Parsons – The New School Gallery

Edification value
Entertainment value
Should you go?
Time spent 32 minutes
Best thing I saw or learned A wall hung with hundreds of backpacks found in the desert, lost or left by migrants trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border.

As befits a school of design, Parsons has some great gallery space in its old building on Fifth Avenue.  Named the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Gallery and the Arnold and Sheila Aronson Galleries, the two spaces host a variety of art-and-design shows.  The ground-floor space is great, with large windows looking out onto both Fifth Ave. and 13th Streets.

The current show in the smaller space is called “Kailash Cartographies” and featured a number of reactions by artists to the concept of “sacred geography.”  My favorite piece there was a video screen on the floor with video of stray dogs asleep on the streets of Kathmandu, by Sreshta Rit Premnath.  There was quite a bit of video art, actually, including another piece, “Pteridophilia,” of naked Asian guys having sex with the forest, which would not have been  out of place at the Leslie-Lohman.

The other show was a compact but stunning installation called “State of Exception/Estado de Excepción.”  It’s a collection of material — clothes, toys, photographs, etc., created or lost by migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border in the Arizona desert.  Drawing on the work of Jason De Leon, a University of Michigan anthropologist documenting the undocumented (so to speak), it’s a fascinating, sad, multi-media look at the great hardships that people go through on their attempt to get into this country, a dark mirror to the hopeful immigrant journey portrayed in that lumber company Super Bowl ad.

Parsons by its nature is sure to program interesting things. And the location is fantastic– it’s an easy art break during a visit to Union Square. I’m not sure I’d go to see shows of student work, necessarily, but it’s worth keeping an eye on, or dropping in randomly if you’re in the area.
For Reference:

Address 66 5th Avenue, Manhattan
Website The New School Parsons Galleries
Cost Free
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