Header Image: David Hammons’s African American Flag, 1990. Image c/o Hyperallergic.
by Bowen Dunnan
This week, we are excited to check out Greater New York, MoMA PS1’s wide-ranging exhibition of New York art since the 1970s. And while we’re there, we’ll stop by the M. Wells Dinette, a cross between an all-too-familiar public school cafeteria and a hip New York diner.
L: Amy Brener, Dressing Room. Image c/o Amy Brener. R: Collier Schorr, The Painted Chair (Jordan). Image c/o Collier Schorr.
This year’s incarnation of “Greater New York,” MoMA PS1’s ongoing every-five-years survey of New York’s current scene, includes more than four hundred works by over a hundred and fifty artists. Unlike the three earlier versions of “Greater New York,” which started in 2000, this year’s exhibition includes plenty of art from earlier eras of New York’s history, especially the 1970s and 1980s, and the result is a wonderful and weird patchwork of media, styles, eras and ideas. In a show this big, you won’t connect with every single piece, but there is more than enough powerful art here to make the trip to Queens well worth it. (And admission is free, which is awesome.)
Robert Bordo, The Confession. Image c/o Robert Bordo. Photograph by Pablo Enriquez.
One through-line that connects many disparate pieces in several of these galleries is a palpable anxiety about the mainstreaming of the city’s subcultures. Entering a gallery is often a trip into the past, but it is never overly sentimental, and the best artwork, like Alvin Baltrop’s black and white photographs of the once-derelict Hudson River piers, capture both the grit and the glamor of the city’s transgressive margins without being boringly nostalgic for old New York. A handful of pieces, including Glenn Ligon’s silkscreened texts about each of his New York apartments, directly address the familiar “changing neighborhoods” narrative of New York’s new millennium, but others, like Donald Moffett’s shimmering “Gold/Tunnel,” and James Nares’ video, “Pendulum,” evoke the spirit of our dynamic city in subtler, more memorable ways.
Alvin Baltrop, The Piers. Image c/o Third Streaming, New York.
Donald Moffett, Gold/Tunnell. Image c/o Chang W. Lee / New York Times.
Another highlight is “The Kiosk,” a store-like room of plastic shelves covered with hundreds of small, odd objects collected from around the world, with a phone number to call for a story about each little piece. I was also immediately attracted to Liene Bosque’s “Recollection,” a display of kitschy models of the world’s most famous buildings and statues organized into a single city grid, and to Christine Sun Kim’s “Game of Skill 2.0,” with an audio component you are encouraged to “play” by holding a handheld device against the electrical tape as you walk across the gallery. (It is much more difficult than it sounds.)
The Kiosk. Image c/o Artnews.
Liene Bosque, Recollection. Image c/o Hyperallergic.
A large second-floor gallery devoted to sculpture is a good microcosm of the exhibition as a whole. Are there some pieces you might walk by without thinking twice about? Probably. Will a handful, though, stop you in your tracks and pop up again in your mind on the subway going home? Almost certainly. For me, it was Ignacio Gonzalez-Lang’s “Kueens,” a brightly decorated robe, both gorgeously festive in its evocation of Latin American patterns and utterly creepy in its similarity to the Klan’s infamous hooded uniforms. For you, it might be Mary Beth Edelsten’s mannequin-goddess “Kali Bobbit” or Tony Matelli’s unsettling upside-down nudes. No matter what, though, you’ll leave the exhibition impressed by the variety and vision of the city’s artists, and no doubt excited about what the next five years will bring.
L: Erin Mack, Pain After Heat. Image c/o Bernard Lumpkin and Carmine Boccuzzi, New York. R: Ignacio Gonzalez-Lang, Kueens. Image c/o Hyperallergic
Tony Matelli sculptures. Image c/o Chang W.Lee / New York Times.
WHAT TO DO AFTER //
Before leaving PS1, stop in for some coffee and a snack at the M. Wells Dinette, which has the look of a school cafeteria, but (thankfully) not the menu of one. And P.S., don’t forget to check out Brooklyn artist and Sugarlift collaborator Fanny Allie’s “A Bench for the Night,” a public art installation just outside the museum’s entrance on Jackson Avenue!