MoMA PS1 is an art institution reputable for its exhibitions and events that inspire an unparalleled contemporary dialogue in both the United States and internationally. It’s building – a recovered and repurposed public schoolhouse – alone commands a stamp of novelty. The exterior recalls an architectural era that predates the now ubiquitous rolling glass façades with its sumptuous terra cotta bricks and ornate eaves. It’s interior has been re-appropriated for the use of gallery spaces, but the public school skeleton is still exposed, if not the point for inspiration for the building as it stands today. To refer to it as a museum seems ill fitting, as PS1 functions within its own category of gallery cum project space – and in this way it achieves a unique level of accessibility within the public sphere.
Last weekend, PS1 initiated (or more revived) their concept for a project exhibition space, showcasing solo projects by predominately young emerging artists who have not previously shown in New York. This summer’s PS1 projects are Rey Akdogan’s off set (b. Germany, 1974), Edgardo Aragón’s Efectos de Familia (Family Effects) (b. Mexico, 1985), Ilja Karilampi’s The Chief Architect of Gangster Rap (b. Sweden, 1983), Caitlin Keogh’s Good Value, Fine Quality (b. United States, 1982) are presented in four individual rooms to mimic the notion of the artist studio. Edgardo Aragón’s Family Effects (2007-9) is not to be missed: a 50 minute film projection set in Mexico depicting the younger generation of his family (cousins, nephews, etc) acting out (or rather, reenacting) episodic scenarios in which family members of older generations have been murdered due to drug trafficking, corruption and the like. Some sequences are explicit while some remain abstract in rendering the tales of untimely death attached to illicit wrongdoings that have plagued his family – and symbolically Mexico as a whole – through the actions of his adolescent performers as semi-ignorant puppets. Another noteworthy work is Rey Akdogan’s 35mm slide projection in which she assembles slides by way of collage, rather than photographic processes, from mundane materials such as plastic bags or theater lighting gels. She works with these individual materials until they are exhausted, creating a uniquely varied composition in each slide, allowing the amount of the medium to dictate her end point. He work deals with transparency and the manner in which light adds a happenstance dimension to her deliberate process.
On the third floor, Esther Kläs:Better Energy (b.Germany, 1981) presents a solo exhibition of sculptures that reflect the artist’s body. The majority of her pieces mirror the artist’s own height and stand as a vacant rectangle structure. With works such as (5) RA (2012), the sculptures entomb the negative space and thus evoke the body in its body-perfect dimension. Many of her castings include color as an initial process: pigments are added to the setting cement or resin, which adds an aspect of unpredictability to the final piece. The crude structures and abstract sensitbility of her pieces are reminiscent to Phyllida Barlow, Eva Hesse and stylistically l’art brut of Jean Dubuffet.
On the main floor, the blockbuster exhibition of the season is Lara Favaretto: Just Knocked Out, a presentation of works from the past fifteen years as well as new works created particularly for the show at PS1. In an array of installations, sound and video pieces, Favaretto’s (b.Treviso, 1973) work highlights her medium – among other things – and the inherent qualities therein. At first glance, her works are playful, whimsical or even humorous, yet an aspect of failure and destruction lie beneath the skin of frivolity. This aspect becomes particularly clear with works such as Sunnyside (2012), a work made entirely of green paper confetti – no glue or adhesives of any kind is included – made to eventually deteriorate due to the weight of itself in it’s compacted nature. The self-destruction of the work is what provokes the question of fragility, ephemerality and it’s place within an institution – what if it were to fall and the art object were to diminish? Lara hopes for this to eventually happen.
Same thing goes for her installation entitled Plotone (Platoon) (2005-ongoing) where sixty compressed air tanks on timers blow a burst of air at random intervals through a party whistle, an action that is self-exhaustive and will eventually terminate the installation (though for all intents and purposes, the air tanks will be replaced until the end of the exhibition running). This mechanized action, almost as if fulfilling a commandment, speaks to the automated actions performed by the military. It also speaks to a modern day insidious relationship with technology and the manner in which it becomes imbedded within the body to control our actions, thought precesses or interactions with others.
Her installation Homage to Albert Dadas (2010), a bed of dirt that is strikingly similar to Walter De Maria’s Earth Room (1977), introduces her exhibition as the access point to the show’s main galleries. The earth is laid in a bed of brass framework that extends to the gallery’s walls. Underneath the layers of dirt lies a small box holding an unknown object that Favaretto buried upon the initial installation. She names the work in reverence to a French man named Albert Dadas, who lived in Bordeaux during the end of the nineteenth century and was diagnosed with a obscure disease called dromomania. This disease caused him to slip into arbitrary unconscious states where he would wander boundlessly, deserting his family and job. This theme of commemoration, the anti-monument and concealment is omnipresent in Favaretto’s work, from her swamp installation at the Giardini at the 53rd Venice Biennial to honor disappeared historical figures to her sandbagging intervention at the Dante Alighieri (1896) statue in Trento.
We see the similar commemorative act with a disjoined grid made of scaffolding tubes linking the exhibition spaces through the walls, a structure inspired by Piet Mondrian’s painting Composition with Red, Yellow, and Blue (1921). Favaretto fills the hollow scaffolding tubes with wool yarn – a very specific yarn made in Italy – with black, yellow, blue and red to refer to the grids in the painting. This is a meta-homage of sorts: Favaretto is referencing the site specificity of her exhibition through honoring Mondrian’s painting that honors New York by way of replicating Manhattan’s city grid.
For your visit: Don’t miss works by Rania Stephan & Frances Stark, and permanent installations by James Turrell, Janet Cardiff, Sol LeWitt, Alan Saret, William Kentridge, Pipilotti Rist and many others. Starting at the end of June, the 13th edition of the Young Architects Program (YAP) of New York will present the winning design by HWKN (Matthias Hollwich and Marc Kushner, New York) named “Wendy” in the courtyard and will be on view through the summer. Also, join PS1 for their Warm Up series starting July 7th, an outdoor program of various DJs performing each Sunday. In short, it’s just a huge party. M. Wells Dinette will be in full swing by the end of the month (though their cooking up impressive fare already!) with cookouts during Warm Up. Be sure to savor a banana-peanut butter muffin, or roasted carrot soup with gnocchi.
Laura Favaretto: Just Knocked Out is on view through September 10th, Solo projects by Rey Akdogan, Edgardo Aragón, Ilja Karilampi and Caitlin Keogh and Esther Kläs: Better Energy are on view through September 17th. For more information about MoMA PS1, click here.