Welded into Long Island City’s industrial landscape, Greater New York brings together emerging and established artists living and working in New York City. Housed by MoMA PS1, the exhibition spans over the decades, covering every subject from gender and identity to skateboard culture while using the New York City experience as a common thread.
Considering the ‘greater’ aspect of its title in terms of both geography and time, Greater New York begins roughly in 1976, the year it was founded as an alternative venue that took advantage of disused real estate in the Queens borough.
One must-see room of the exhibition is the SAMO© photo art series room. A bare and straightforward layout of prints takes visitors throughout the character and tag first developed and made popular by the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat in the ’70s and ’80s. It also features imagery of a grungy downtown scene, fitting of MoMa PS1’s positioning among LIC’s industrial buildings and empty warehouses.
Moving down to the first floor atrium, works inspired by street art and graffiti continue until you enter into a dimly lit basement area. Less crowded, and hidden away in the bowels of PS1’s industrial infrastructure, the individual works showcased offer a different perspective than the paintings hung in the building’s quaint and white rooms. Using rugged materials like cast iron and concrete, artist Lionel Maunz creates dystopian sculptures that remind you of the city’s early beginnings as a melting pot for working class immigrants.
One particular piece, Fertilize My Mouth (2015), depicts a concrete ramp spilling into a formless mass that resembles the melted ruins of a burned building. At the foot of the ramp lie two dismembered legs, truncated as if shocked by the sudden abrupt catastrophe. Witnessing this in person, it is appropriate that curators of the exhibit would arrange Maunz works adjacent to the boiler room. Reminiscent of the society of Tammany Hall, the collection of sculptures comes full circle with the idea of New York as a rugged city with its own unique grit.
Scattered across concrete steps, the crowds pouring into the building are just as diverse as the exhibition itself. The outdoor music venue creates a lively space that allows for socializing amongst PS1’s visitors, young and old. Occasionally, you will be able to spot a family or group of friends dancing to what’s booming out of the speakers – that on any given day can take you through a gamut of eclectic sounds.
The entire building with over 400 works by 157 artists, including programs of film and performance, proves to be a mirror image of the city itself where no two rooms or corners are the same. Instead, each long corridor guides you on a maze-like tour of the offerings of some of the amazing local artists in New York. Neither is a smooth transition, either. Just as when you happen to stumble upon a different neighborhood in New York City, each room has a different story and personality to explore. For anyone who would like to catch up with what’s going on inside the building or revisit an exhibit more in depth, Greater New York is on display until March 7, 2016.
MoMA PS 1, 22-25 Jackson Avenue, New York, NY, USA +1 718 784 2084