Dorsky Gallery Curatorial Programs

Edification value 3/5
Entertainment value 3/5
Should you go? 3/5
Time spent 27 minutes
Best thing I saw or learned
Matthew Cusik at Dorsky Gallery
Matthew Cusik, Three Horses, #4/20, 2011, print

Matthew Cusik creates images that initially look drawn or painted, but close up reveal that they’re collaged from meticulously cut up pictures, in the case of “Three Horses,” atlases.  It was like seeing all the oceans of the world in a single wave.

Matthew Cusik, “Three Horses,” close-up view

Just a couple of blocks beyond the Museum of Modern Art’s Queens outpost of PS1 lies Dorsky Gallery Curatorial Programs, another entrant in Long Island City’s burgeoning contemporary arts scene.

Despite the “gallery” in its name, Dorsky doesn’t sell art. Rather it is “dedicated to promoting contemporary visual arts to a broad public audience.” It holds three to four thematic exhibitions a year, for edification not commerce.  The gallery doesn’t have a permanent curator; rather it invites “curators, writers, and art historians” to submit proposals for shows to fill the gallery.  It also serves as an art exhibition space for several local colleges not blessed with their own on-campus art museums.

Dorsky Gallery Curatorial ProgramsDorsky’s building is modern, nondescript, and nearly windowless. It could house a small self-storage space, techie startup coworking space, or a secret government lab as easily as it could a setting for art. The interior is sleek and contemporary, which in New York gallery terms means high ceilings, column-less interiors, and concrete rather than wood floors. Actually, there are 2 art spaces at Dorsky and they split the difference, floor-wise.

Dorsky Gallery Curatorial Programs


The show I saw at Dorsky Gallery Curatorial Programs has one of the cleverest, simplest titles of all the art installations I’ve seen for this project. “Wake” is about water. Paraphrasing the guy minding the gallery when I visited, it’s about where water used to be and is no longer, and where it wasn’t before but increasingly is now, and will be into the future.

And yet it wasn’t all a climate change doom-and-gloom-fest. Though there was quite a bit of that.  A fair amount of the exhibit just celebrated water and the life it contains, with a combination of abstract and representational work, and paintings, prints, drawings, sculpture, and even some art books.

Dorsky Gallery Curatorial Programs

Naoe Suzuki at Dorsky Gallery
Naoe Suzuki, “Water is Taught by Thirst (Blue), Central Adirondacks,” 2015, Mineral pigment, watercolor, tea on paper

Naoe Suzuki, for example, examines inland waterways, depicting just the water, no labels, no forests, no towns or roads, in large format with blue watercolor on tea-stained paper.  They could be abstractions, pictures of anything, but at the same time, they couldn’t be pictures of anything else.  I liked them, along with most of the rest of the work on display.

Should You Visit Dorsky Gallery?

Dorsky Gallery Curatorial ProgramsDorsky is pretty small, and may not always justify even the quick-and-easy trip from Manhattan to Long Island City.  I was the only visitor when I went on on a dreary weekend day; the guy minding the place cheerfully turned on the lights for me.  He seemed happy to have a visitor, and to discuss the art and artists, and the place with me.

Dorsky’s curatorial approach is really interesting, and if “Wake” typifies what it puts on, I’m glad that it’s now on my cultural radar.  If you’re at all interested in contemporary art, I recommend a visit.  And if you’re going to PS1 anyway, it’s a simple matter to add a half hour before or after to check out this small, interesting venue.

Dorsky Gallery Curatorial Programs

For Reference:

Address 11-03 45th Avenue, Long Island City, Queens
Cost  General Admission:  Free
Other Relevant Links


Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery, Columbia University

Edification value 3/5
Entertainment value
Should you go? 3/5
Time spent 68 minutes
Best thing I saw or learned A set of prints by Julie Mehretu and Jessica Rankin titled “Struggling With Words That Count, 2014-2016.” Less abstract than I’m used to from Mehretu, they combined mostly serene and spacey images with obscure texts in a way I really liked.

Julie Mehretu, Wallach Art Gallery

I started this project a bit over a year ago fully aware that things would change — I’d discover new museums to add to my list, and remove ones that didn’t fit my evolving definition of “museum.” Sure enough, one museum I’ve reviewed, the terrific Fisher-Landau Center in Queens, has shut down.

And another museum, Columbia University’s Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery, has moved to spiffy new digs.  I recently edited my review of the Jewish Museum, based on the terrific reinstallation of its permanent collection.  That makes this my second re-review of an institution.  (Check out my review of Wallach 1.0 here.)

Wallach Art Gallery, Columbia
Wallach 2.0’s Sweeping Hudson Views

Continue reading “Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery, Columbia University”

Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery, Columbia University

Note:  Columbia’s Wallach Art Gallery was the second place I reviewed on this epic quest.  I published the review below on March 5, 2017.  The Wallach Gallery subsequently moved to spiffy new space in Columbia’s new arts center, and I’ve created a re-review of it. Read that here.

Edification value
Entertainment value
Should you go? 2/5
Time spent 24 minutes
Best thing I saw or learned A postcard rack with postcards based on a large-scale photograph Carissa Rodriguez took of a photograph by Trevor Paglen (of a secret military base), hanging in the home of Bay Area art collectors Mike and Kaitlyn Krieger.  I am a sucker for meta.

My second entry and already I’m in trouble.  Am I reviewing spaces, or exhibits?  The Wallach Gallery, on the 8th floor of Schermerhorn Hall at Columbia, has no permanent collection.  It is just a space for temporary shows.  I started writing this about “Finesse,” the current show there, and realized that’s not quite right. Continue reading “Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery, Columbia University”

Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning

Edification value  2/5
Entertainment value  2/5
Should you go?  2/5
Time spent 21 minutes
Best thing I saw or learned Joseph S. Bell-Bey’s abstract acrylics were pretty cool.  I particularly liked his deep blue one.

Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning, Queens
Joseph S. Bell-Bey, “Bye Bye Bluebird”

In the late 1960s a group of business and community leaders in Jamaica, Queens decided to do something to try to arrest the decline of the Jamaica Avenue shopping district.  Among other strategies, they decided their neighborhood needed a new arts institution.

The City abandoning its beautiful, Italian Renaissance-style Queens Register of Titles & Deeds building around the same time created an opportunity for some adaptive reuse, and the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning was born in 1972.

Jamaica Center for Arts and LearningProgramming at JCAL heavily emphasizes the performing arts, film screenings and lectures.  JCAL’s main building has a theater, and it manages a nearby church building as a converted performing arts space. Classes are also a big part of the mission, including workshops and after-school programs for kids.

The JCAL building also houses a pair of gallery spaces, where it puts on several art exhibitions each year.  It’s in that capacity that I paid a visit. Continue reading “Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning”

Hunter College Art Galleries

Edification value  3/5
Entertainment value  3/5
Should you go?  2/5
Time spent
  • 205 Hudson: 21 minutes
  • Leubsdorf: 12 minutes
  • East Harlem: 17 minutes
  • Artist’s Institute: 3 minutes

Total: 53 minutes

Best thing I saw or learned At 205 Hudson, Dario Robelto’s “I Miss Everyone Who Has Ever Gone Away,” 1997 recreated 2007. 

Hunter College Art Galleries

Little airplanes folded from the wrappers of candies from Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s famous candy-pile artworks memorializing AIDS victims.  It’s artistic appropriation in the most unexpected and literal way.

I discovered early in this project that just about every college in New York City has some kind of public art gallery or museum. Some are extremely impressive, like NYU’s Grey Art Gallery. A few have a specific focus, like the Fordham Museum of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Art. And some of them are surprisingly impressive and hard to get to, like the Lehman College Art Gallery and the Godwin-Ternbach Museum at Queens College.

Hunter College boasts not one but four art venues, collectively the “Hunter College Art Galleries.” If this were earlier in my museum expedition, I probably would write about each of them separately. At this stage, though, I crave variety in my write-ups, to say nothing of efficiency. And Hunter itself thinks of them in the collective. So my review covers all four spaces in one. It gets four dots on the map, though. Continue reading “Hunter College Art Galleries”

Staten Island Museum

Edification value  3/5
Entertainment value  3/5
Should you go?  3/5
Time spent 94 minutes
Best thing I saw or learned I had completely forgotten about New York’s state fossil, until the Staten Island Museum reminded me.  It’s a sea scorpion or eurypterid, which I would absolutely not want to meet on a Jurassic beach.

Staten Island Museum
The State Fossil!

The Staten Island Museum started as a private pooling of personal natural history collections in 1881, opening to the public in 1908.  Currently it claims to be New York’s only truly encyclopedic museum, embracing science, history, and art.  And so it does, albeit in small doses of each.

The museum formerly resided in a classical building in St. George, near the Staten Island Ferry, until last year, when it moved to Snug Harbor.  It’s a bus or car ride from the ferry terminal, but at least the architecture is still appropriately museum-y.

Staten Island Museum

The Snug Harbor Cultural Center is Staten Island’s Mall of Enlightenment.  A Chinese Scholar’s Garden, a Children’s Museum, the fantastic Noble Maritime Collection, the hit-or-miss Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art, and the Staten Island Museum all reside within its more-or-less renovated, beautiful, Greek revival grounds and buildings. Continue reading “Staten Island Museum”

Clemente Center

Edification value 2/5 
Entertainment value  2/5
Should you go?  2/5
Time spent 22 minutes
Best thing I saw or learned Pat Lay’s cheery-creepy cyborg sculptures, particularly the punk-borg “Transhuman Personae #12”

Clemente Center

I’ve never been to an art gallery in 19th century school building that also housed an Escape the Room game before.  But there is a first time for everything, particularly when you’re determined to go to every museum in New York City.

Clemente Center

The Clemente Center occupies P.S. 160, a public school building dating to 1897, built in the grand institutional gothic style, all pointed arches and stone- and iron-Clemente Centerwork.  Abandoned as a school due to a fire in the pyromaniacal 1970s, the Clemente Soto Vélez Center was founded in 1993.  It operates a number of endeavors in the building, including four theaters, artist studios, rehearsal spaces, two art galleries, and the aforementioned Escape the Room game.

The vestibule features a plaque from its founding as P.S. 160, with the names of a slew of great and good late 19th C. Dead White Males who contributed.  Times have changed.  Continue reading “Clemente Center”

Westbeth Gallery

Edification value  3/5
Entertainment value  3/5
Should you go?  4/5
Time spent 51 minutes
Best thing I saw or learned A set of four large, multipanel works by Karina Cavat, who curated the show, and who resides in a Westbeth apartment.  And with whom I had a really interesting conversation.  

Westbeth Gallery
Karina Cavat, “Cook”

They’re all dense views of burgeoning nature gone haywire.  If I had to choose one, I’d pick “Cook,” an homage to a Weber grill.

On the far, far, western borders of the West Village a huge building complex occupies the entire block from Bank to Bethune and Washington to West Streets.  Today this is Westbeth Artists’ Housing, founded in 1970 as a place for working artists to find affordable housing and studio space.  To this day, artists live and work, show and teach there.  Westbeth also provides a home base to the New School’s drama department and the Martha Graham Dance Studio, among other cultural institutions.

Westbeth Artists Housing

The complex also houses a gallery space, showing work from resident and nonresident artists alike. However, Westbeth’s arts incarnation belies an older and even more intriguing history. Continue reading “Westbeth Gallery”

Center for Book Arts

Edification value  2/5
Entertainment value  3/5
Should you go?  3/5
Time spent 34 minutes
Best thing I saw or learned A book turned into a fantastically eroded landscape by Guy Laramée. Google that dude, his work is amazing.

Center for Book Arts, Anthropocene Show, Manhattan
Guy Laramée, “Archaeology,” 2010, altered book

The Center for Book Arts is one of those quixotic organizations whose unlikely existence helps make life in New York worthwhile.  In this digital age, the idea that an organization will teach you how to letterpress print, how to bind a book, how to marbleize paper, seems hopelessly, charmingly, vitally anachronistic.  In addition to classes, the Center for Book Arts also offers memberships; join and you can go and hand-set lead type to your heart’s content.  Just don’t lick your fingers while you do it.

Continue reading “Center for Book Arts”

Living Museum

Edification value  3/5
Entertainment value  4/5
Should you go?  
Time spent 62 minutes
Best thing I saw or learned John Tursi’s prolific, colorful, abstractions, en masse, amazed me.

The Living Museum, Creedmoor Psychiatric Hospital, Queens
John Tursi, Abstract Paintings

A friend accompanied me to the Living Museum, and when Tursi asked her opinion of them, she replied unthinkingly, “This is crazy.”

I don’t believe in psychic powers. If they existed, we would have proved it by now.  And yet, I can’t deny that some places have an inexplicable aura about them — a feeling indelibly embedded in the stones and bricks.   Ellis Island, full of hopes and dreams from long ago.  The library at Columbia, resonant with over a century of stress and study.  

I mention this to set up my initial reaction to visiting the campus of Creedmoor Psychiatric Center.  Even just driving by Creedmoor’s forbidding deco-institutional buildings along the Grand Central Parkway, it commands attention.  You may not know what it is or what goes on there, but it has a hulking presence.  For lack of a better word, it’s creepy.  It comes as no surprise that it is a mental hospital.

The Living Museum, Creedmoor Psychiatric Hospital, QueensCreedmoor dates back to 1912, when an abandoned National Guard barracks was used to house a few dozen patients.  At its peak in 1959, the sprawling facility housed an inconceivable 7,000 patients.  Since then, the inpatient population has fallen, leading it to sell the farm (literally), and also to abandon some buildings, adding to the creepiness of the campus today.  And at Creedmoor’s heart, in the ginormous former inmate cafeteria, lies the Living Museum.

Continue reading “Living Museum”