“Greater New York” Part One: Talking About My Generation

NYAB contributing writer Brian Fee has tasked himself with covering PS1’s “Greater New York” exhibition, which opened May 23rd, and continues into October. In his first installment, Fee contextualizes the exhibition, and gives insight into posts to come.

poster for

"Greater New York 2010" Exhibition

at MOMA PS1
in the Queens area
This event has ended - (2010-05-22 - 2010-10-18)

at
in the area

In Features by Brian Fee 2010-06-09 print

I was a relative art-scene newbie in the spring of 2005, during the second iteration of “Greater New York”, the quinquennial exhibition of New York-area artists held at MoMA PS1 in Queens. Still finding my way in the city, attending the institutions, but my treks from my flat in East Harlem to the expansive gallery scene were sporadic at best. In time, I was dashing out of work with friends to attend opening receptions — like Mike Kelley’s “Day is Done” at Gagosian and Cao Fei’s “COSPlayers” at Lombard-Freid Projects — and by late-autumn 2005, gallery-going became both homework and extracurricular activity. The fact that this latest “Greater New York”, which opened on May 23 and runs through October 18, encapsulates that period of time since I dove into the New York art-world, manifests a deep personal connection to the artists in the show. It is a 25 percent trip down memory lane and a 75 percent active dialogue, seeing them in unlikely juxtapositions with others and in new light, as I have matured as a viewer and the world has changed since those works were conceived.

To those questioning the fecundity of the New York art scene, meander the halls of PS1 and scope out every nook and cranny (as the El Greco quote goes “Art is everywhere you look for it”), and any fears should be swiftly allayed. There is substance here, and through the 68 artists showing, there is a lot to discover. Like any Biennial-type genre-blasting exhibition, full to the brim with performances and add-ons, one cannot hope to catch it all in one go. The mutability of some of the works further emphasizes this. I will do my part by taking several journal-style entries to examine the themes and ideas at play in this season-spanning destination. But note: “Greater New York” is precisely the kind of exhibition you will want to revisit. It is broad enough to include a favorite for virtually the toughest critic, and the static nature of some of the art (paintings are minimized here, but there are some beauties) should not be overshadowed by the freshness of performances and shape-shifting works. But the understanding that some things will change — the slow-decay of David Brooks’ Preserved Forest 2010, concrete-coated nursery-grown trees, a visceral take on deforestation and global climate peril; the ever-adapting I came here on my own. (work in progress) 2010, installation/performance by robbinschilds — makes each trip a unique one.

There are three broad elements to Greater New York:

1. the “5 Year Review” in the 1st Floor Painting Gallery, a bips & bops contribution from invited curators and critics on what’s been happening in NYC the past five years, and a wildly nostalgic romp for this writer. It is non-chronological nor comprehensive, but includes gems like “Little Boy”, Takashi Murakami’s curated “exploding Japanese subculture” fest at Japan Society in 2005, the wonderful X Initiative at the former Dia:Chelsea space last year, and the “Younger Than Jesus” inaugural triennial at the New Museum, which necessarily has some overlapping artists here. This space has two stages for performances throughout the exhibition’s run, like Terence Koh’s hyperspeed 500 EAR REVIEW: 1510-2010 art history lecture, held on opening day.

2. the “Rotating Gallery”, held in the 1st Floor Drawing Gallery, hosting four New York-based curators’ unique exhibitions. The lead, Olivia Shao’s decidedly sparse and conceptualist affair “The Baghdad batteries” (running through June 13), is a palate-cleanser from the overall busy exhibition.

3. “Greater New York” itself, occupying practically every available square inch of the building. Don’t miss the lift: it contains Nico Muhly’s Stepping Up 2010, a custom sound composition, all atmospheric synth chords punctuated by footsteps, that reiterates the emotive nature of some electronic music. I tend to eschew lifts in museums as a rule, but I ride this one at least three times a visit. Some artists get their own rooms (Franklin Evans’ ecstatic timecompressionmachine a walk-in “painting” of sorts composed of cut-up art magazines and gallery press materials; Ismael Randall Weeks’ untitled studio-within-a-gallery, which will feature subtle interventions by the artist throughout the exhibition) but most share, to intriguing and often delightful effect: works plucked from recent gallery shows (like Mariah Robertson’s and David Benjamin Sherry’s manipulated photography, seen together at Sikkema Jenkins & Co’s “A Word Like Tomorrow Wears Things Out”) in new configurations (Robertson with Caleb Considine’s understated paintings, Sherry’s with Amy Yao’s vibrant painted doors installation).

I reiterate: there is a lot going on here. Performances by Aki Sasamoto (fresh off the Whitney Biennial) in the basement begin June 16. The ever-changing films in the Vault (screenings are generally at 3p). And you just may run into Ryan McNamara and his mobile barre and mirror (Make Ryan a Dancer) or robbinschilds in the middle of a piece. I’ll be reporting in again later this month.

Brian Fee

Brian Fee. Brian Fee talks art by day, sees Brooklyn bands by night, and speaks Japanese during in-between hours. His alter ego is feeslist.blogspot.com, which includes a weekly rundown of only the dopest NY-based art/film/music events. » See other writings

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