Pratt Manhattan Gallery

Edification value  2/5
Entertainment value  3/5
Should you go?  3/5
Time spent 21 minutes
Best thing I saw or learned Kathryn Fleming’s Ursa Hibernation Station, an idea for a new home appliance:  a portable, pram-sized bear hibernator.  So that you can watch (and possibly envy!) your genetically modified mini bear as it sleeps the winter away.

Pratt Institute, Manhattan Campus

Pratt Institute, Manhattan Campus

The Pratt Institute dates to 1887, when it was founded to give an opportunity for an advanced education to anyone.  Today it is mainly known for programs in architecture, art, and design, so it’s fitting that Pratt’s Manhattan building, a handsome edifice on 14th Street, includes an art gallery on its second floor.

The Pratt Manhattan Gallery is a nice space, long and somewhat narrow, with high ceilings and large windows overlooking 14th Street.  Kind of the usual for a New York art space:  an older space repurposed with white walls, wood floors, periodic columns, exposed duct work and ceiling pipes lending a splash of color.

Pratt Manhattan Gallery

What’s on View

The exhibition when I visited was titled “See Yourself E(x)ist.”  I have seen a lot of contemporary, academic art shows during this project.  I’ve developed a theory that all such exhibits must be about one of four things:

  1. Migration and refugees
  2. Multiculturalism versus assimilation
  3. Gender and identity
  4. Our declining environment

Or I guess, further simplifying, there is only one topic for a contemporary, academic art show:

  1. Riling up conservatives.

This was a Type 4 exhibition, viewed through the lens of technology.  While its theme was different, “The Roaming Eye” at the Shirley Fiterman Art Center featured a number of works that would’ve fit right in here.

I liked it, though I remain somewhat mystified by the typography of the exhibition title.  Anything (x)ist makes me think of the men’s underwear brand, which I’m sure was the curator did not intend.  At least, I think.

Pratt Manhattan Gallery
Jaime Pitarch, “Chernobyl,” 2009

The exhibit offered a good diversity of pieces, including some video and digital art and a rather amusing interactive work that greatly amplified the sound that sand grains make falling in an egg timer.  I like shows that can unite artists in a broad array of media round a common topic.

I also like shows that have at least a little wit or humor in the mix; art that takes itself too seriously tends to lose me.  I enjoyed See Yourself E(x)ist on that front, too.  Jaime Pitarch’s Chernobyl, a mutant matrioshka doll, made me smile.

I felt similarly about a set of pieces by Fantich & Young called Apex Predator | Darwinian Voodoo, that re-envisioned common objects (men’s shoes, a basketball) studded with human teeth.  Eek, creepy and effective. (Lest you worry, the teeth came from dentures.)

Pratt Institute, Manhattan Campus
Fantich & Young, “Alpha Oxfords,” 2010

Should You Go to the Pratt Manhattan Gallery?

Pratt Manhattan GalleryIt’s always hard to judge a museum like the Pratt Manhattan Gallery based on a single show. But it’s conveniently located, and a nice space. I’m pretty comfortable asserting that if you happen to be around West 14th Street and you feel like seeing some contemporary, academic art, whatever’s on view will hew to one of the four themes above, but it’ll likely be interesting and worth the time as well.

For Reference:

Address 144 West 14th Street, 2nd floor, Manhattan
Cost  General Admission:  Free