October 9, 2017, by Peter Schjeldahl.
The four nouns in the title of a large group show at the New Museum, “Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon,” go off like improvised explosive devices, boding civil strife. Not to worry. The works, by forty-two mostly L.G.B.T.Q.-identified artists, who range in age from twenty-seven to sixty-seven, artist teams, and collectives tend to be elegant and ingratiating, temperate, or even a little boring—though not unpleasantly so. (A little boredom may come as welcome relief to our lately adrenaline-overdosed body politic.) The pieces employ mediums familiar from the past couple of decades of shows of institutionally favored contemporary art—installations, text pieces, photography, a great many videos—but reveal an uptick in the fortunes of expressive painting and a corresponding sag in those of starchy Conceptualism. With few exceptions, “Trigger” requires no warnings. Its themes of fluid sexual identity don’t fulminate at the margins of art-world convention. They evince establishment nonchalance. The show’s provocative title turns out to function rather like the old vaudeville pistol that emits a little flag imprinted “bang!”