous generations because Gen X embraced so much yet had no unifying philosophy. As we continue to struggle against polarization in politics and outright hatred in so many aspects of our lives, it’s hard not to wonder: How did so many in the generation that was supposedly ok with everything become so intolerant?

MTV Generation will be on view at Marrow Gallery from May 4th through June 4th, 2022 with an opening reception scheduled for Saturday, May 7th 5-8pm. As part of the exhibition, Inouye will invite viewers to record their own memories of MTV. Contributions will be compiled in book format for future publication.