At the Queens Museum, home and the world

The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Saturday, May 18, 2024

At the Queens Museum, home and the world
In an undated image provided by Heather Hart and Queens Museum, Heather Hart’s “Oracle of the Twelve Tenses” (2020) in the group show “After the Plaster Foundation, or, ‘Where can we live?’” at the Queens Museum in New York. In three post-lockdown exhibitions, the museum stakes out its role in the life of its neighborhood’s multiethnic citizens. Heather Hart and Queens Museum via The New York Times.

by Holland Cotter

NEW YORK (NYT NEWS SERVICE).- Over the years, the Queens Museum has helped me define my sense of what an art museum can be: a place as much about ideas as about objects, as much about politics as about aesthetics, and as much about local as about global.

All of these opposites-that-aren’t-really-opposites figure in the museum’s three new, post-lockdown exhibitions. One, a large group gathering, considers the economics and ethics that underlie, and can easily undermine, the concept of “home.” A second is a career survey of a great American photographer who has consciously anchored his art in rootlessness. And a third show looks widely at the world through a prism of small drawings made, over nearly a century, by children.

The museum, once called the Queens Center for Art and Culture, is housed in a building with a history of shifting uses and identities. It was designed as the New York City Pavilion for the 1939 World’s Fair. After the fair, it became a borough recreation center, replete with two indoor skating rinks. And in 1946 it was loftily repurposed as headquarters for the General Assembly of the newly formed United Nations.

For four years, international leaders converged there to vote on such momentous matters as the founding of the state of Israel. After the U.N. moved to a permanent Manhattan address, the building once again welcomed skaters, and in 1964 reprised its original function as a World’s Fair pavilion, at which time the famed Panorama of the City of New York, still in place, was installed.

In 1972, the museum itself was inaugurated, and in 1994 a new interior was designed by Rafael Viñoly. With a central, soaring, skylight-covered atrium ringed by traditionally scaled galleries, it’s one of the most dramatic — and unwieldy — exhibition spaces in the city, suitable both for intimate art viewing and mass assembly.

What has never changed, or not for long, is a civic connection to its multiethnic, immigrant-intensive namesake borough. During the past months of pandemic closings, the museum hosted a food pantry in cooperation with two Queens-based hunger-relief organizations, La Jornada and Together We Can Community Resource Center Inc. Even after it reopened, the museum continued distributing food to the borough’s homeless population.

Home, and the lack of one, are primary themes of “After the Plaster Foundation, or, Where can we live?’” The title of this group show of 12 New York artists and artist groups refers to a SoHo loft rented in the 1960s by the underground artist Jack Smith. He called the space — where he staged his performances, made his films, stored his archives, and lived — “The Plaster Foundation.” He was evicted from it in 1972.

Being forced out was an embittering experience. Smith blamed unbridled capitalism and a predatory gentrification that it produces. Both have a long New York City history, which other artists in the show touch on.

In an elaborate installation of videos mounted on an industrial-scale backhoe, Sondra Perry considers the fate of Seneca Village, a Manhattan settlement of Black property owners that was leveled in the 1850s to create Central Park as a playground for a northward surging white population.

For the show, artist Heather Hart has constructed a full-scale house, not so different from homes once owned by middle-class Black residents in nearby Queens. But in her installation, titled “Oracle of the Twelve Tenses,” we see only the rooftop: the house, empty and possibly abandoned, seems to have sunk into the ground.

Is it possible to protest dispossession directly? Artists try. Krzysztof Wodiczko, who witnessed the expulsion of homeless people from an East Village park in the late 1980s and early 1990s, responded with a mobile sculpture called “Poliscar,” a motorized vehicle equipped with loudspeakers and recording equipment to give the homeless a collective voice.

Over the past five years, artist Peter Scott has been photo-documenting examples of graffiti scrawled across glossy architectural advertisements found at construction sites for luxury apartment buildings. And a 2020 installation called “Resistance in Progress” by artist Betty Yu focuses squarely on Queens itself.

Set high up on the museum’s mezzanine level, against windows facing toward the Flushing neighborhood, the archival display addresses, through real estate listings, political flyers, and video interviews with East Asian and Latin American residents, gentrification’s toll, long-term and daily. And what role do cultural institutions, supposedly embodiments of humane values, play in this? A complicated one, that the show only alludes to.

In 2018, Laura Raicovich, then the Queens Museum’s executive director, proposed making the premises available as a sanctuary space for the borough’s many immigrants living in the U.S. illegally. The board of trustees rejected the proposal. (Raicovich resigned the same year.) A piece in the show, “Pyre,” by Shawn Maximo, centrally located in the atrium, in roughly the space where the U.N. General Assembly once sat, reads as a teasing reminder of the sanctuary idea.

Consisting of a kind of open “fireplace” surrounded by plastic chairs and constructed from flat screens playing videos of licking flames, the installation suggests, not a warm and welcoming hearth, but a Home Depot display, with everything for show and for sale.

Finally, how can artists survive in a world where space is priced out for all but a fraction of the population? The exhibition — organized by Larissa Harris, a curator at the museum, with Sophia Marisa Lucas and Lindsey Berfond, both assistant curators — offers a couple of very tentative answers.

The Polish-born American writer, translator, and art world fixture Warren Niesluchowski (1946-2019) finessed the problem by giving up the idea of home altogether. As recorded in a beautiful video by Simon Leung, he spent most of his adult life as a global nomad, staying on the move and relying on the hospitality of friends and strangers.

And artist Caroline Woolard, while participating in the Queens Museum Studio program in 2014, cooked up a domicile-to-go. Called “Studio/Home,” it’s a plain, small wooden cart on wheels, about the size of a walk-in closet with a built-in bed and rack-style walls suitable for hanging curtains, or clothes, or art.

Separate, but embedded within the group exhibition, is a second show, a one-gallery, one-man survey called “Bruce Davidson: Outsider on the Inside.” Organized by Benjamin Mendez, a former exhibition and archives fellow at the museum, it’s a survey of more than 100 pictures taken by an important American photographer who has always been an artist on the move, documenter of many American cultures, permanent resident in none of them.

In 1958, Davidson was invited by Henri Cartier-Bresson to join the Magnum Photos group. He was 24. He spent the following year tagging along, camera in hand, with a band of rebellious New York City street kids. His first widely known photographic series “Brooklyn Gang,” was the result.

In 1962, he headed South and into the thick of the civil rights movement, producing some of its most lasting images. He then returned to New York City, always his primary turf, to chronicle life in East Harlem and a working-class community, largely Puerto Rican, disparaged and isolated by the city government.

In 1963, Davidson was on hand to document an aesthetic catastrophe: the demolition of the old Penn Station. But people were his natural subjects, from Jewish immigrants on the Lower East Side to bird-watchers in Central Park. (In 1994 he was designated the park’s first artist-in-residence.) In every case, his method is to simultaneously move in close and stand apart, a practice the Queens Museum itself seems to emulate.

It was smart of the museum to leaven its prickly, concept-driven group show with this accessible career overview, and with another readily appealing exhibition, “Ulrike Müller and Amy Zion: The Conference of the Animals.”

The title comes from a 1949 German book about a group of animals who, seeing the chronic inability of humans to act for any collective good, join forces to save the world. And the show itself, organized by Zion, an independent curator, is made up of drawings, many on loan from the Children’s Museum of the Arts in New York City.

They range in date from 1909 to the near present and include juvenilia by modernist stars like Louise Nevelson and Reginald Marsh. Most of the images are lively, inventive takes on quotidian themes: pets, parents, city scenes. But there are startling exceptions.

A 1939 drawing by Liesl J. Loeb, age 11, depicts the German ocean liner on which she and her family escaped from Europe only to be turned away at Havana harbor and sent back. (A wall text tells us more than 200 people on the ship later died in the Holocaust.) In the late 1990s, 13-year-old Petrit Halilaj, a Kosovar living in a refugee camp in Albania, drew scenes from a murderous ethnic war he was witnessing.

The show is introduced and framed by a piece commissioned by the museum: a mural by the Austrian-born, New York-based artist Ulrike Müller. Best known for her small abstract paintings, she comes through here with a floor-to-ceiling semiabstract image of the wise, activist animals of the title. Painted in toothsome nursery colors — pink, nougat, chocolate brown — they look like giant versions of the autumn squirrels foraging in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. They also suggest sentinels, tall and alert, guarding the premises where, in 1946, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) was founded, and where an art institution that is as much a work in progress as the historical moment it exists in, resides today.

© 2020 The New York Times Company

Today's News

October 30, 2020

Michelangelo Pistoletto endures. Even COVID couldn't stop him.

After backlash, Philip Guston retrospective to open in 2022

Julius Caesar "assassination coin" sets world record of nearly $4.2 million

KGB Museum closes; Lipstick gun and other spy relics go on sale

At the Queens Museum, home and the world

Artcurial's Old Master & 19th Century Art department will hold its prestigious bi-annual sale on 18 November

Art Gallery of Ontario announces new department of Arts of Global Africa and the Diaspora

Sisi in private: Museum Ludwig displays the empress's photo albums

Lost Bob Dylan Archives of blues musician Tony Glover headlines Marvels of Modern Music auction

Bierstadt's majestic Golden Gate panorama leads Bonhams American Art sale

Simon Lee Gallery opens a group exhibition curated by Eric N. Mack

Louis Lozowick leads Old Master Through Modern Prints at Swann

Sanford Biggers opens second solo exhibition with Marianne Boesky Gallery

A not-so-merry mix: Shakespeare, bluegrass and Randy Quaid

Diane di Prima, poet of the Beat era and beyond, dies at 86

Fresh push to save Vienna's Jewish cemetery 'jewel'

Exhibition featuring eight photogravures by Rodrigo Valenzuela opens at Asya Geisberg Gallery

Rachel Jones joins Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac

Tang Museum announces opening of 'Energy in All Directions'

'Unfinished Business: The Fight for Women's Rights' opens at the British Library and across the UK

Austria gets virus-themed stamps on toilet paper

As lockdown revives interest in model trains, collection expected to make £10,000 sells for over £33,000

Alexander Berggruen opens an exhibition of work by Hulda Guzmán

French Atmos perpetual time clock from the 1940's chimes on time for CA$6,490 in Miller & Miller auction

How to Prepare for a Divorce in Florida

Amazing Pieces Of Art Found In The Last Places You Expect Them To Be

How to Handle Employee Resistance During Agile Implementation?

Your First Pilates Class What To Bring And What To Wear

Stylish Alternative to Plastic and Silicone Phone Cases

The right pain management during COVID-19

Top 4 essential basic about potency pills that must be in your knowledge

How To Grow Followers For Your Small Business On Tiktok?

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

sa gaming free credit
Truck Accident Attorneys
Accident Attorneys

Royalville Communications, Inc
Founder's Site. Hommage
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site Parroquia Natividad del Señor
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful