Happiness is a walking gun?

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Anonymous Gift, 1998 (1998.440) © Laurie Simmons

When the Metropolitan Museum of Art called last year’s show of Leon Levenstein’s photos “Hipsters, Hustlers, and Handball Players,” it was clear that director Thomas Campbell had ushered in a new era of irreverence in exhibition titles. This year the museum followed up with “Guitar Heroes“—possibly scooping MoMA as it planned its conservatively if descriptively named “Picasso: Guitars 1912-1914.” And now the Met has announced “After the Gold Rush.” The exhibition,  a selection of photographs from its collection dating from 1979 to the present, was inspired by the Neil Young song of the same name and its expression of “a romanticized past with a present of squandered plenty and an uncertain future.” Among the artworks it features is Walking Gun, a 1991 photo  by Laurie Simmons that radiates the sense of menace the curator is trying to capture.

Original fans of  “After the Gold Rush” –which came out on Young’s album of the same name in 1970, back in the days of vinyl and rickety record players–might be bemused to see it turn up in this high-art context. But we can only offer advice from another song on the same disk–Don’t let it bring you down.

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