I’m trying to take advantage of the access to art afforded by living in New York. But there are so many art spaces here, even now when many institutions are closed in preparation for Fall shows, it’s still overwhelming. I’ve been here 2 weeks and visited a few spaces, with not nearly enough time at most of them.
Rivane Neuenschwander: A Day Like Any Other
Thru Sept. 19
I really like the contemporary Brazilian artist’s videos; this is a chance to see new and prior works in installation, participatory/social practices, works on paper, paintings and actions. I think the most coherent is the fourth floor, where the central focus is an installation of buckets hung at head-height which slowly drip water into buckets on the floor. On the walls are dilapidated maps of New York counties painted and mounted in design-y hues. A video of an egg clattering in a spoon, shot as if the spoon were tucked into the viewer’s mouth, and the viewer were rambling through a wooded forest, runs in a corner. Flip clocks whose numbers have been replaced with zeros (recalling a flip-clock project by San Francisco artist Chris Bell) are placed throughout the museum, but the chance that you’d be looking at the clock when its zeroes flip is infinitesimal, so the clocks appear static and unchanging; in effect, it’s a largely conceptual piece. Perhaps it was the discreteness and completeness of the projects that appealed to me; the third floor, dominated by a space in which narrow swathes of carpet were ripped up, and sectors of a gridded wallpaper were stripped from the walls—not so much. The demolition was the result of a site-specific project involving the artist finding microphones hidden by the museum staff at the artist’s request. Is it viable to complain that the chance operation seemed a bit preconceived? Other projects in the space captivated: a 10-minute video of a single bubble traveling around a house (at the same time that it frustrated any sense of resolution); a calendar made of punched circles of text scattered across a black ground, creating constellations on a night sky; portraits of first loves described by public participants and drawn by courtroom artists.
On the first floor, in the odd, narrow glass-enclosed space, Neuenschwander’s I Wish Your Wish project continues.
Strangely, I left the show rather disappointed that I experienced no major revelation. But in retrospect, perhaps my expectation to be surprised or enchanted was misinformed. To displace the work—to find it in social exchanges and participatory actions, as her Tropicália predecessors did—seems to embrace an experimental approach to the practice of art. The results need not be revelatory. I experienced this same unapologetic unevenness in Damián Ortega’s work at the Boston ICA, where the works were pervaded with a sense of generosity and experimentation, and between stunning perceptual experiences were lackluster results that didn’t add up to more than their component parts.
Kiki Smith: Sojourn
Thru Sept. 12
There’s an unimpeded quality to this new work by the irrepressibly prolific symbolist printmaker and sculptor. Dozens of large drawings and prints of female figures on very light, wispy paper appear in the show, as do large silver figurative sculptures, installations with light bulbs and birds, and a simple coffin with a breathtaking surprise inside. Because many of the images were prints, more or less with the same figure, and set of materials, there was a sense of iterative generation. Clearly she’s interested in, and quite faithful to, the authenticity of the expressive line.
A suite of dozens of Photoshopped advertisements by Hank Willis Thomas is a joy to see if you’ve seen some, but not all as a collection.
For All the World to See: Visual Culture and the Struggle for Civil Rights
International Center of Photography
Thru Sept. 12
A historical show concerning the photographic and filmic image and its impact on the Civil Rights movement. Don’t expect a photography exhibition; it is rich with reproductions—including some shockingly retrograde attitudes exposed in the captions in Life magazine—and artifacts.
Also at ICP:
Perspectives 2010: Carol Bove, Lena Herzog, Matthew Porter, Ed Templeton, Hong-An Truong
Thru Sept. 12
The lighting in Lena Herzog’s room was brilliant. Black walls, black-and-white photographs, the illumination of each photo extending only to the four edges of the frame. Very fitting for the spine-chilling, Wunderkammer-inspired content.
Nyeema Morgan: Like It is
John Jay College, third floor art gallery
Thru Sept. 17
My friend and CCA cohort Nyeema modestly described her show as “four drawings and a video.” The drawings, however, were impressive 38×50″ photo-realist graphite renderings of photocopies of title pages. They brought to mind Washington DC-based Molly Springfield‘s drawings of theory readers, replete with the black bars that are photocopiers’ perceptions of depth. While Ny’s practice often involves text, it isn’t solely concerned the drawn reproduction of it. Nyeema was attracted towards books with the word “extraordinary” in them, and her obsession also manifested in a video comprised of clippings of people saying that word. I thought the show was accomplished and tight, and I left feeling quite proud of my friend.