David Zwirner is pleased to present Folk Devil, a group exhibition curated by Rodolphe von Hofmannsthal in the gallery's 525 and 533 West 19th Street spaces in New York. It borrows its title from sociologist Stanley Cohen's 1972 study Folk Devils and Moral Panics, which looked at modern society's deep-rooted fear of subcultures and the morally aberrant. More specifically, "folk devil" was Cohen's description of the British media's hostile reaction towards youth groups who clashed on the beaches of British seaside towns on summer bank holidays in the early 1960s.
Bringing together a diverse group of artists, Folk Devil presents a comment on the tendency to create artificial connections between individuals with different backgrounds and no inherent commonality. It also contains a self-referential statement on the idea of "free rides," a term used in Cohen's essay to denote preventative actions by the police, who would pick up random groups of youths in the seaside towns and drive them to locations too far for them to return.