Last Chance – Catch a Great “Greater New York” at MoMA PS1

MoMA PS1, the Museum of Modern Art’s rambunctious offspring, is known for cutting-edge, challenging to the point sometimes of being difficult, risk-taking but serious art. It has to be serious to meet MoMA’s curatorial standards, after all.

It’s housed in an old NY public school building repurposed to turn classrooms, hallways, stairwells, and even the cavernous concrete basement into spacious galleries. It’s a bit off the beaten path, in Long Island City in Queens, and never gets the foot traffic of the midtown mother ship. But its youth, ambition and wide open space gives curators freedom to experiment. And that’s always a good thing in art.

Photo2Amy Brener’s totemic sculptures capture the beauty of nature through humble building materials

MoMA PS1 has ripened with time. Gone is some of the brashness of some of the earlier exhibitions. And while it’s far from stately or sedate, the current exhibition Greater New York offers a perfect chance find out just why so many people think it’s worth the trek to the outer boroughs to see art in a city that’s bursting at the seams with it, anyway.

Photo3Ajay Kurian’s light boxes have everyday objects glittering like jewels

Greater New York, the exhibition that runs through March 7th, is the fourth iteration of a recurring show that brings together the work of emerging artists who live or work in the city. In the past it’s focused on young artists, but the zillion or so New York galleries showing young artists means the under-40s have enough places to show. Whether it’s nostalgia or an art world waking up to the concept that new doesn’t necessarily mean better, this edition of Greater New York includes many artists whose breakout was in the 1970s and 80s and who have continued producing serious, smart art, alongside their younger counterparts.

Photo4“Slow and Steady Wins the Race,” an installation conceived by Mary Ping, produced by Living Archive that challenges the need to eliminate still functional garments for the sake of fashion

 The show includes a stunning 400 artworks by 157 artists and fills the entire enormous building. Three floors are filled with some blue chip names, some up and comers, some older artists who are due more respect and lots of fresh new artistic voices.

Photo5A gallery featuring Lutz Batcher’s “Magic Mountain”

Just opposite the entrance Amy Brener’s metal, concrete and glass sculptures evoke the urban landscape, but sprigs of plants embedded in the glass shine through and iridescent abalone shells balance the manmade with nature. Barry Le Va’s imagined landscapes are a great example of utilizing found objects. He transformed touristy tchotchkes, miniature Mayan temples, The London Bridge, and the Freedom Tower into fantasy cityscapes that suggest a world where we can all get along.

Photo6Installation view of a gallery with figural sculptures in Greater New York

A darkened room comes to life with another type of landscape. Here, Ajay Kurian’s collections of everyday objects shine like glittering jewels in their enclosed case. It brings up thoughts of beauty we miss and what’s valued in society, but does so in a visually appealing and arresting way. There are participatory works, videos, and sound, walk-in installations, furniture and wearable art, all worthy of inclusion in this important exhibition. Lutz Batcher’s “Magic Mountain” formed of huge, spiky blue foam cubes is a standout.

Photo7Installation shot including Mary Beth Edelson’s “Kali Bobbit,” a powerful feminist work based on the fearsome female Hindu deity, Kali

Rosalind Fox Solomon’s poignant slices of East Village and downtown life in the 70s, 80s and 90s bring back an era, captured in crisply detailed lush black and white photographs. Solomon will be turning 86 this year; it’s about time we have a chance to see her powerful work. There are many strong feminist works, like Simone Leigh’s “Faience” and Mary Beth Edelson’s “Kali Bobbit,” just in time to remind us that March is Women’s History Month. A great place to end the visit is on the second floor gallery (#16 in the handy guide distributed at the entrance) filled with large scale figural sculptures. They are challenging, yes, but they all relate to what makes us human.

Photo8Red Grooms, “Mr. Universe” reminds us that art can be fun

Gender, race, equality, and even vanity all find an artist to speak for them. Might as well finish with Red Grooms’ “Mr. Universe.” It’s a bold, brash, witty and carefully observed character study that will leave you smiling.

All photos by Adel Gorgy

Opening photo: Barry Le Va’s imagined landscapes formed of souvenirs, memories, and, possibly, hopes

Greater New York is co-organized by Peter Eleey, Curator and Associate Director ofExhibitions and Programs, MoMA PS1; Douglas Crimp, Fanny Knapp Allen Professor of Art History at the University of Rochester; Thomas J. Lax, Associate Curator of Media and Performance Art, The Museum of Modern Art; and Mia Locks, Assistant Curator, MoMA PS1.

The program of accompanying Sunday Sessions events is organized by Mark Beasley, Guest Curator, and Jenny Schlenzka, Associate Curator, MoMA PS1.

Greater New York, through March 7th
22-25 Jackson Ave, Long Island City, NY 11101

As a bonus, all residents of NY enter free

About Mary Gregory (39 Articles)
Mary Gregory is an award-winning art critic and journalist whose work with museums, galleries, and auction houses led her to writing about art for publications like Newsday, Long Island Pulse, Afterimage, Art Week, Our Town, and the Chelsea News. A member of the International Association of Art Critics, she has degrees in both English and art history, and her fiction has been anthologized by the Georgia Museum of Art. ------------------Adel Gorgy's photojournalist work, which focuses specifically on art news and exhibitions, has been widely published in New York area magazines, newspapers and journals both online and in print. His fine art photography has been seen around the world in solo and group exhibitions in museums and galleries.