Monday, August 17, 2009

NY P.S.1: First Time

My trip to NYC yielded three other museum visits that I will describe over the current week. Today’s focus is about the contemporary art center in Williamsburg, Long Island City, P.S.1. The works there were by far the most socially interesting and broad-ranging of any I saw during my four-day NY blitz.

Michael Joaquin Grey’s work appealed to me as the most inter-disciplinary and attention-demanding. I first took in Object as Preposition (1988-2007), a piece that “...visualizes how throughout art history the object became part of a performative process in relational aesthetics” *. I don’t quite understand that phrase yet, but this piece appealed to me for two reasons: firstly, seeing prepositions so simply illustrated was exciting (I am an ESL tutor and a homework coach); secondly, his color choice, text format, and pragmatic yet simple formal layout reminded me of Sol Lewitt’s wall drawings. I felt I could learn more about both linguistics and design from looking at this series of small images.

And would have, except for the pulsing Oz video "ZOOZ" pulling me into the next room.

It seems like Grey is working with these humanist elements, these really basic human desires and observed features, to create very sophisticated messages beyond the mere observation. He even uses media ranging from painting to real biology to video.
THAT is why Grey inspires me.

The other work I saw riffed on topics of gender, humor, and social justice.

Jonathan Horowitz’s plexi-glass “Construction Cube” partially filled with donations and labeled with the Green Peace name was smirkable ... and his tofu sitting in a glass dish of water seemed similarly curious and amusing.

Leandro Ehrlich’s swimming pool was fun. Fun, because it was a) well crafted, b) had living adults and children laughing from under the surface rather than sculpted dead bodies as I was expecting, c) reminded me of swimming pools when I was younger, d) all of the above. D: All of the above. The piece didn’t seem progressive in any specific way ... but I was really glad for the gleeful experience of hearing the visiting children love the installation and also for looking up through the perfectly rippled surface.

Lutz Bacher. Her paintings of sex-kitten cartoon women had enscriptions like, “You make your peace sign, I’ll make mine,” “Sure I’m for the Feminist Movement. In Fact, I’m pretty good at it,” and, “They’re watchdogs, Mr.Tate, but I usually don’t let them.” The women reminded me of gripes from feminists about the blissfully ignorant (and apparently playful) powerful yet still un-liberated others. I thought they were funny.

On the flip side of Bacher's gallery space were more serious images. The hologram she had made regarding the violence of the war (“Iraqi Freedom”) was grotesque and striking. The video collage she created around Tammi Terrell and Marvin Gaye’s music and use in movies by white mothers and daughters was thought provoking. Those works, and others in her show, effectively made me aware of the political and racial points I assume Bacher was making.

Bacher, like Grey, has her message and the presence of mind to find whatever the medium she needs to best suite it. Thanks P.S.1 for the brief education.

* ©2008 P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center | Museum of Modern Art affiliate

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